This is the BEST gluten free carrot cake you ever ate. It’s a healthier version of the classic carrot cake, incredibly moist with just the right amount of sweetness and spice. Loaded with carrots, and topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting you can easily make dairy free. Paleo and grain free.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting was one of the best and most popular desserts at our restaurant, Arnold’s Turtle in NYC, from 1975-1989. But back then we didn’t know about gluten sensitivity. It was made with whole wheat flour and maple syrup. I loved that cake and now I’m making it gluten free.
I had to make it 3 times, playing around with the quantity of gluten free flours to get the right texture. I’m happy to say it’s just as good as the original, moist, rich and indulgent!
There are a few types of gluten free flours needed for this cake; almond, coconut, and tapioca. They are easy to find in most supermarkets or health food stores. I want this cake to be paleo (grain free, bean free) so I don’t use all purpose gluten free flour. They contain gluten free grains like rice flour, or garbanzo bean flour. I recommend measuring the flours with a kitchen scale to get the best results.
Ingredients & Substitutions For This Gluten Free Carrot Cake
There are quite a few ingredients needed to make the best paleo carrot cake, but trust me it’s worth it. This is what you need:
- Almond flour: Be sure you get fine blanched almond flour, not almond meal.
- Coconut flour: This gluten free flour helps absorb moisture in recipes and adds sweetness, fiber, protein and healthy fats.
- Tapioca flour: It’s a velvety flour that lightens gluten-free baked goods and gives them a texture more like that of wheat flour.
- Spices: To get an authentic carrot cake taste I use cinnamon, ginger and a little nutmeg. If you don’t have all the spices, cinnamon alone will be fine.
- Vanilla extract: Used to enhance the sweetness of other ingredients.
- Pastured Eggs: You need four eggs for this recipe to get the right consistency and texture. Get the freshest eggs you can find, buy local when possible. They should be at room temperature. If you want the cake to be vegan it will probably work with flax eggs (see recipe notes).
- Pure maple syrup: The maple syrup provides just the right amount of sweetness and additional moisture. Honey can be substituted but will give the cake a slightly different taste.
- Coconut oil: Oil keeps the cake nice and moist. Unrefined coconut oil is best to keep the flavors neutral.
- Nut Milk: any dairy free milk will work. I have made it with almond milk and macadamia nut milk.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: The vinegar reacts with the baking soda making bubbles to help the cake rise.
- Carrots: This is the star of the show. Peel your carrots and grate them using the large holes of a box grater. Alternately you can use the shredding attachment of your food processor.
- Currants or raisins: I like currants because they are smaller but raisins work just as well.
- Baking soda: A leavening agent to help the cake rise.
- Pecans or walnuts: Nuts are used for decoration and are optional.
Tips for Making the Best Paleo Carrot Cake
There are a few things you have to do to ensure that your cake is the best ever.
- Measure your ingredients, especially the flours, using a kitchen scale. There is a big difference in the amount of flour in 1 cup if it’s packed or loose. Same with the carrots. The cake will come out best if you weigh the ingredients I’ve noted with grams in the recipe.
- Your eggs need to be at room temperature to make this cake. This will help your carrot cake bake evenly in the oven and make it—as I’ve said before—the best. If you’re looking to make your eggs room temperature right away, place them in a bowl with hot water and let them sit for 5 minutes. Very easy!
- The coconut oil should be melted but not HOT, let it cool to almost room temperature.
- Cool your cake before frosting it. This is very important. Let it cool in the pan for 30 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before frosting. The icing will not stick to a warm cake.
- Make it ahead of time. You can make the cake 1-2 days ahead of time and then frost it the following day. Store wrapped in the refrigerator. I find it easier to bake one day and frost the next. Once it’s frosted it will stay delicious for up to 5 days.
Ingredients and Tricks for Cream Cheese Frosting
This is not a super sweet cream cheese frosting. It has just the right amount of sweetness.
For dairy free, use vegan butter (Miyoko’s Creamery European Style Cultured Vegan Butter is a good brand) and vegan cream cheese (Kite Hill is a good brand).
Cool the cake before frosting. They must be completely cool before frosting them.
