Why this recipe works
My carrot cake cupcakes have been a long time fan favorite recipe on my site, so I though it was time to give you a layer cake version that holds up to being frosted and decorated.
This gluten-free carrot cake recipe is SO moist and delicious. While it makes the perfect dessert for Easter, it’s a great recipe for any occasion really. It’s so versatile.
This carrot cake uses warm spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, to offset a luscious cream cheese frosting. This is seriously the best gluten-free carrot cake. It’s no wonder its one of my most popular gluten-free cakes amongst my friends and family!
- gluten-free flour blend – I’ve tested this recipe with both Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour and King Arthur Baking Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour. Both of these blends already contain xanthan gum, so you do not need to add it in the recipe. If you are using a different flour blend than these, I would make sure it is a flour blend that contains multiple flours – both starches and rice grains. Almond flour or coconut flour have not been tested and will not work in this recipe.
- xanthan gum – Xanthan gum if used as a binding agent that provides elasticity in gluten-free baking, similar to how gluten would react. If your gluten-free flour blend does not already contain xanthan gum in it, you will want to add the amount specified in the recipe.
- applesauce – I like to use unsweetened applesauce to provide a lot of moisture in this carrot cake. It’s seriously one of my favorite secrets for making the BEST carrot cake. Since you’re only using 3/4 cup, I find it easier to have the single-serve cups on hand for baking recipes. When I buy a large jar of applesauce, it tends to go bad before I use it all.
- shredded carrots – You can shred your carrots with a box grater or using a food processor fitted with the grater attachment. First, be sure to peel and trim the ends of your carrots. Use fresh carrots that you have shredded yourself, instead of store-bought shredded carrots, which tend to be dryer and will not provide a moist cake.
It’s so easy to make gluten-free carrot cake from scratch by following these steps:
- Preheat the oven and line and grease two round baking pans.
- Combine the gluten-free flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and eggs. Beat for 2 minutes, until light in color.
- Add the unsweetened applesauce, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.
5. Gradually add in the dry ingredients, mixing in between each addition, until no streaks of flour remain.
6. Stir in the shredded carrots.
7. Divide the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans.
8. Bake at 350F for 33-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
Cream cheese frosting
- Add the softened cream cheese and butter to a large mixing bowl. Cream together for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla extract and salt. Mix until combined.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing until thick and smooth.
- Set aside 1 cup of cream cheese frosting for decorating later. Use the remaining frosting to frost the cake. Place one layer of carrot cake on a plate or platter. Frost the top of the cake with cream cheese frosting and smooth with a spatula.
- Place the other carrot cake layer on top of the frosting.
- Then, do a thin layer of frosting to crumb coat the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to help it firm up a bit. This will make it easier to frost. Then, add a thicker layer of frosting to the cake. If you want to pipe any decorations along the top, use a 1M star frosting tip.
- Divide the reserved 1 cup of cream cheese frosting into two bowls.
- Add the orange (or red and yellow) food coloring to one bowl. Then, add green food coloring to the other bowl. Stir until your desired saturation of each color is reached. Place each color into piping bags fitted with a round tip.
- Using the orange icing, pipe oblong triangles all over the cake to be the carrots. Use the green icing to pipe three lines on top of each triangle to be the carrot top.
- Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on the cake, if desired.
- Line your pans. I always find the hardest part of baking cakes is getting it to release from the pan. I like to both grease and line my round cake pans with parchment paper. First grease the pan with non-stick cooking spray (make sure it is gluten-free) on both the sides and bottom of the inside of the pan. Then, cut out a circle of parchment paper the same size of the bottom of the pan and place it in the pan. The cooking spray will help it stick to the pan. Your cake should come out easily after baking without sticking to the pan!
- Do not rush the cooling process. Do not try to frost your cake while it is still warm. The frosting will slide off the cake and you will have a mess. If you’re going through the trouble of making cake, take your time and do not rush the cooling process.
- Use metric measurements instead of cups. For best results, use the metric measurements provided in the recipe. Depending on how you scoop ingredients into a measuring cup, you can get vastly different results in a baking recipe, especially concerning gluten-free flours. Use a kitchen scale to measure out your ingredients, especially flour, in grams. Kitchen scales are quite inexpensive and worth it for baking accurately.
Make Ahead Tips
You can make carrot cake in advance. I find the flavor is even better after it sits for a day!
Cakes typically are easier to frost if you let them cool completely overnight and then frost the next day. To do so, after the cake has cooled, cover the cake layers tightly with plastic wrap. You can also prepare the cream cheese frosting ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature before trying to frost the cake.
