Make gluten free carrot cake, or cupcakes, that’s loaded with fresh carrots and topped with traditional cream cheese frosting. Perfect for Easter, or any time!

Why this is the best gluten free carrot cake recipe

This batter makes cake or cupcakes that are light and fluffy, moist and tender, and never ever oily. Cakes made with oil instead of butter can be very moist but can also become oily if the ingredients are in just the proper balance, as they are here.

Carrots are perfect for cake because, when shredded and folded into a cinnamon-sugar cake batter, they bake up sweet and tender. They give off just enough moisture to help tenderize the cake, but they don’t make the cake soggy.

This recipe uses a ton of shredded carrots (3 whole cups, in fact), unlike some recipes that are carrot cake in name only. They soften during baking, but mostly hold their color and don’t bleed into the rest of the cake.

Closeup of slice of carrot layer cake being taken from whole cake on platter

Gluten free carrot cake or cupcakes?

Although it’s often assumed that a recipe for a cake can be used to make cupcakes, and vice versa, it isn’t always the case. Since each cupcake is its own portion, there’s a much larger surface area that is exposed to the heat of the oven.

When I baked the original cupcake recipe as a cake, it was just too fragile. It tasted great, but the cake cracked when I frosted and layered it. Adding 1/4 cup more flour to the recipe before baking it as a layer cake was the perfect fix.

Given the choice, I generally prefer to make cupcakes rather than a full cake. Cupcakes are easier to store, easier to force just a few on friends and neighbors (and my husband’s coworkers), and easier to have on hand at a moment’s notice (birthday in school tomorrow!). By the way, my gluten free carrot cake whoopie pies would fill that need, too.

I had always assumed that my kids would also prefer cupcakes, but I finally asked all 3 of them, and it turns out that I was dead wrong! They said that they prefer cake for a very unoriginal, uninspiring reason…

When you are served a piece of cake, it’s almost always more generous than when you’re served a cupcake. That’s their whole reason. I thought about poking some holes in that logic but decided to just nod and smile. 🙂

If you love carrot cake and were hoping for a copycat of the famous Entenmann’s iced carrot cake, you’re in luck! I have a recipe for that secret-ingredient gluten free iced carrot cakethat’s as moist and tender as can be. Be sure to check that one out, too.

Raw and baked carrot cake cupcakes in muffin tinsA carrot cake cupcake with a bite taken

Gluten free carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

It wouldn’t be a classic carrot cake without the tangy sweetness of smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting here isn’t super stiff, since to make it very stiff would require adding way too much confectioners’ sugar. 

When you frost the cake as a layer cake, keep in mind that the frosting is a bit softer than a classic buttercream. That means that the cake itself is more likely to peek out from the layers of frosting.

You can frost a “naked” cake by just filling in between the layers and frosting right on top. For cupcakes, try frosting them right before serving.

You can also help firm up the frosting a bit by chilling it in the refrigerator before using it to decorate your cake. I wouldn’t let it chill for more than an hour, though, so it doesn’t become too firm to spread.

Choosing the right gluten free flour for carrot cake

I’ve made this cake so many times that I’ve made it with Better Batter classic gluten free flour blend, Cup4Cup gluten free flour blend, and my Better Than Cup4Cup blend. They all work beautifully.

It’s a relatively forgiving recipe, unlike for example our perfect gluten free vanilla cake, which is so simple that it must be made with just the right gluten free flour blend, sifted. Steer clear entirely of gf flour blends with very gritty rice flour, like Bob’s Red Mill, but you might even be able to make this cake successfully with King Arthur Flour Measure for Measure.

As always, please consult our comprehensive guide to all purpose gluten free flour blends, which is linked in every recipe, like this one, that calls for an all purpose gluten free flour blend.

Can I use almond flour for this gluten free carrot cake recipe? Coconut flour? Oat flour?

I’m afraid this cake can’t be made without a rice flour-based all purpose gluten free flour, no. You’d need a completely different recipe. Our superfood muffins come close!

Raw carrot cake batter in two round cake pans

My favorite pans for gluten free carrot cake and cupcakes

This recipe is designed to be made either in 2 8-inch round cake pans, or the standard wells of a 12-cup muffin tin. I always recommend baking in cast aluminum, which conducts heat well but not too well, and is light in color so it doesn’t burn the outside by attracting too much heat in the oven.

Since the recipe calls for 4 eggs, you can easily cut the ingredients in half, right down the middle, and make either 1 cake or just 12 cupcakes. The cupcakes do freeze really well, though, if you make the whole recipe but don’t have a need for all 24.

If your pan is 9-inches in diameter, rather than 8-inches, it will make shorter cakes that bake faster. Begin checking at 25 minutes.