Do a crumb coat. It’s optional but makes the frosting look better. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting applied to your cake before the final coat of frosting. Put a 1/3 of the frosting on the first layer. Add the second layer then coat the sides and top of the cake with a very thin layer of frosting and place in the fridge for 30 minutes before you finish frosting. This keeps stray crumbs and cake pieces from coming loose when frosting the cake. Here is a video with instructions for frosting a cake. It helps to get a cake decorating kit like this one.
How to Store The Best Gluten Free Carrot Cake
This carrot cake should be refrigerated after making because the cream cheese frosting will melt. If you have a sealed cake dome use that to keep it as fresh as possible. Otherwise, just tightly wrap it in foil or plastic wrap once it is chilled and and store it in the fridge. It will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days (although it will NEVER last that long).
To freeze: It’s best to freeze the individual layers before frosting. Wrap each individual layer in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and then place the cakes in a zip-top freezer bag. When ready to finish the cake, you can frost the layers frozen then let cake defrost in the refrigerator for 8 hours. Alternately you can thaw the layers overnight in the refrigerator and then frost.
This is the best gluten free carrot cake you’ll ever eat. Enjoy it for Mother’s day or graduation, or any celebration this spring. Everyone will love that it’s healthier with a moist rich taste with just the right amount of sweetness.
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A healthier version of the classic carrot cake, incredibly moist with just the right amount of sweetness and spice. Loaded with carrots, and topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting you can easily make dairy free.
- 4 eggs room temperature (see tips above)*
- 2 1/2 cups, peeled and shredded or grated, carrots (295 grams)
- 1/3 cup coconut oil melted and cooled (69 grams)
- 1 1/4 cups blanched almond flour (140 grams)
- 1/4 cup coconut flour (28 grams)
- 1/3 cup tapioca flour (43 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch nutmeg
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup unsweetened nut milk
- 1 Tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup currants or raisins
For the Frosting:
- 8 ounces organic butter, at room temperature (or sub vegan butter)
- 8 ounces organic cream cheese, at room temperature (or sub dairy free cream cheese)
- 1 ½ cups organic powdered sugar
- Pinch of sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Decoration (optional)
- 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
- Peel and shred the carrots. Set aside.
- Melt the coconut oil and let cool to room temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the sides of pan with coconut oil.
- In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients – almond, coconut, and tapioca flours, baking soda, salt and spices, set aside.
- In a larger bowl, with an electric hand mixer, beat together the eggs, maple syrup, almond milk, cider vinegar, coconut oil and vanilla on low/med speed.
- Add the dry mixture to the wet and beat on low speed until fully combined. You will have a thick batter.
- Add the carrots and currants. Mix by hand with a rubber spatula until evenly combined.
- Evenly pour the batter into the prepared pans.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25 mins or until toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool in the cake pans for 30 minutes, then carefully remove from cake pans. Transfer to a wire rack and cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before frosting.*
- While the cake is cooling, make your frosting: In a large bowl using an electric mixer, whip the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract, salt, and powdered sugar* and whip to combine, about 2 minutes more.
- Place the first cake on a plate, then top with 1/3 of the frosting. Put the second layer on top and either frost the top and the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting or do a crumb coat for a more professional look.
- How to CRUMB COAT: After adding the second layer, coat the sides and top of the cake with a very thin layer of frosting and place in the fridge for 30 minutes before you finish frosting. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting
- Decorate the top and bottom edges with finely chopped pecans or walnuts (see photos).
- Chill for 30 minutes. Serve, and enjoy!
- Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To make vegan: Make 4 flax eggs: mix 4 tablespoons ground flax seed with 12 tablespoons water. Let sit 5 minutes and add to the liquid ingredients.
You can make the cake 1-2 days ahead of time and then frost it the following day. I find it easier to bake one day and frost the next. Remove the cakes from the pan wrap them separately in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to frost. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days before frosting.
If your powdered sugar has lumps, sift it first.
PREP TIME DOES NOT INCLUDE COOLING TIME BEFORE FROSTING. It does include the time it takes to make the frosting. (10 minutes)
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Dessert, Snack
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Gluten Free Vegetarian, Diary Free Option
Keywords: gluten free carrot cake, best gluten free carrot cake, paleo carrot cake, gluten free carrot cake recipe