This gluten free carrot cake is moist, perfectly spiced, and topped with a luscious cream cheese frosting for the perfect Spring dessert!
I like to think that the fact that I was born on Easter has something to do with my serious love for carrot cake. There’s just something about the warm spices, toasted nuts, and sweet cream cheese frosting that I can’t get enough of this time of year. In the past, we’ve made a completely dairy-free, paleo carrot cake, a carrot cookie cake, and now we are bringing you this perfect gluten free carrot cake!
What Sets This Gluten Free Carrot Cake Apart
We know there are TONS of carrot cake recipes on the internet to choose from. Here’s what makes this one so good:
- It’s a sheet cake! We chose the sheet cake route over a more traditional, 2 or 3-tiered round cake because it is just so much more approachable. This way, you only need to worry about one bake, and you don’t need any special frosting techniques!
- It is moist and fluffy. You know how sometimes you get a great-looking carrot cake only to bite into it and find that it is very dense? Not with this cake! It is perfectly light and fluffy, but the carrots and pineapple also help to make it super moist.
- It has pineapple. The “secret” ingredient here is crushed pineapple! The pineapple adds moisture to the cake, along with a bit of sweetness and acidity that offsets the other spices perfectly.
- You can make it in one bowl! We developed this recipe so that you only need to use one bowl to make it – no need to dirty multiple dishes.
How to Make Carrot Cake
Now that you know why you need this cake in your life, let’s jump into making it!
- Mix the dry ingredients together. First, you’ll whisk together the dry ingredients, including the flour, leavening agents (baking powder and soda), sugar, and spices. Whisking these together before adding the wet ingredients helps ensure that they’ll be evenly distributed throughout the cake – no one wants to bite into a lump of baking powder!
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Now, it’s time to pull out your electric mixer or stand mixer. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat for about 1 minute, until smooth. Don’t skimp on the time here – it’s important for getting your cake super fluffy!
- Stir in the mix-ins. Finally, you’ll stir in the shredded carrots, pineapple, and nuts. If you are a coconut person, you can also add in some shredded coconut here!
- Bake. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish, or line it with parchment paper, then pour in the batter and smooth it to an even consistency. Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Make the cream cheese frosting. Once your cake is cool, it’s time for the best part – cream cheese icing! To make the frosting, you’ll beat together the softened butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until fluffy, then beat in the powdered sugar until a smooth, creamy icing is formed.
- Frost the cake. Make sure your cake is totally cool, or the frosting will melt. Once you’ve confirmed it is cool, simply ice it, then top with chopped nuts, if desired. Then, you’re ready to dig in!
Tips for Making the Best Gluten Free Carrot Cake
Want to make sure this is the best carrot cake ever? Follow the tips below!
- Use one of our preferred gluten-free flours. While this cake may work well with other flours, we know that it works especially well with King Arthur Measure for Measure and Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1. We recommend using one of these blends for best results.
- Take the time to grate the carrots by hand. I know, I know – grating carrots by hand is a pain! But, hand-grated carrots will be much thinner than storebought pre-shredded carrots and create a better texture for the cake.
- Make sure your spices are fresh. The spices are really what makes carrot cake so delicious. Before using yours, just give them a quick smell to make sure they are still fresh. If you can barely smell them, it’s time for new ones!
- Don’t pack the ingredients. This really goes for every baking recipe, but it’s important to make sure that when you are measuring flour you use the measuring cup to scoop up the flour, then level it off with a knife, instead of packing it in. If you’re doing this but still not getting the results you want, you can also use a digital food scale to measure your ingredients by weight for more accuracy.
Gluten-Free Carrot Cake Substitutions
Can this cake be made dairy-free?
Yes! For dairy-free, you can substitute avocado oil for the melted butter, and almond milk for whole milk. For the frosting, you can either use Kite Hill almond cream cheese in place of the cream cheese called for here, or you can use this dairy-free cream cheese frosting recipe.
Can it be made egg-free?
We haven’t tested this cake without eggs, but think that a flax egg or egg replacer may work. If you try it, let us know in the comments below!
I don’t like nuts, can I leave them out?
Yes! You can absolutely leave the nuts out of this recipe.
I don’t like pineapple, can I leave it out?
While this cake doesn’t taste like pineapple, if it isn’t your thing, we recommend replacing with about 3/4 cup of applesauce instead.
Can I add raisins? Coconut? Etc.
Yes, you can absolutely add more mix-ins to this cake! Raisins and shredded coconut are both great additions.
Whether you make it as-is or add your own favorite ingredients, we hope you love this gluten free carrot cake as much as we do!
Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
For the Cake:
- 2 1/4 cups gluten-free flour blend
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch of cloves
- 3/4 cup butter 1 1/2 stick, melted (may substitute ghee or avocado oil)
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk or almond milk
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans plus additional for topping, if desired
- 1 cup crushed pineapple drained
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened (use Kite Hill for dairy-free)
- 4 tablespoons butter softened (may substitute ghee)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9×13″ pan with parchment paper, or grease well with butter or oil.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
- Add the eggs, butter, and vanilla into the bowl with the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer until fully combined.
- Pour the milk into the batter and mix until it is smooth, then stir in the carrots, walnuts, and pineapple.
- Pour into the pre-greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, then let cool for at least one hour before frosting.
For the frosting:
- Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on high until a creamy consistency is achieved.
- Add the powdered sugar to the cream cheese mixture one cup at a time, then beat to combine.