It’s a beautiful, hopeful spring day in the kitchen when you bake this Gluten Free Carrot Cake. Nutty, moist, sweet, and topped with cream cheese frosting, no matter what diet you follow, you’ll adore this carrot cake recipe.
This is carrot cake at its best!
- Fully loaded with a kitchen sink of mix-ins.
- Topped off with a lavish slather of cream cheese frosting.
- Indisputably moist and tender, yet substantial enough to hold a slice, just as carrot cake should.
My goal with this recipe was twofold.
First and foremost, I wanted to bake a killer carrot cake, one that would fill my heart with optimistic feelings of springtime and taste like a happy, celebratory moment.
Second, I wanted my carrot cake to be gluten free, without actually tasting gluten free.
I mean no disrespect to the great GF bakers out there; the problem is that gluten-free cakes disappoint more often than they should.
This one does not. It tastes like a truly, super-duper, incredibly perfect carrot cake!
5 Star Review
“A-mazing. This was the best carrot cake I have ever had, hands down better than any gluten version. This recipe is a keeper, and will make it often!”— Tcab —
How to Make the Best Gluten Free Carrot Cake
The first thing you’ll notice about this recipe (and what makes it gluten free) is that instead of all-purpose flour, I made this an almond flour gluten free carrot cake.
I’ve eaten my share of carrot cakes (Healthy Carrot Cake) and carrot-cake-inspired recipes (Carrot Cookies; Carrot Cake Muffins), and I think the almond flour actually makes carrot cake taste even better.
Almond flour’s subtle, nutty flavor was made to be incorporated into carrot cake, which traditionally calls for nuts anyway. It’s as if the two were destined to be together all along.
Almond flour is heavier than all-purpose flour (you can’t substitute almond flour directly in a recipe calling for all-purpose flour), so my biggest obstacle with this recipe was ensuring the carrot cake came out tender and fluffy, not dense.
Beating the eggs for several minutes first proved to be the trick, a tip I picked up from Bon Appetit.
Not only did this recipe turn out to be a stellar gluten free carrot cake, if you use a non-dairy cream cheese frosting recipe, it is a slam-dunk dairy-free AND gluten free carrot cake.
That means more carrot cake for all, regardless of your dietary restrictions (or pantry situation).
Everyone deserves to have a fabulous carrot cake in their lives. At the moment, this is mine. I hope it will be yours too!
- Almond Flour. A fantastic ingredient for gluten free and everyday baking. Almond flour is made of ground almonds, so it maintains the same health benefits that almonds do, such as vitamin E, protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
Quality here matters—I buy and recommend Bob’s Red Mill. The quality and consistency of almond flour can vary, and Bob’s never lets me down.
- Carrots. The other star ingredient in our carrot cake! Carrots are how you keep a gluten-free carrot cake moist. They also make the cake naturally sweet. Their flavor is further enhanced by the warm spices and maple syrup. Plus, carrots are packed with Vitamin-A and potassium. Carrot cake for breakfast? It’s looking like a good idea.
- Coconut. Another naturally sweet element that also adds texture.
- Nuts. Toasted pecans or walnuts add a nice crunch and savory complement to the sweet flavors in this cake.
- Maple Syrup. Instead of using only refined sugar, I wanted to naturally sweeten this cake with some maple syrup too. The flavor of maple syrup is incredible paired with the warm spices and nuttiness of the almond flour.
- Raisins. I love adding raisins to carrot cake for their chewy texture and sweet flavor. If you’re not into them (they’re decisive, I know!) you can try golden raisins (which are sweeter), dried cranberries, or simply omit them.
- Spices. A spiced carrot cake is a happy carrot cake. I used a classic combination of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves for warmth and rich, deep flavors.
- Prepare your cake pans with parchment paper, nonstick spray, and lightly dust them with almond flour.
- Toast the nuts at 350 degrees F. Once cooled, chop them into pieces. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy. This is key to making the carrot cake light, so don’t shortcut this step. Add the maple syrup and vanilla.
- In a separate mixing bowl, combine the carrots, oil, coconut, raisins, and nuts.
- Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the egg mixture. This also will help keep your cake fluffy.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack.
