Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ this lovely grain free cake is made with almond flour so it’s tender and moist, but don’t worry, all the goodies you love in a classic carrot cake recipe are in there!
This is a glorious, craggy, carrot-y, carrot cake, just perfect for the first full week of spring.
The cake is not excessively sweet, which makes it the ideal base for those rich decadent waves of cream cheese frosting.
You don’t have to be on a gluten free diet to appreciate this cake. The absence of regular flour (and gluten) results in a melt in your mouth texture. As a bonus the layers stay nice and flat on top when they bake, which makes for a pretty cake and easy frosting.
Where to find almond flour
- Most grocery stores carry almond flour these days, look for it with the other flours. If you can’t find it, ask.
- You can buy it online from Amazon, I like Bob’s Red Mill brand, but go with what you can find.
- Store your almond flour in the refrigerator or freezer for longer shelf life. The oils in nut flours can cause them to spoil over time.
Is almond flour the same as almond meal?
- Almond flour is typically made with blanched peeled almonds.
- Almond meal is typically made with plain raw almonds.
- Almond flour is finer than almond meal, but you can use them interchangeably in recipes.
How to make your own almond flour
- Almond flour is simply ground almonds. You can use blanched (peeled) almonds or almonds with the skin, either will work, but the blanched almonds will make a finer flour.
- You can use whole, sliced, or slivered almonds. I typically use plain whole raw almonds.
- You’ll need a high speed blender or quality food processor for this. The absolute best way to do it is in a Vitamix blender fitted with the dry grains container, which is specifically made to grind dry ingredients like nuts and grains.
- Place raw or blanched almonds in your machine and process until they turn into a fine flour. Do this by ‘pulsing’ the machine in quick on/off spurts so you don’t over process the nuts. This will just take a few seconds, believe it or not. If you process too long you’ll get almond butter.
I love to use almond flour in recipes, it’s naturally gluten free, adds great flavor, and I love the texture it gives to baked goods. I use almond flour in some of my favorite recipes:
- Flourless Belgian Chocolate Cake
- Flourless Coconut Cake
- Gluten Free Peach and Almond Crisp
- Rhubarb Lady’s Kiss Cookies
- Gluten Free Tangerine Cake
- Paleo Fruit and Nut Bread
This is a big cake. There’s a whole pound of carrots in there, and seven eggs! It makes nice tall cake layers in 9-inch pans, so invite your friends and neighbors over!
I love the deep, rich, golden carrot-y color of this cake. Its rich hue comes partly from the sheer amount of carrots involved, as well as from the dark brown sugar, which gives it a caramel-y sweetness.
I went for a simple “naked” look on the sides of my cake, with a thick layer in the middle and on top. (Use the back of a large spoon to make the swoops and swirls.)
The rustic topping is a simple mix of chopped walnuts and shredded coconut, toasted briefly in the oven and sprinkled around the edge.
Be generous with the frosting, that’s what it’s there for 🙂
Despite by best efforts to keep my cream cheese and butter at room temperature for mixing, I still had some stubborn little lumps in my frosting. I put the whole batch in my food processor and pulsed it for a few seconds and voila! Perfect, smooth, dreamy frosting.
Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- two 9-inch cake pans
For the carrot cake
For the cream cheese frosting
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by buttering the sides and placing a circle of parchment paper at the bottom of each tin.
- With an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar for several minutes on medium-high speed until very light and the mixture holds a thin ribbon when drizzled. This will take about 5 minutes.
- Beat in the vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond meal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.
- In another bowl, mix together the shredded carrot, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, and vegetable oil.
- Add part of the almond flour mixture to the eggs, and alternate with the carrot mixture, mixing on low to incorporate into the eggs with each addition.
- Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans, and bake for about 35-45 minutes. The carrot cakes should be set in the middle, and spring back when poked gently. They will be a deep color, but if they start to get too brown on top while baking, place a small sheet of foil over them.
- Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before carefully removing from the cake pans, and allow to cool fully on a baking rack.
For the cream cheese frosting
- With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and the butter until very smooth. Add the powdered sugar about a half cup or a cup at a time, and beat for a few minutes until fully incorporated and smooth. (Still have small lumps? See the tips below for a suggestion!)
- Frost the cake by placing one of the carrot cake layers on a flat surface. Spread about 1/2 of the frosting in a thick layer over the cake, allowing it to go slightly over the edge. Place the second cake layer on top, and spread the rest of the frosting in a thick layer of the top.
- With an offset spatula, or a board scraper, carefully spread the excess frosting in between the two layers around the outside of the cake for a "naked" effect.
- For a swoopy look on top of the cake, use the back of a large metal spoon to make small, curling motions. Wipe the excess frosting off the spoon between each swipe.
For the topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Spread the shredded coconut and chopped walnuts on a baking sheet
- Bake for about 10-15 minutes, checking frequently so they don't burn.
- Allow to cool slightly, and sprinkle around the outside edge of the cake.
Make this gluten free carrot cake your own ~
- Play with the mix-ins: add raisins or golden raisins if you like them, or swap out the coconut or walnuts.
- Choose a different frosting style: you can definitely frost this cake more traditionally, by just spreading a thin layer of frosting all around the sides and the top.
- An interesting variation on this cake would be to try using walnut flour. Make it the same way you do almond flour, see the instructions in the post, above.
- Bake it up as cupcakes.
- If you’re allergic to nuts you might try sunflower seed flour as a substitute for the almond flour.