Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

This Gluten-Free Carrot Cake is absolutely stunning. A beautifully spiced moist and fluffy sponge crammed with shredded carrots. Filled and decorated with the dreamiest cream cheese buttercream and sprinkled with candied carrots.

overhead view of gluten-free carrot cake

The joy that a simple carrot cake can bring is unbeatable. It feels so happy and homely. Our family were big fans of this cake over the past week and we were all sad when we finally finished the last slice. Although I think my jeans were thankful.

I usually have a tendency to include a lot of add-ins in my carrot cake from nuts and dried fruit to coconut. For this cake though I went back to basics. This Gluten-Free Carrot Cake is a more traditional affair which is almost elevated in status because of its simplicity.

In no way though is it inferior in flavour. Far from it. This cake positively brims with personality, thanks to the gentle spices, a spike of black pepper and the carefully chosen gluten-free flours. And it is all brought together with an easy dreamy cream cheese buttercream that you could happily eat with a spoon.

gluten-free carrot cake on a wooden plate on a table

How to make Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

This cake is beautifully straightforward to put together. There are no special techniques and only two bowls are needed. One for weighing and one for mixing. Here are the basic details.

  1. Mix the muscovado sugar with the orange zest.
  2. Add the olive oil, eggs and the vanilla extract.
  3. Whisk the flours with the raising agents and spices.
  4. Add the flours to the batter and mix.
  5. Finally add the shredded carrots.
  6. Divide into the two baking tins.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes.
  8. Remove from the cake tins and leave to cool before assembling.

Muscovado Sugar. We use muscovado sugar here for its deep rich caramel flavour. There is also a little more moisture involved than regular caster sugar so it helps to make the cake beautifully moist.

Orange Zest. The bright citrus note lifts the cake and really enhances the carroty flavour.

Olive Oil. In the past I have used melted butter to make my carrot cakes but here we use a light olive oil for two reasons. It is an easier ingredient to grab off the shelf but it is also lighter than butter so the cake is a little more fluffy.

  • Baker’s Tip – make sure you use light olive oil which has a neutral taste. Absolutely not extra virgin olive oil which would be far too powerful in this instance.

Black Pepper. The heat and spice of the black pepper is extremely subtle but it adds a special background note to the spice blend. For this carrot cake it’s all about layers of flavour.

Which flours to use for a gluten-free carrot cake

For this recipe we only need two gluten-free fours. No starchy flour is needed here because this recipe uses a lot of eggs to compensate (5!) and the carrots give us a lot of moisture so we don’t need to worry about any dryness or crumbliness.

  • Brown Rice Flour – this flour gives a beautiful whole grain earthiness. You can use white rice flour if you like.
  • Sorghum Flour – the flavour of this flour is so good. It is slightly nutty, slightly sweet and perfectly robust.

How to grate carrots for a carrot cake

In order for the cake to bake evenly with no lumpy carrot bits the carrots need to be grated in equal size and length.
By using the thinner grater attachment on your food processor or a julienne peeler you can achieve perfectly grated carrots.

However, don’t worry if you only have a box grater or microplane so grating the carrots by hand is your only option:

  1. Use the widest setting and smoothly bring the peeled carrot down the grater in one movement.
  2. Lift the carrot off and bring it down the grater again.
  3. Continue until you have a nub of carrot left then discard it.
  4. Rubbing the carrot up and down the grater damages the flesh of the carrot which causes it to succumb to watery clumps.

Baker’s Tip The higher quality carrots you use in this recipe the better your cake will taste. There really is a difference between the strong, slightly sweet and earthy carrots you can buy from the farmers’ market and the bland water carrots available from the supermarket. Obviously I recommend the former.

What add-ins can you include in a carrot cake?

This recipe keeps the carrot cake beautifully plain and simple. However, you don’t have to make your carrot cake that way. There are plenty of optional add-ins you can stir into the batter just before pouring into the cake tins which you might like to include. You can add a handful of any of the below ingredients.

  • Diced dried fruit – Sultanas, apricots or pineapple
  • Chopped nuts – Any would be delicious but particularly pecans or walnuts
  • Seeds – pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
  • Diced crystallised ginger – check out my recipe for the best Homemade Crystallised Ginger.

If you are really looking to spruce up your carrot cake then try this Golden Beetroot Carrot Cake, it is packed with sultanas, chopped pecans and shredded apple. Not to mention the delightfully earthy notes of fresh golden beetroot.

A bowl of cream cheese buttercream

How to make the best Cream Cheese Buttercream

Cream cheese buttercream is a match made in heaven for a carrot cake. This particular recipe is my absolute go-to and I use it also for this Red Velvet Cake. It has minimal ingredients and takes under 8 minutes to whip up.

  1. Beat the icing sugar and butter for 6 minutes until extremely light and fluffy.
  2. Add the vanilla extract, salt and cream cheese.
  3. Beat to combine.

Baker’s Tips

  • Use full fat cream cheese if you can. The taste is far superior and I find it whips much better into the buttercream.
  • If you are using a stand mixer, before you mix the icing sugar and butter wrap a tea towel around the mixer so the icing sugar doesn’t escape and cause a sugar cloud around your kitchen. Begin the mixer on low then build up speed once the sugar and butter are properly incorporated which also helps with the sugar cloud.
  • This Cream Cheese Buttercream is quite soft so decorate the cake as soon as your buttercream is ready as it doesn’t like being out of the fridge. Keep the cake in the fridge if the atmosphere is very warm.