- Prepare the cream cheese frosting, then pop it into the refrigerator until your cakes are cool. Frost and assemble your cake. I like to keep the sides “naked” for a fun, whimsy look. ENJOY!
- To Store. Cover the cake, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Let come to near room temperature prior to serving.
- To Freeze. Cut your cake into slices, and individually freeze each slice in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 2 months. Remove and thaw slices as desired in the refrigerator. You also can freeze the whole cake or freeze individual layers.
Meal Prep Tip
Cake layers can be baked 1 day in advance. Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature. The frosting can also be made a day in advance; store it in the refrigerator, then frost the cake a few hours before serving.
With its tender crumb, warm spices, and rich nuttiness, this is my favorite carrot cake. I hope it becomes yours too!
Frequently Asked Questions
I haven’t tried making this a carrot cake with pineapple myself, so it would be a total experiment. The extra moisture from the pineapple may cause the cake to be a little more crumbly, but the flavor should be delicious. For a pineapple carrot cake, check out the Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake in my cookbook or this Healthy Carrot Cake.
The difference between a gluten free cake and a normal cake is the use of a gluten free flour. In this cake recipe, we’re using almond flour. Other common gluten free flour options are coconut flour (like in this Coconut Flour Cake) or gluten free baking flour.
Yes, I think this recipe would make scrumptious muffins. Start checking the muffins around the 15-minute mark, tenting the muffin pan with aluminum foil to keep them from browning too much. They will likely need 25 to 30 minutes to bake.
Gluten Free Carrot Cake
For the Gluten Free Cake:
- 3 cups almond flour plus additional for dusting pans
- 3/4 cup raw walnuts or pecans plus additional for decorating the cake
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground cloves
- 5 large eggs
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups shredded carrots about 4 medium or 10 ounces
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup raisins
For the Frosting:
- 8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two, 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then coat with nonstick spray. Lightly dust with almond flour, tapping out excess.
- Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until toasted and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Remove to a cutting board. Let cool slightly. Measure out ¾ cup, then finely chop for the batter. Reserve the rest for decorating the cake.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, and remaining 3 cups almond flour.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar on medium high until pale toasty brown, fluffy, and nearly tripled in volume, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Don’t shortcut this step—it helps make the batter airy). Beat in the maple syrup and vanilla.
- Pat the carrots dry. Place in a clean medium mixing bowl. Stir in the oil, coconut, raisins, and chopped nuts.
- With the mixer running on low speed, add one-third of the almond flour mixture to the egg mixture. Once it disappears, add half of the carrot mixture. Add the next one-third of the flour mixture, then remaining carrot mixture, then the last one-third of the flour, fully incorporating after each addition.
- Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake layers until the cake is lightly browned on top, a toothpick inserted into the center of the layers comes out clean, and the tops spring back lightly when touched, about 20 to 25 minutes. The cakes will be a deep golden brown. Place the pans on a wire rack and let cool in the pans 10 minutes. Carefully run a dull knife around the edges to release the cakes, then invert them onto the rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes bake, prepare the frosting. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smoothly combined, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Beat until combined. Continue adding the last 1 cup sugar, until the frosting is as stiff and sweet as you'd like (the more powdered sugar you add, the stiffer and sweeter it will be).
- Add the vanilla, almond, and salt. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until smooth, ultra creamy, and a little lighter and fluffier, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4 full minutes. Refrigerate to firm up a little while the cake continues baking and cools. If it firms up too much to spread easily depending upon how long you keep it in your fridge, let stand at room temperature prior to frosting, until it is easily spreadable.
- Assemble the cake: Trim the domed top of one cake layer so that it is flat, then place the layer trimmed-side up on a serving plate. Tuck strips of parchment paper around the edges to protect the plate from drips. Spread 1/3 of the frosting on top. Top with remaining cake layer, domed-side up. Spread the top with a thick layer of additional frosting. Keep the sides very lightly frosted (think decorative smear). Decorate with remaining nuts as desired.
- TO MAKE DAIRY FREE: Use your favorite dairy-free or vegan cream cheese frosting recipe.
