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

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.
Prep Time1 hr 10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Cake
Cuisine: British
Keyword: carrot cake, celebration cake, cream cheese buttercream, gluten-free cake
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 olive oil 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

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

This Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake knocks socks off its peers. It is light, fluffy and flavourful but incredibly moist and topped with a richly whipped cream cheese buttercream.

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

I hadn’t made a Red Velvet Cake in ages and before I revisited the recipe with Cole earlier this week I wasn’t intending it to be my next blog post. But I had forgotten how much I love this classic cake and actually I think I prefer this version with alternative flours to any I have made before. And I have baked a lot of Red Velvets. The flavour here is richer, thanks to the oat flour, without any compromise on texture and moisture balance, thanks to the white flour and tapioca flour. I didn’t think it was possible but I have become super excited about Red Velvet Cake once more. It’s like 2005 all over again.

The first time I tried a Red Velvet Cake was when the Hummingbird Bakery first opened its doors in Notting Hill and the production company I was with had ordered dozens of this incredibly trendy cupcake to celebrate the end of a project we had been slogging away at. The cupcake revolution was at its humble beginnings and American baking was just starting to make headway in the UK. We ate a lot of cake in our office, well I did anyway, the hours were long, the work was challenging and the clients were frustrating. A little bit of cake to see in 4pm was my beacon of light during the day. However, this particular cupcake, the colour, the texture, the buttercream, is seared into my memory. I remember with clarity the speech given by our Head of Production, how the cakes were arranged on the table and who I giggled with about sneaking my third cupcake. It’s really akin to my baking origin story. I wasn’t so much hit with a bolt of lightning or bitten by a radioactive spider but ate my first bite of red velvet cake and my love of baking which had been lying dormant whilst I pursued a demanding career in production was reawakened.

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake was the first cake I completely obsessed over. I trekked across London religiously to The Hummingbird Bakery to have yet another red velvet. I scoured cookbooks for recipes and when I discovered food blogs I followed all the baking bloggers I could find, consumed by the world of cake which had suddenly opened up. As soon as the Hummingbird Bakery published its first cookbook I put in my pre-order and when it arrived I thrillingly re-created its Red Velvet Cupcakes time and time again for friends, family and work colleagues. Over time I adapted the cake to suit my evolving tastes and when I launched my first cake stall my layered Red Velvet Cake was one of my best-sellers. It sold out consistently as customers were lured in by its tantalising colour and then would then return next week for its amazing flavour.

Gradually as I offered a greater variety of cakes, focusing on new and interesting flavours, I didn’t make as many Red Velvets. By then you could buy them almost anywhere and they weren’t nearly as interesting a showpiece. Customers didn’t order them as much and then after I re-launched the cake stall as a gluten-free extravaganza, well the Red Velvet Cake just hasn’t made an appearance. This has been a huge mistake I now realise.

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

Last Wednesday my mum and I took Cole and Beau for cake and babyccinos at a little local café after our toddler gym class. Now Cole is pretty taken with the colour red. I mean, he really likes it. The tantrums we encounter at Diddidance if there isn’t a red ribbon or hula hoop left when it gets to Cole’s turn is intense. His wellies are red, most of his clothes are now red, his sunglasses, hat, water bottle, toy dinosaurs, Nana’s new car. It’s all red red red.

So when we went entered the cafe he spotted the red velvet cake at the front of the glass display instantaneously. ‘Red cake,’ he squealed excitedly. He had never had red velvet cake before so I treated him to a slice, looking forward to having an illicit bite myself. Now I know I’m a complete cake snob, I have hugely high standards, but this cake was dire. Actually I should have known better, it didn’t look great, the colour was muted, the buttercream yellowing and the whole thing was covered in cling film, but I figured Cole isn’t terribly fussy. However it was horrible. So terribly stale, hard at the edges, with a heavy taste of oil and little else, plus I was now deeply concerned about the health of the buttercream. How long it has been languishing on display was anyone’s guess. So unfortunately for Cole the cake was whisked away (cue horrific screams) and I promised him we would make a much better red cake that afternoon.

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

Well we did, I never break a cake promise. But as I said above I had really forgotten just how amazing a really good Red Velvet Cake can be. Even with Cole lending a hand to the proceedings the results were outstanding. It was my first time making this cake gluten-free and it lost absolutely nothing in the translation. The crumb is soft and tender from the buttermilk and vinegar combination and the cocoa flavour just peeks through with the vanilla giving you a cake which is best of both worlds, a little bit chocolatey and a little bit vanillary.

The cream cheese buttercream is my go-to recipe, it’s not too sweet and really rich and creamy. The secret is the pinch of salt and the vanilla extract which bring out all the flavour. I can often give or take buttercream but not this one, I’m all in on this cream cheese buttercream and it sets off the red velvet cake so well.

