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Gluten Free Carrot Cake (or Cupcakes!)

Gluten Free Carrot Cake (or Cupcakes!)

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!

Make gluten free carrot cake, or cupcakes, that's loaded with fresh carrots and topped with cinnamon 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.

Gluten free carrot cake baked into cupcakes, loaded with fresh carrots and topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Perfect for Easter, or any time! https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-carrot-cake-cupcakes/

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…

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

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.

Gluten free carrot cake baked into cupcakes, loaded with fresh carrots and topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Perfect for Easter, or any time! https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-carrot-cake-cupcakes/Gluten free carrot cake baked into cupcakes, loaded with fresh carrots and topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Perfect for Easter, or any time! https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-carrot-cake-cupcakes/

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. :)

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

Gluten free carrot cake baked into cupcakes, loaded with fresh carrots and topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Perfect for Easter, or any time! https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-carrot-cake-cupcakes/

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: Two 8-inch round cakes or 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

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).

Directions

  • 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.

Love,
Nicole

Comments are closed.

  • Geneviève
    February 5, 2018 at 6:27 PM

    Hi Nicole, I baked this carrot cake yesterday and finished it with a vegan frosting made with cashews and dates. I’ve been craving carrot cake for a while and wasn’t disappointed at all. This cake is soft and moist. I put walnuts instead of pecans. So happy to have discovered your site a few months ago and I also bought the reedition of your book.

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 6, 2018 at 9:13 AM

      Thank you so much for letting us know how well it turned out, Geneviève! And thank you so much for your support of my books. Keep coming back! :)

  • Holly
    January 31, 2018 at 9:38 PM

    Nicole, how do you store this when you make the cake not cupcakes? According to America’s Test Kitchen cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated after two hours. I know from experience gluten-free cakes really dry out from being refrigerated. So I feel it’s a catch 22 with it being gluten free but with the cream cheese frosting. Help! Thanks in advance.

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 1, 2018 at 8:40 AM

      Hi, Holly, if you make my recipes with the ingredients I specify, including xanthan gum in your flour blend, the cakes won’t dry out any more quickly than a conventional cake. And I don’t generally recommend refrigerating, but rather freezing, as the refrigerator is drying—and it has nothing to do with the fact that the baked goods are gluten free. If you plan to make this cake far ahead of time, I’d recommend wrapping the individual baked cake layers tightly and freezing them, then defrosting at room temperature, and frosting before serving. Dairy doesn’t spoil nearly as quickly as 2 hours, and it doesn’t keep spoilage secret. Dairy that has spoiled will smell spoiled.

    • Geneviève
      February 5, 2018 at 6:28 PM

      Put it in your microwave without starting it.

  • Denise M. Mares
    January 30, 2018 at 2:25 PM

    Hi Nicole,
    I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we are high altitude at over 7000. I printed the recipe for carrot cake, but is there an adjustment that I need to make for the cake because of our altitude? Any help is appreciated.

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 30, 2018 at 3:20 PM

      I’m afraid I don’t know, Denise, since I don’t live at high altitude and can’t replicate the condition. I recommend you make whatever adjustments you would normally make for high altitude. There isn’t anything peculiar about my gluten free recipes that should cause them to behave differently!

    • Denise M. Mares
      January 30, 2018 at 4:58 PM

      Thank you Nicole I will make it with high altitude adjustments and let you know how it comes out.

  • Holly
    January 24, 2018 at 10:48 AM

    What can I substitute for the white chocolate chips? Or are they even necessary?

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 24, 2018 at 11:59 AM

      Hi, Holly, please see the ingredients and substitutions section! I cover that in there.

  • William
    February 29, 2016 at 8:59 PM

    Can you keep the frosting in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days?

    • March 24, 2016 at 12:54 PM

      Definitely, William. You’ll need to let it warm up a bit at room temperature before you can use it, though.

  • wanda
    April 1, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    The cupcakes were excellent. Great flavor, great texture. Everyone, even the gluten consumers loved them.