Keep in mind that there’s no truly standard size well in a “standard” 12-cup muffin tin. So you may get more or fewer cupcakes than the recipe states.

Tips for making this easy gluten free carrot cake

Measuring just the right amount of gluten free flour

Always measure your dry ingredients, especially your gluten free flour blend, by weight, not volume. It’s impossible to avoid human error when measuring by volume, no matter your level of baking experience.

Use a food processor to quickly grate your carrots

You should always grate your carrots fresh, rather than used a prepared bag of grated carrots, for carrot cake. The prepared grated carrots are almost always quite thick, and they’re too dry.

That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to grate your carrots by hand, though, on a box grater. Try making quick work of the job by grating them in your food processor with the grater plate or blade.

Have fun with gluten free carrot cake mix-ins

There are so many options for mix-ins in your carrot cake. In this recipe, there’s a total of about 5 or 6 ounces of mix-ins.

You can use any combination of dry mix-ins that hold their shape in your cake. Here are some suggestions:

  • Soft nuts, like pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
  • Raisins (I like white raisins here, but Thompson seedless raisins are also an excellent choice)
  • White, dark, or milk chocolate chips

If you’d like to mix pineapple into your carrot cake, you’ll get nothing but encouragement from me—but you’ll need our Entenmann’s style gluten free carrot pineapple cake recipe. Don’t try adding pineapple to this recipe, as it adds a ton of moisture and needs its own recipe.

Use parchment paper to keep your gf carrot cake from sticking

Whether you’re using nonstick round cake pans or muffin tins or not, it’s a good idea to line your pan with a round of parchment paper, or to line your muffin tins with greaseproof liners.

Lining your pans helps the cake and cupcakes release from the pan, and also helps them bake more evenly, too.

How to tell when your gluten free carrot cake is ready

Since this is a really moist cake, you may find that using a toothpick or other cake tester to determine if there is still any wet batter in your cake isn’t that reliable. I prefer to wait until the cake is uniformly light brown on top, and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Single layer baked carrot cake on white cake turner

Gluten free carrot cake ingredients and substitutions

Gluten free dairy free carrot cake

Making carrot cake with oil instead of butter makes these carrot cake cupcakes quite easy to convert to dairy free as well as gluten free. Just use a nondairy milk, like almond milk.

You can either replace the white chocolate chips with more nuts, make your own vegan white chocolate and chop it up, or use nondairy semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Gluten free dairy free frosting

I’ve successfully made cream cheese-style frosting dairy free by using 4 ounces Daiya nondairy cream cheese, 8 tablespoons (96 g) nonhydrogenated shortening, and 6 tablespoons (84 g) Earth Balance nondairy butter in place of the butter and cream cheese.

I find that nondairy cream cheese has a strong taste that can become unpleasant if used in large amounts, so I don’t use a whole 8 ounces of it in place of 8 ounces of conventional cream cheese.

An easy gluten free dairy free alternative to making your own frosting is to buy a can of Pillsbury brand cream cheese frosting. It’s gluten free, and contains no dairy ingredients (but does contain soy).

Can you make this gluten free carrot cake egg free?

I don’t believe that this recipe can be made egg-free, I’m afraid. It just calls for too many eggs. Sorry!

Nut free gluten free carrot cake

Just use double the white chocolate chips in place of the chopped pecans, and eliminate the pecans as decoration. Easy!

Closeup of slice of carrot layer cake being taken from whole cake on platter

How to store leftover gluten free carrot cake

If you don’t plan to serve this gf carrot cake right away, I recommend wrapping the unfrosted cake layers tightly in freezer-safe wrap and freezing them. Defrost them at room temperature before frosting and serving.

If you have already frosted the cake and have any slices leftover, it will still freeze really well. Just wrap each slice tightly in freezer safe wrap, then freeze. Defrost at room temperature.

FAQs

Is carrot cake gluten free?

No! Unless you’re using a gluten free carrot cake recipe like this one, you should never assume that carrot cake is gluten free.

Can I make this gluten free carrot cake with cream cheese frosting ahead of time?

As described above, you can make the carrot cake layers even weeks ahead of time by wrapping them tightly and freezing them. Defrost in the refrigerator before frosting and serving.

The cake is moist enough, in fact, that you can even store it at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, up to 1 whole day in advance. Don’t refrigerate it, though, as the refrigerator tends to dry out baked goods.

The frosting can also be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a few days. It will be solid, though, once fully chilled, so you’ll need to let it warm up for about an hour, and then mix it again with your mixer until you reach the proper consistency for spreading or piping it.

Can I refrigerate this gluten free carrot cake mix for later?