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With a Red Velvet Cake it’s all about the colour. I love a beautifully rich red, not too garish. The beauty of the cake being gluten-free is that you can’t overmix it when the flours are added so wait until the batter is completely ready before adding your colour then you can ensure the exact shade you want. If the colour isn’t rich enough for you then just add more. I have erred against giving you directions on how much colour to add below as it completely depends on the brand you use. I like using Squires Kitchen Professional Poinsettia Food Colour Pastes as they don’t add any extra moisture to the cake. The shade I used here is Poinsettia, 1-2 teaspoons.

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

My cake stall is on hiatus at the moment but I’m really looking forward to returning and putting Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake back on the map. In the meantime you can guess which cake Cole will be requesting every single time we have baking afternoon from now on.

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

UPDATE!! I’ve had a lot of requests from readers asking how to adapt the cake into a layer cake as below. If you are interested in the recipe then I have created a PDF with everything you need to know.

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake
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5 from 1 vote

Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

This Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake knocks socks off its peers. It is light, fluffy and flavourful but incredibly moist and topped with a richly whipped cream cheese buttercream.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten-free red velvet cake, gluten-free red velvet cake recipe
Servings: 16 slices
Calories: 591kcal
Author: Georgina Hartley

Ingredients

  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 500 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • red food colouring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 225 g white rice flour
  • 175 g oat flour
  • 100 g tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 400 ml buttermilk
  • tablespoons white vinegar

Cream Cheese Buttercream:

  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 180 g cream cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C and line and grease a 13”x 9” deep cake tin.
  • Beat the butter and caster sugar together for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time and beat well.
  • Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and set aside for a moment.
  • Mix together the buttermilk and vinegar in a jug.
  • In alternate turns add the flour and the buttermilk mixtures to the rest of the batter. You should add the flour in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 additions, starting and ending with the flour.
  • Add the food colouring and vanilla extract and mix until the colour is as desired
  • Pour into the cake tin and bake for 60 minutes or until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven then rest the cake for 10 minutes before carefully removing to finish cooling onto a wire rack. Once completely cooled, cut a very thin slice of the sponge away and whizz up to cake crumbs in the food processor for sprinkling on the top.

Cream Cheese Buttercream:

  • Cream the butter until soft then add the icing sugar and mix for about 10 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  • Add the salt and vanilla and mix again to combine.
  • Finally beat in the cream cheese until the buttercream is smooth. Swirl onto the finished cake with a palette knife.

Notes

*how much red food colouring you use is completely dependent on the brand. Be careful using a very liquid food colouring (like Dr Oetker which is the default red food colouring you can get at most UK supermarkets) as it will affect the consistency of the batter. I love to use Squires Kitchen Professional Food Colour Pastes in my baking as they give excellent deep rich colours and don’t affect the recipe at all.
*If you don’t have any buttercream to hand then you can make your own if you whisk together 400ml whole milk with 2 tablespoon white vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes before using. To this you can then add the 1½ tablespoons of white vinegar that the recipe requires.

Nutrition

Calories: 591kcal | Carbohydrates: 77g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 116mg | Sodium: 239mg | Potassium: 170mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 51g | Vitamin A: 19.1% | Calcium: 6.4% | Iron: 6.9%

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For the rice flour I used Freee by Doves Farm Gluten Free Rice Flour 1kg (Pack of 5) which is very easy to get hold of and can be found in most major supermarkets in the gluten-free aisle.

Oat flour can be picked up at most health food shops and if I run out that’s where I head to. However, like all alternative flours it can be expensive so I find the most economical way is to buy it online. I go through bags of the stuff as it’s the flour I use most regularly so I like to buy in bulk. My favourite brand is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Oat Flour 400 g (Pack of 4) at a reasonable price. Even better if you go the subscribe and save option.

It’s not difficult to get hold of tapioca flour in the UK. You can often find 100g pots of Doves Farm Tapioca Flour in the supermarket but it’s quite costly and doesn’t give you very much. You can find more varied brands in health food shops in bags of about 500g. The cost depends entirely on the brand you purchase. My preferred brand is Bob’s Red Mill GF Tapioca Flour 500 g (Pack of 2) as it’s certifiably gluten-free and I order it through Amazon.

The cake tin I use for all my tray bakes and sheet cakes is the KitchenCraft Chicago Metallic Professional Non-Stick Baking and Roasting Tin, 33 x 23 cm (13″ x 9″) which I love because it’s robust and easy to clean.

This post is not sponsored but the images above are affiliate links which means if you decide you want to use these link to make your purchases then Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you whatsoever. I will only recommend products I use in my kitchen and love. To learn more about how the data processing works when using these Amazon affiliate links then please visit my privacy policy page.

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