- TO STORE: Cover the cake, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- TO FREEZE: Cut your cake into slices, and individually freeze each slice in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 2 months. Remove and thaw slices as desired in the refrigerator.
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Best carrot cake I’ve ever made. Moist, taste was awesome !!!
Hi Patti! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I loved this cake but it did not rise at all in spite of the baking powder and soda additions. I used two layers and it was still light and fluffy. Just baffled by flat unrisen cakes.
I’m sorry to hear you had trouble with the recipe Nancy. The timing and method has worked well for myself (and others) so I wished it would of been a hit for you too.
Can you use a Bundt cake pan?
Hi Jean! I’ve only tested the recipe as written, so it would be an experiment. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes! I know other readers have done it with great success.
My family was so shocked that this was a gluten free cake because it was so so so good! Definitely will be making again!
Hi Elizabeth! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
So I made this twice now and it was very light and fluffy. Both times though although it did rise in the oven, after I took it out and it sat for 10 minutes cooling on the rack, the cake fell flat to the same level as the batter when I first put it in. I followed the directions to a T. It still tasted wonderful and I had 2 layers with cream cheese frosting so it was elevated enough with 2 layers….. just not sure why is sank despite the baking powder and soda. Any ideas?
Hi Nancy! Almond flour is quite dense, so I think it’s more likely to fall in general. Maybe try weighing the almond flour to make sure it’s measured correctly or making sure not to open the oven too soon when it’s done. Hope this helps!
This cake was amazing! I made it for my daughter-in-law’s birthday, and even the people who aren’t gluten-free loved it. I followed the recipe exactly, including the nuts and raisins, but did have to cook it a few minutes longer. Will definitely be making this again.
Hi Sue! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
This cake is delicious, but I’m having a problem. Both times I have made it, the center of the cake falls a little while it cools. Any suggestions? I am using 9” pans and leaving the cake in the oven for the full recommended time- maybe a bit longer. A toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean when I check to see if it is done.
Hi Lisa! Almond flour is quite dense, so I think it’s more likely to fall in general. Maybe try weighing the almond flour to make sure it’s measured correctly or making sure not to open the oven too soon when it’s done. Hope this helps!
Thank You so much for this recipe. I make today and I loved the cake…the tast is so good…the consistence is very soft….also is ease to make if we follow your instructions.
Hi Maria! So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for this kind review!
I have tried a couple other gf carrot cake recipes, and this one is hands down our favorite! I took it to our Easter dinner last year, and everyone loved it even those that normally eat gluten! I have made it twice now and am planning to bake it again for a special occasion this weekend. Thank you so much for the scrumptious recipe!
Hi Teri! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
My mom said this was delicious. I made this for her birthday as she always raves about my aunt’s gluten free carrot cake. It doesn’t even taste gluten free. Super moist and flavorful. I did have to bake a few minutes longer but I attribute that to having a gas range. I doubled the frosting (had a little left over). Thank you for sharing. I’ll be making this again!!!!!
Hi Teresa! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Do you think I could make cupcakes with this recipe? And any suggestions in adjuting the bake time?
Hi Amanda! I’ve only tested the recipe as written, so it would be an experiment. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Hello Erin, I made this recipe last night and made the cream cheese frosting this morning for a ladies lunch gathering. I live in Melbourne, Australia and frankly the cup measurements baffled me. I measured in cup and then weighed it in order to keep the recipe accurate in future. I googled the cup measurements and the results were differing. I also experienced the centre slightly sinking in. My oven is a gas one. However, the taste of the cake is really delicious . My friends really liked the cake. I made this because the lady of the house is gluten intolerant . I would slightly reduce the amount of sugar. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing this recipe, it’s a keeper in my books.
Hi Pathma! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I made this cake for a birthday, the taste and texture were lovely. Just to ask when I grated the carrots I did them fine but seem to be lost in the mix. Is it better to coarsely grate the carrots or will it be too heavy for the cake.
Hi Sarah! Grated works fine! Glad you enjoyed it!
Can you make bars instead of cake out of this recipe? If so, any further instructions?
Hi Andi! I’ve only tested the recipe as is, so it would be an experiment. If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to know how it turns out!
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