To store leftover carrot cake, place it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Let defrost at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving for best texture.
You can also freeze leftover carrot cake for up to 3 months. First slice the carrot cake into individual servings. Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flash freeze for 1 hour. Once frozen, individually wrap the carrot cake slices tightly and place in a freezer safe container or bag.
To defrost, place in the refrigerator for 8 hours and then let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
No, carrot cake is traditionally not gluten-free. To make this recipe gluten-free, we’re using a gluten-free flour blend that has been tested to be made gluten-free.
Yes, this recipe can be made dairy-free. The cake itself is already dairy-free, since we use oil and applesauce as the fat, instead of butter. You will need to use a dairy-free frosting instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting in the recipe card.
This classic cream cheese frosting in the recipe is a great match for carrot cake. Other options include my chocolate cream cheese frosting, brown butter cream cheese frosting, maple frosting, or cinnamon buttercream.
You can! However, I have tested a gluten-free carrot cake cupcake recipe that is specifically created to be cupcakes. The ratios are ever so slightly different. You can also use this recipe and divide the batter into muffin tins with 24 lined muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
To make this recipe as a sheet cake, pour it into a 9×13-inch baking dish and bake at 350F for 40-44 minutes.
- Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
- Gluten-Free Black Bottom Cupcakes
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know! Please rate it and leave a comment below. You can also share your pictures and tag @adashofmegnut on Instagram.
Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
For the carrot cake:
- 2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour (288g))
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (if your flour blend does not already contain it)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (6g)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (7g)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (6g)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger (3g)
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g)
- 1 cup brown sugar (210g)
- 3 eggs (192g)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or other neutral tasting oil like avocado oil (125mL))
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (188g)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups finely shredded carrots (from about 2-3 large carrots (236g))
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
- 16 oz cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups powdered sugar (650g)
For decorations (optional):
- Orange food coloring (or combination of red and yellow food coloring)
- Green food coloring
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
For the carrot cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line two 8-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the gluten-free flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- In a large bowl, add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and eggs. Beat together for 2 minutes, until thoroughly combined and light in color.
- Add in the oil, applesauce, vanilla and apple cider vinegar. Mix until combined.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring in between, until no streaks of white remain.
- Stir in the shredded carrots.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, filling each equally.
- Bake at 350F for 33-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
For the cream cheese frosting:
- Add the butter and cream cheese to a large bowl. Cream together with an electric mixer until completely smooth.
- Mix in the vanilla extract and salt.
- Gradually add in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add 4 to 5 cups in total, until your desired consistency is reached and the cream cheese frosting is thick and smooth.
- Set aside 1 cup of cream cheese frosting. Use remaining frosting to frost the cake. Place one layer of carrot cake on a plate or platter. Frost the top with cream cheese frosting and smooth with a spatula.
- Place the other carrot cake layer on top of the frosting.
- Then, do a thin layer of frosting on the cake to trap in all of the crumbs. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to make it easier to frost. Then, go back and frost the cake with a thicker layer of frosting. Pipe any decorations on top with a 1M star frosting tip, if desired.
For the decorations (optional):
- Sprinkle walnuts on the top and sides of the cake, if desired.
- To make the carrot decorations, divide the reserved 1 cup of frosting into two small bowls.
- Add the orange food coloring to one bowl, and the green to the other. Mix until your desired colors are reached. Place the colored frosting into piping bags either fitted with a small round tip or snip off the end of the piping bag without a tip. The hole should be the size of a marker.
- With the orange, pipe long triangles all over the cake for the carrots. Use the green to make the carrot tops. Pipe any cream cheese frosting decorations along the edge with a 1M star frosting tip, if desired.
- This recipe was tested with both Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour and King Arthur Baking Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour. Both of these flours already contain xanthan gum, so additional xanthan gum is not needed. If your blend does not contain xanthan gum, you will want to use the amount specified in the recipe.
- For the most accurate results, I recommend using the metric measurements provided in the recipe.
- If you measure the gluten-free flour in cups, be sure to not use the measuring cup to scoop the floor. This will result in too much flour and a dense cake. Instead, spoon flour into your measuring cup and then level it off with a straight object.
- To store leftovers in the refrigerator, place the cake in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- You can freeze the cake for up to 3 months. First, slice the cake into individual portions. Freeze them on a lined baking sheet for one hour until solid. Then, tightly wrap individual slices and place in a freezer safe container or bag.