You may have noticed my love affair with cake. I’m not too selective when it comes to flavour. I have no prejudices and have enough love (and sweet tooth) in me to love them all! Unless they are excessively sweet. If you’ve baked any of my cake or loaf recipes, you may have noticed that my palate prefers just-sweet-enough desserts that don’t ache my teeth or leaves me feeling ill after eating it. Carrot cakes, in particular, seem to be guilty of being cloyingly sweet. Is it the sweetness of the carrots? The cream cheese frosting? Perhaps both. In any case, if you love carrot cakes, you will love this perfectly sweet, perfectly moist, slightly better-for-you Gluten Free Carrot Cake with an amazing tangy, “no-cream-cheese” frosting that might blow your mind like it did mine.
This carrot cake is based on a fabulous gluten-free and vegan recipe from Give Me Some Oven, to which I made THREE CHANGES to make it even better i.e. better-for-you without sacrificing taste or texture. Because that’s basically my baking modus operandi and I think I kinda nailed it for this cake :D
First, I dialed down the total sugar from 2 cups to 1.5 cups and it is plenty sweet, especially with that insanely good frosting (I swear I will tell you more on that later).
Second, I replaced two-thirds of the oil with pureed pineapples such that only 1/4C of oil is called for, a much more acceptable amount to me. (Next time I will try replacing all of the oil and update you here. If you get to it first, let me know how it turns out)! Pineapples are a commonly used ingredient in carrot cakes for tenderizing. I figured why not use it the same way apple sauce is frequently used to replace oil in baking. I think we can agree, this cake looks moist AF.
My third trick is whipping the egg whites to soft peaks and folding it into the batter at the end (feel free to stay true to the original recipe and use all flax eggs if you are baking vegan). This step of whipping the whites instead of beating the whole eggs into the batter give some extra lift and lightness which I wanted since carrots are a relatively dense ingredient (though I did go one more step to chop the carrots more finely in the food processor than the original recipe which use shredded carrots). I love to whip the whites in all my gluten-free bakes, especially those that use almond or nut flours, which this carrot cake does NOT. For that reason, I write that whipped egg whites step as an optional step. Since I use my handheld immersion blender with whisk attachment for the job and it takes mere seconds and minimal wash-up, I am always inclined to do it!
Now we get to this amazing tangy, “no-cream-cheese” frosting. All credit goes to the original recipe for using apple cider vinegar to create the tang that tastes exactly like cream cheese frosting! My husband is a huge fan of cream cheese frosting. To avoid disappointment, I pre-emptively warned him that I was making this frosting without cream cheese but to rest assured that it will taste like cream cheese. He said flatly “it better”. Well it 100% did!
Though you might be asking, why not just use cream cheese? You could indeed. But for us, we avoid all dairy except for organic or grass-fed butter so I never buy cream cheese. I also think the vast majority of cream cheeses on the market come from factory-farmed cows and I really want to avoid that stuff. And if you’re baking for vegan or lactose-intolerant friends, you can easily use vegan butter for the frosting and with a splash of acid and ta-da, cream cheese frosting. You’ve got to taste it to believe it.
I brought this cake to a friend’s house over Easter weekend and most of us had seconds, including my foodie friend Denise and my non-dessert-person husband (neither are gluten-free). I realized this Gluten Free Carrot Cake should most definitely be made again and the recipe shared with you!
Gluten-Free Flour: Each brand of gluten-free flour blend is not the same. Therefore, using different brands may yield different outcomes. I always use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour because it is very accessible and available in most grocery stores. (not sponsored!)
Whipping the egg whites optional: Whenever I bake gluten-free, I prefer to separate the egg whites and whip them to soft peaks and fold them into the batter gently at the end. The air whipped into the whites give the batter more lift. This is a requisite step for recipes using heavier flours like almond flour. In the case of this GF carrot cake (where no nut flour is used), it is an optional step. I use my immersion blender with whisk attachment which takes seconds to whip up and minimal washing up, so I do it.
Candied Carrot Peels: Inspired by a post by Zoe Bakes, I made candied carrot peels for garnishing the cake. Head over to her blog for the instructions. Hers are baked in straight strips while I curled them into circles on the silicon mat for baking.
Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
Recipe makes one 3-layer 8” or one 2-layer 9” round cake
For the carrot cake:
2 ½ C (338g) Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour (see headnotes)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch each of ground cloves, ground ginger and ground nutmeg
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 lb carrots, washed, peeled and tops trimmed (reserve peels if making candied peel garnish – see headnotes)
4 large eggs (see head note about optionally separating and whipping the whites)
¾ C (173g) raw granulated cane sugar OR ¾ C (138g) regular granulated sugar
¾ C (149g) light brown sugar
½ C pureed pineapples (from about 180g or ¾ C fresh or canned pineapple chunks)
¼ C avocado oil (or other neutral tasting oil of choice)
For the “No-Cream Cheese” frosting:
5 ¼ C (656g) organic powdered sugar
1 C (227g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature about 1 hr
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp unsweetened almond or oak milk, plus more as needed to thin
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Optional candied carrot peels for garnish – see recipe from Zoe Bakes.
For the Carrot Cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350f. Lightly grease and/or line with parchment paper, three 8” round cake pans or two 9” round cake pans.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt together to make sure there are no lumps. Set aside.
Using a food processor with the shredding blade attached, shred the carrots in batches and set them aside. Then change to the metal S-shaped blade for the food processor and place the shredded carrots back in and pulse to chop them into short pieces (but not so much they blend into a puree) and add them into the bowl with the flour mixture.
Next, puree the pineapple chunks and measure out about ½ C for the cake and set aside for a moment. Put the sugars and eggs in the food processor and blend until light and frothy, about half a minute. Add the ½ cup of pineapple puree and while the food processor is running, drizzle in the ¼ cup of oil. Pour this mixture into the large bowl holding the carrots and flour mixture. Use a spatula to fold everything together until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans and bake 18-23 minutes for 8” round pans or 25-30 minutes for 9” round pans, until a skewer inserted in the center emerges clean with just a few small crumbs. Allow to cool on a wire rack before running a knife around the edge and removing the cakes from the pans. Make sure cakes are completely cool before frosting, about 1 hour.
For the Tangy “No-Cream Cheese” Frosting:
Place all the ingredients into a clean food processor and mix until smooth. Adjust consistency as needed i.e. if too thick, add more a tablespoon of milk at a time to thin out or if too thick, add tablespoons of powdered sugar to thicken. The ideal consistency is silky smooth, spreadable on the cake with a spatula while still retaining its shape.
Frost your cake layers including in between the two (if 9”) or three (if 8”) layers, the top and a some around the outside. The amount of frosting assumes a ‘naked’ cake look.
Enjoy with a hot cuppa! Xx
Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven.(
If you like this recipe, pin it to Pinterest! You can also leave me a comment below to let me know what you think of this post - I would love that.