A slice of gluten-free carrot cake on a plate

How to make candied carrots

I can’t help it, I decorate all my carrot cakes with candied carrots. They are easy, incredibly delicious and deliver an excellent crunchy contrast on the top of the cake.

  1. Prepare a sugar syrup by heating the sugar and water.
  2. Add the shredded carrots and bring to a gentle boil.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Drain and pat-dry the carrots.
  5. Spread the carrots out onto a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes.
  6. Turn off the oven, remove the carrots and sprinkle them with caster sugar.
  7. Return the carrots to the oven, leaving the door open, for two hours, so the sugared carrots can dry out.

Baker’s Tip: You need the shredded carrots to be really dry after they have been boiled in the sugar syrup so they don’t become soggy in the oven.

Storage. The candied carrots can keep unrefrigerated for up to two weeks in an airtight container lined with kitchen paper to ensure any residual moisture is wicked away.

overview of a cut gluten-free carrot cake with slices on plates next to it

Are you looking for more Spring Cakes?

Vanilla Almond Cake with Lemon Curd Glaze
Simnel Cake
Salted Caramel Chocolate Espresso Cake

Or perhaps Vegetable Cakes?

Courgette Oatmeal Cake
Sweet Potato Cinnamon Swirl Cake

If you make this Gluten-Free Carrot Cake then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

gluten-free carrot cake on a wooden plate on a table

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

This Gluten-Free Carrot Cake is absolutely stunning. A beautifully spiced moist and fluffy sponge crammed with shredded carrots. Filled and decorated with the dreamiest cream cheese buttercream and sprinkled with candied carrots.
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Course: Cake
Cuisine: British
Keyword: carrot cake, celebration cake, cream cheese buttercream, gluten-free cake
Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 12 people
Author: Georgina Hartley

Ingredients

  • 320 g light brown muscovado sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 300 g light olive oil
  • 5 eggs medium sized
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 225 g brown rice flour
  • 75 g sorghum flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 350 g grated carrot about 4-5 large carrots

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 350 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 400 g icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250 g cream cheese straight from the fridge

Candied Carrot

  • 2 carrots grated (about 250g)
  • 125 ml water
  • 100 g caster sugar

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan assisted oven/gas 3 and line and grease two 8 inch x 4 inch round cake tins.
  • Whisk the sugar with the orange zest until fragrant.
  • Add the butter and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices, salt and black pepper.
  • Fold the flour into the wet ingredients one third at a time.
  • Stir in the grated carrots until completely combined.
  • Divide the batter between the two baking tins and bake for about 35 minutes (cover with foil after 20 mins).

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • Cream the butter and icing sugar and mix for about 10 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  • Add the salt and vanilla and mix again to combine.
  • Finally add the cream cheese and mix until just combined.

Candied Carrot

  • Pour the water and sugar into a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Then turn down to a simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Add the carrot and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  • Strain the carrots and pat dry.
  • Place on a baking parchment lined tray and bake at 180°C/160 /gas 4 for 12 minutes.
  • Turn off the oven, remove the carrots and sprinkle them with the caster sugar.
  • Return the carrots to the oven, leaving the door open, for two hours, so the sugared carrots can dry out.

Assembly

  • Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or cake stand.
  • Fill a piping bag with half of the buttercream. Pipe concentric circles around the top of the cake layer. Use a small spatula to smooth so it creates an even middle layer of buttercream.
  • Place the second layer of cake on top of the buttercream.
  • Pipe concentric circles around the top of the cake layer. Use a small spatula to smooth so it creates an even surface layer of buttercream.
  • Use the spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream around the sides of the cake to create a naked look.
  • Pipe buttercream, using a piping tip of your choice, around the top of the cake. Then sprinkle candied carrots all over the surface.

Notes

General Baking Notes: All recipes are developed with medium eggs, good quality vanilla extract (not essence) and kosher salt.
Oven Temperature. I prefer to bake gluten-free cakes in fan-assisted ovens as they dry out the cake a little more. Gluten-free flours need more moisture in the batter so the fan-assisted oven helps the cakes cook more evenly.
Gluten-Free Flours. You can use white rice flour instead of brown rice flour. You could also use gluten-free oat flour instead of sorghum flour.
Olive Oil. It’s important to use light olive oil, not extra virgin or regular olive oil as you want the flavour of the oil to be more or less neutral. You could also use refined coconut oil or melted butter. The latter will give a richer taste.
Grated Carrots. The carrots should be grated in even strips of equal size. I recommend using the grating attachment on your food processor or a julienne peeler for perfectly shredded carrots.
Cream Cheese Buttercream – for the lightest buttercream the icing sugar and butter should be beaten together for at least 5-6 minutes on a medium-high setting.
Storage Because of the cream cheese in the buttercream the cake should be stored in the fridge where it will keep well for about 5 days. Bring the cake back to room temperature before serving.
Freezing. The carrot cake itself can be frozen before decorating with the buttercream. Wrap the two layers up individually. Wrap well in cling film, then in foil to ensure no freezer-burn. You can store for up to three months. Remove the cake layers from the freezer the night before you want to decorate the cake. Defrost, then remove the wrapping and decorate as normal.

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overview of gluten-free carrot cake and a slice of cake on a plate with text overlay

Comments

  1. This cake looks amazing but I will need a special occasion to make it or we will eat it all. I don’t generally stock those flours so will look out for them. Thanks for sharing with such complete instructions. Happy Easter from the tropics., Pauline

    • Georgina Hartley says

      Hi Pauline, thank you so much. Yes these flours are not something you might normally keep in but I use them in a lot of my baking and they are very versatile if you were to pick them up. Have a great Easter too!

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