These moist and tender gluten free carrot cake whoopie pies with cream cheese filling are a fun Easter alternative to cupcakes or cake. And they freeze great!
What is it about carrot cake?
I don't know anyone who doesn't like carrot cake. Do you? The way I make carrot cake, there are plenty of shredded carrots—but even if you don't like carrots (like my oldest, who hates all vegetables equally, poor kid), you must like carrot cake. There's something about the marriage of cream cheese with carrots that don't really even taste like carrots-for-salad with cinnamon and, for me, a hint of freshly grated nutmeg.
This recipe really does round out my carrot cake repertoire. I have the classic gluten free carrot cake recipe all wrapped up, plus the Entenmann's-style carrot cake with crushed pineapple in the batter, too.
I went a little bit light on the confectioners' sugar in the cream cheese filling. If you add more confectioners' sugar, you will get a more stable filling. But it will threaten to overwhelm the other flavors in these gluten free carrot cake pies with an overwhelming rush of pure sweetness. As it is, these pies do best when they are chilled until the filling is firm.
I've read all sorts of explanations for the moniker “whoopie pies,” but the one that sticks out for me is that children would see them in their lunchboxes and call out “WHOOPIE!” That has to be the sorriest excuse for a silly naming story I've ever heard in my entire life.
I tend to like cupcakes more than cake, but that might be because a cake just doesn't make for very convenient leftovers. The shredded carrots here tend to rob these cakes of the perfect dome shape of a more classic whoopie pie. But they're still light, fluffy and tender as can be.
I use a pastry bag fitted with a large plain piping tip for everything from the pies themselves to piping in the filling. But you can easily get away with just spooning both the batter for the cakes and the filling between them.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-free: I'm happy to report that I've successfully made the whoopie pies plus the cream cheese filling dairy-free. ? For the cakes, the only dairy-containing ingredient is the melted and cooled butter, and potentially the milk.
For the butter, I feel pretty confident that you can use any vegan butter replacement. I've used both Earth Balance buttery sticks and Melt brand vegan butter sticks (which I love love love). For the milk, any unsweetened milk replacement that isn't fat-free and isn't, say, a super high-fat can of coconut milk, will work just fine. My favorite is unsweetened almond milk.
For the filling, I recommend using only 2 ounces of your favorite dairy-free cream cheese, since I find that all of them have something of a strange aftertaste, 4 tablespoons (56 g) of vegan butter replacement like Melt or Earth Balance, and 4 tablespoons of shortening. Speaking of shortening…
Shortening: If you see shortening as an ingredient in a recipe and want to turn the virtual page, please hear me out! Shortening, unlike butter or vegan butter replacements, is solid at room temperature but has little to no moisture (unlike butter, vegan or otherwise). It helps baked goods stay put and not spread too much in the oven, and frosting to hold its shape.
I don't buy or use Crisco. I recommend Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening, which is much heathlier for you and sustainably sourced. To replace shortening, you can try using virgin coconut oil (the triple filtered kind has no coconut aroma), but it won't always work exactly the same.
Egg: Since there is only one egg in this recipe, I think a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon of ground chia seeds + 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel), but if you're feeling adventuresome and want to try a boiled flax egg like we did in our vegan black bean brownies, that would work great.
Sugar: You cannot replace the brown and confectioners' sugars in this recipe with a liquid sweetener of any kind. You should be able to replace the brown sugar with coconut palm sugar, but I'd recommend grinding it further so it dissolves properly during baking.
For an entirely sugar-free recipe, you can try replacing the brown sugar with Swerve brown sugar replacement or even Lankato brand (I've just started experimenting with that; nothing to report just yet!), but those sugar replacements tend to absorb more moisture so you might have to add more milk. For the confectioners' sugar, you'll need Swerve confectioners' sugar replacement.
Gluten Free Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
For the cakes
1 1/4 cups (175 g) all purpose gluten-free flour (I like Better Batter or mock Better Batter here)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup (109 g) packed light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups (120 g) freshly grated carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons (24 g) vegetable shortening, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (5 fluid ounces) milk (any kind), at room temperature
For the filling
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (173 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set them aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar and whisk until well-combined, making sure to work out any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the grated carrots and mix to combine. Add the butter, shortening, vanilla, egg and milk, and mix until just combined. The batter should be smooth and thick, but soft.
Transfer the batter to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip. Pipe rounds about 2-inches in diameter about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. With wet fingers smooth and flatten the rounds until they are about 2-1/2 inches in diameter and about 1/2-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the cakes are very lightly golden brown all over, and the center springs back when pressed lightly with your finger (about 12 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet.
While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the butter and cream cheese, and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and nutmeg, and mix until all of the sugar is absorbed and the filling has thickened.
Once the pies are completely cool, place them in pairs of similar shape and size. Place the filling in a clean pastry bag fitted with a clean large, plain tip, and pipe filling onto the underside of one pie of each pair, stopping just short of the edge of the pie. Cover the filling with the other pie in each pair, and press down gently to force the filling to the edge of the pie. Chill until the filling is firm. Serve slightly chilled.
Wrap each leftover pie individually, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. Freeze for longer storage.
Originally published in 2012 (!). Recipe mostly unchanged (nutmeg added to filling), photos, video and most text new.