You can definitely assemble the dry ingredients, up to and including the brown sugar, whisk them together, and store them in a sealed container. I would store them at room temperature, though, in a dark pantry, since the refrigerator will cause the brown sugar to clump.

Front view of slice of carrot cake on white plate with fork

Can I leave the nuts and chocolate chips out of this gluten free carrot cake recipe?

You can absolutely leave out the nuts entirely. I recommend replacing them with more chocolate chips, but you can probably leave out all the mix-ins since there aren’t that many. The cake may be a bit denser.

Why is my gluten free carrot cake so crumbly?

If your cake is crumbly, you may have overmeasured your gluten free flour blend, or used a blend with a gritty rice flour. Pay careful attention to your flour blend, and to measuring everything possible by weight, not volume!

How do I make my gf carrot cake moister?

This is already a very moist cake, but if you’d like an even more moist cake, you can try our gluten free pineapple carrot cake.

 

How to make the best gluten free carrot cake, step by step

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Fluffy, Tender, and Easy Gluten Free Carrot Cake (or Cupcakes!)

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Partake in gluten free carrot cake (or cupcakes!) all year long with this easy recipe. You'll love this perfectly spiced gf carrot cake and tangy cream cheese frosting.
Course Cake, Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword gluten free carrot cake, gluten free carrot cupcakes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 2 8-inch round cakes
Author Nicole Hunn

Equipment

  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 ÂĽ cups all purpose gluten free flour blend (I like Cup4Cup here best; Better Batter also works well) (See Recipe Notes re: cupcakes)
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum omit if your blend already contains it
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Âľ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup neutral oil (like sunflower or grapeseed oil)
  • 4 eggs at room temperature, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup milk at room temperature
  • ½ cup chopped pecans plus more for decorating (optional)
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips (See Recipe Notes if omitting pecans)
  • 3 cups peeled and grated carrots (from about 3 large carrots)

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ÂĽ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar plus more as necessary

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round baking pans and set them aside. If making cupcakes, grease or line two standard 12-cup muffin tins, and set them aside.
  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and granulated sugar. Whisk to combine well. Add the brown sugar, and whisk again to combine, working to break up any lumps in the brown sugar.
  • Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the oil, eggs, vinegar, and milk, and mix to combine. Add the (optional) pecans and white chocolate chips, and mix until evenly distributed throughout.
  • Add the grated carrots to the mixture, and stir until evenly distributed throughout the batter. The batter will be thick, but relatively soft.

To make a cake.

  • Divide the batter evenly among the two prepared baking pans, and spread into an even layer in each.
  • Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the cake is uniformly light brown on top, and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan rotating the pans once during baking (35 to 40 minutes).
  • Remove the pans from the oven from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make cupcakes.

  • Fill the wells of the prepared muffin tins about 3/4 of the way full with batter, and shake the pan back and forth to distribute the batter evenly in each well.
  • One at a time, place the muffin tins in the center of the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs attached (about 20 minutes).
  • Remove the tin from the oven from the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining muffin tin.

Make the frosting.

  • While the cakes or cupcakes are cooling, in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a handheld mixer), place the cream cheese and butter.
  • Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the salt, and 3 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Mix on low speed until the sugar is absorbed. Turn the mixer to high speed and beat until the frosting is thickened and fluffy.
  • Add more confectioners’ sugar as necessary to thicken the frosting enough to hold its shape when scooped with a spoon.

To frost a layer cake.

  • Turn one of the cooled cakes, top down, onto a serving platter. Spoon about half of the frosting onto the top of the cake and spread into an even layer.
  • Top with the second cake, top-down and press to adhere. Spread the remaining frosting on top of the cake and top with more chopped pecans, if desired. To make the cake easier to slice, chill for about an hour in the refrigerator before slicing and serving.

To frost cupcakes.

  • Spoon or pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.

Notes

Changes if you’re making cupcakes.

  • Reduce the flour blend by 1/4 cup (35 g) to 2 cups (280 g). The rest of the recipe remains the same.
  • You may want to halve the frosting recipe, as you need less frosting. Unless you really want to pile it on (which I heartily recommend).

About the pecans in the cake batter.
If you’re not using pecans in the cake, use double the amount of white chocolate chips, raising the amount to 6 ounces.

This recipe was originally published on the blog in 2013. Photos, text, video, cake variation modified in 2018 and again in 2022.

A whole carrot cake and a slice of it on a plate

A carrot cake cupcake on a small plate with frosting, and a tin with a dozen carrot cake cupcakes

The post Fluffy, Tender, and Easy Gluten Free Carrot Cake (or Cupcakes!) appeared first on Great gluten free recipes for every occasion..

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