This is the Best Gluten Free Carrot Cake recipe. This classic cake turns out moist, fluffy, and perfectly spiced every time. I pair it with the easiest and most flavorful cream cheese icing. While I prefer a simple carrot cake, feel free to add in (or top the cake with) your favorite fixings.
I have a little secret to share that makes this cake so special (and kid-friendly, too!).Jump to Recipe
Looking for More Gluten Free Desserts?
Carrot Cake Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling – Gluten Free - Carrot cake for breakfast? I think yes!
Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cake – Homemade Cream Cheese Icing - This spice cake is similar to this one, except that it uses pumpkin as its base instead of carrots.
What Makes this the Best Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe?
I don't typically eat vegetables in cake. Don't get me wrong, there are a few delicious exceptions. If you're like me or know someone that would agree, then this carrot cake recipe is the one for you. That's because this recipe does something brilliant. Scroll up and look at the picture of my carrot cake. Do you see any carrots poking out anywhere? Nope.
I zest my carrots.
Not only does this take away the whole biting-into-a-carrot thing, but it's also the secret behind why this gluten-free cake is so moist. The small pieces of zested carrot combine with the crumb of the cake, making it so you won't even notice it's there, all while still enjoying all of the traditional flavors of carrot cake.
Now, if you're a fan of that crunchy carrot bite in your cake, that's fine. You can simply zest half of the carrots and leave the other half grated. Your kids might hate you, though.
When Should I Serve Carrot Cake?
I love making my Gluten Free Carrot Cake recipe for Easter. It's also lovely in the Fall because of all the wonderful spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ground cloves.
To make this recipe more party-friendly, you can easily turn it into cupcakes or a sheet pan cake. Follow all instructions as normal, except for the baking time portion.
For a 9 x 13 sheet pan: Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through in the center and lightly browned. Do not overcook or you will dry out the crumb of the cake.
For cupcakes: Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes, or until cooked in the center and lightly browned.
How Can I Make Carrot Cake Dairy-Free?
The carrot cake is actually dairy-free all on its own. All you need to do to make it completely dairy-free is switch out the cream cheese for a vegan cream cheese, or try making a buttercream frosting with non-dairy ingredients.
Notes on Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe:
- Zest your carrots, DON'T grate them if you want it to be like they're not even there. Also makes for a moister cake. If you like biting into carrots, zest half of the carrots and leave the other half grated. Tip: Do not pack down the zested carrots in the measuring cup.
- I grated the whole nutmeg fresh. Whole nutmeg tends to have a more potent flavor and be more aromatic than ground nutmeg. My fiancée bought me a special glass jar of it for Christmas. If you don't have fresh whole nutmeg, don't feel the need to rush out to buy it. I've made this recipe with ground nutmeg and it is just as good!
- I use nonstick baking pans. If you don't have nonstick pans, I recommend an organic non-stick spray, a butter rubdown, or cutting two circles out of parchment paper that fit into the bottoms of the pans. If you try the parchment paper; simply remove the cake from the pan once it has cooled for 10 minutes and peel off the paper. You can cool the cakes on a rack, but I prefer to leave them in the pans until they're completely cooled. Tip: Run a knife alongside the edge of the pans to help separate the cakes from the pan.
- I add walnuts to my carrot cake, and sometimes pecans. It depends on what I have on hand. Some people add raisins, but I've never tried this personally.
Do You Have to Refrigerate Carrot Cake?
Yes! Fresh cream cheese frosting should always be refrigerated. Plus, this cake tastes amazing cold. The icing gets a nice firm, crisp shell but stays smooth and creamy underneath. I could eat the icing all by itself. I always lick the beaters clean.
Best Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Icing
- 2 cups high quality gluten-free all-purpose flour containing xanthan gum* I used Bob's Red Mill GF 1:1 (the blue bag)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated whole nutmeg or ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans or raisins
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil or sub ½ cup vegetable oil + ½ cup applesauce
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup freshly zested carrots (about 2-3 medium-sized carrots) or sub ½ cup zested carrots + ½ cup grated carrots
For the Homemade Cream Cheese Icing:
- 8 oz. cream cheese room temp
- 1 stick butter room temp
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1-2 teaspoon milk I use almond milk
- 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 F with the rack positioned in the center. Grease pans with butter, organic spray, or line two 9-in. round cake pans with parchment paper cut into circles.
- Cream sugar and eggs together in a large bowl (a hand mixer works great). Add vanilla and oil, and beat until just incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all of the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice). Add the dry mixture to the wet and beat until combined.
- Stir in zested or grated carrots. Add chopped nuts or raisins.
- Pour evenly into round pans and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean. Once cooked, run a knife around the edge of the pans. Let cool for 10 minutes before setting it on a rack.
- For the Cream Cheese Icing: Beat room temperature cream cheese and butter with vanilla extract in a large bowl until fluffy. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Beat in 1-2 teaspoon of milk until the icing reaches your desired consistency.
- To Assemble: Frost your layer cake by placing one of the layers on a cake plate and frosting the top. Place the second layer overtop and frost the top and sides until smooth. Decorate with more chopped nuts and shavings of carrot. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.