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!
Cake or Cupcakes?
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 ingredient proportions aren’t just right.
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 cake that’s as moist and tender as can be. Be sure to check that one out, too.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-Free: 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, and either replace the white chocolate chips with more nuts, or use nondairy semi-sweet chocolate chips.
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.
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!
Watch this 90-second video to see me make gluten free carrot cake.
Just push play ▶ below and then make your own! Please note that I edited out (by mistake!) the addition of apple cider vinegar in the video. It’s in there, though, I promise! Please don’t leave it out of the recipe when you bake. :)
Gluten Free Carrot Cake (or Cupcakes!)
For the cake
2 1/4 cups (315 g)* all purpose gluten free flour (I have used Better Batter and Better Than Cup4Cup with great results)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (109 g) packed light brown sugar
3 cups (270 g) peeled and grated carrots
1/2 cup (112 g) neutral oil (like sunflower or grapeseed oil)
4 eggs (200 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) milk (any kind), at room temperature
1/2 cup (55 g) chopped pecans, plus more for decorating (optional)
1/2 cup (3 ounces) white chocolate chips
*For cupcakes: 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.
For the cream cheese frosting**
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups (460 g) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as necessary
**For cupcakes, 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).
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. Add the grated carrots to the dry ingredients, and mix to combine. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the oil, eggs, vinegar, and milk, and mix to combine. Add the pecans and chocolate chips, and mix until evenly distributed throughout. The batter will be thick, but relatively soft.
If making 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 a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes, rotating the pans once during baking. 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.
If making 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.
While the cakes or cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. 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. Add the salt, and 3 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Mix on low speed until the sugar is absorbed. Then, 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.
This recipe was originally published on the blog in 2013. Photos, text, video, cake variation all new.