  • Norma Dowd
    March 31, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    These turned out so good! Thank you

  • Julie Simmons
    March 31, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    I made these today — yummy! Even the non-GF folks enjoyed these.

  • Leticia
    March 28, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    Does anyone know how this recipe compares to the Aug. 31 cupcake recipe post ?

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:34 PM

      Leticia, there is a recipe for pumpkin carrot cupcakes on the blog, but these are simply carrot cupcakes. No pumpkin. The recipes are substantially different, but feel free to use whichever you prefer.
      Nicole

  • Carrie
    March 28, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    Do they freeze well with the icing or best to make the icing as you need? Thanks!! Btw what’s the release date for your new cookbook?? Can’t wait to get my hands on it!!!

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:38 PM

      Hi, Carrie,
      I would definitely recommend freezing them before frosting them, then making the frosting soon before you serve them.
      I just found out that the new book should have a release date right before Thanksgiving! That is a really nice surprise for me, since the original estimate was into December! Thanks so much for your enthusiasm!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Hannah
    March 28, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Do you have advice on storing cupcakes in the freezer? I have not had great luck with retaining good flavor after they thaw.

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      Hi, Hannah, It is all about sealing them in an airtight container. If you leave any air in the container, they will get freezer-burn. And only freeze and defrost once!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Jenny
    March 28, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    These look wonderful! Can I leave out the macadamias? I am allergic to nuts!

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:39 PM

      Hi, Jenny,
      If you want to leave out the nuts, you’ll need something else to take its place. Raisins or another small, dried fruit would work if substituted in equal amount by weight.

      Nicole

  • Susan
    March 28, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Nicole, do you think these would work using the same amount of butter instead of oil?

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      I haven’t tested the recipe with any substitutions, Susan. Butter contains water, and oil is only fat, so they are not generally 1:1 substitutions. Feel free to experiment!
      Nicole

  • March 28, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    I’m totally making these for our family dinner tonight! Thank you!!!!

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      Pleasure, Debi. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Amber
    March 28, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    What would you recommend to make this tree-nut free?

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      Hi, Amber,
      If you want to leave out the nuts, you’ll need something else to take its place. Raisins or another small, dried fruit would work if substituted in equal amount by weight.
      Nicole

  • Jennifer S
    March 28, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Yes. I am compelled to have GF cupcakes in the freezer at all times. You never know when there is going to be a class treat or a birthday party pop up. I need to make some tomorrow to replenish our stash.
    I do have a question for you as I’m having some issues with the cupcakes and cakes. I’ve noticed that they puff up really nicely in the oven and then I take them out and they fall. What is happening here? Any advice you have will be greatly appreciated!

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Hey, Jennifer, that is usually caused by a too-hot oven. It happens with bread, too. It activates the leavening agents quickly, and creates a baked-looking outside, but there isn’t enough structure inside to support the cupcake as it cools. You are better off with a low and slow approach to baking cupcakes, and make sure you are using your oven thermometer. Most ovens run quite hot (mine is 50°F over temp).
      Nicole

    • Jennifer S.
      March 28, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      I do have an oven thermometer but keep it on the rack under the rack I bake on. Maybe that is the problem. But then I find if I put on the rack I’m baking on it always gets pushed around and sometimes falls when I put the pan/pans in. Oh the problems we have!! :) Thanks for the advice!

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      Every oven has “hot spots,” Jennifer. If you place your oven thermometer in one spot and bake in another, the reading isn’t accurate. I’d check that. If all else fails, try just lowering the oven temp and bake low and slow.
      Nicole

  • March 28, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    On behalf of my dairy intolerant, gluten free husband who loves carrot cake, I thank you! I was going to pin this as soon as I saw it, and then realized that the category “great art” which it defaulted to first, might actually be appropriate! : ) Thanks! I love your humor and your great ideas on this site.

    • gfshoestring
      March 28, 2013 at 10:02 AM

      You are very welcome, Melody! The cream cheese frosting can definitely be made with a dairy-free cream cheese substitute, I’m sure, but the cupcake itself is in fact all ready for your husband indeed!
      xoxo Nicole

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