Dairy Free & Gluten Free Carrot Cake

This dairy free & gluten free carrot cake gets a tender, springy crumb from a blend of whole grain flours. Gently spiced with cinnamon and ginger and slathered with vegan cream cheese frosting, this healthy carrot cake is easy enough to bake on a weeknight but dressy enough for spring festivities. Thanks to Bob’s Red Mill for sponsoring this post!

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I don’t know when or why carrot cake came to be associated with Easter. I’m guessing it’s because… Easter bunnies eat carrots? I actually consider carrot cake more of a fall dessert, the season during which spice cakes and orange veggies are both de rigueur. But I’m not complaining. Because just like pumpkin pie, I crave carrot cake year-round. And now that I’ve developed my favorite ever dairy free and gluten free carrot cake recipe, I can have it all the time too.

This cake can be in and out of the oven in under an hour meaning that you can have carrot cake any night of the week. But dress it up in curls of rainbow carrot ribbons and it stars at any gathering – springtime or otherwise!

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Questing for the Best Ever Carrot Cake

When I was a kid, I used to buy squares of carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting and wrapped in cellophane at our local grocer. I have no idea where these squares of spiced goodness came from, but to my young self they were sheer heaven – tender, soft, gently spiced, and slathered in tangy, sugary frosting. I would take this cake over just about any other goody (save chocolate dipped Haagen Daz ice cream bars) and this memory is the metric to which I measure all carrot cakes.

I’ve made many a carrot cake over the years and never met one I didn’t like. But when it came time to develop a recipe of my own, I knew it would take some trial and error. When I hit upon this formula, which tasted like an elevated version of my childhood obsession, I thought to myself, “I wish all cakes had this taste and texture.” I first developed this gluten free carrot cake recipe for my Alternative Baking column in GFF Magazine. The issue featured oat flour, and though the cake uses a few different flours, the whole wheaty flavor of the oat flour is what stands out the most.

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

A Somewhat Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe

Carrot cake is already on the healthy end of the spectrum as far as cakes are concerned. In fact, carrot cake became popular in the US during the 1960’s when oil was thought to be healthier than butter. Grated carrots add fiber, moisture, and sweetness, meaning that less sugar is needed. Many carrot cake recipes use whole wheat flour, and some add in hearty mix-ins such as raisins, nuts, pineapple, and/or coconut.

My carrot cake recipe straddles the line between healthy and not. On the healthy side, we have half a pound of grated carrots, a relatively small amount of sugar as far as cakes go (just over 1/2 cup in the cake batter and 1 cup powdered sugar in the frosting), and over 50% whole grain flour (oat and millet). Walnuts and sunflower oil add healthy fats, and 3 eggs add protein. You could bake these in muffin cups and serve them with dairy-free yogurt for breakfast if you like.

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free & Gluten Free Carrot Cake Ingredients

FLOURS

This recipe features a blend of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flours. I use this combination in many recipes and it acts similarly to a blend of whole wheat and all purpose flour – versatile, but with a lovely earthy flavor.

  • Oat flour – adds loft and fluffiness, plus a nutty, earthy taste
  • Millet flour – neutral flavor and fine, powdery texture makes the cake pillow-soft
  • Sweet rice flour – fine, sticky texture that helps the cake hold together
  • Tapioca flour – makes batter more extensible, trapping air bubbles and making the cake extra soft and fluffy
SUGAR

Organic granulated sugar keeps the color of the cake brighter than brown sugar, and the cake still has plenty of flavor.

EGGS

This gluten free carrot cake uses 3 eggs for a single cake, which is more than usual. I began testing this carrot cake recipe with 1 egg and half a cup of buttermilk, but it was too crumbly. Since eggs increase both structure and fluffiness in cakes thanks to their high levels of protein, I added an additional egg and decreased the buttermilk to 1/4 cup. Last I tried omitting the buttermilk altogether and using three eggs. This version was the clear winner – sturdy enough to slice and the fluffiest of the bunch. It also made the cake dairy-free and cut out an additional ingredient, so you don’t have to buy a whole carton of buttermilk for just a quarter cup. Win win win.

OIL

Carrot cakes are traditionally made with oil rather than butter. While I’m a fan of butter, I’ve come to prefer oil-based cakes, which stay soft and tender even when refrigerated. Oil has the added bonus of needing to be simply stirred into the batter, no softening and stand-mixing required as with butter cakes. Sunflower oil is my go-to neutral oil, but you can use anything you prefer such as canola, grapeseed, or even a light olive oil.

SPICES

After several trials, I learned that I prefer my carrot cake with just ground cinnamon and ginger. These spices add warmth and flavor depth while still tasting light and bright. Cloves, allspice, and nutmeg all felt heavy or muddy to my palate. I would like to try a variation of this cake with cardamom, but I’m so in love with the flavor as-is I have yet to change it up. I also haven’t tried this cake with fresh ginger, despite loving fresh ginger in other carrot cake recipes. And now I’m curious to try this cake with the spice blend hawaij like Molly’s!

LEAVENING

Baking powder and baking soda play an especially important role in gluten free baking. Sweet rice flour reacts to acidity in recipes, becoming more sticky with more acidity. Adding alkaline baking soda to cakes can sometimes help the crumb be softer and less gummy depending on the other ingredients in the recipe. Baking soda also increases caramelization in recipes and helps this cake turn golden on top when properly baked. I bumped up the amount of baking powder to make the cake extra fluffy since gluten free cakes tend to need a little extra help in that department.

NUTS

I like a handful of toasted walnuts in my carrot cake, but if they aren’t your jam, you can absolutely leave them out. A friend of mine also suggested adding raisins soaked in rum or brandy, which sounds like a capital idea to me!

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free Carrot Cake

Since this cake recipe uses oil instead of butter and eggs instead of buttermilk in the batter, I wanted to try topping it with a vegan cream cheese frosting to make it completely dairy-free. You can read all about it and get the recipe here.

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Carrot Ribbon Flair

Ribbons cut with a vegetable peeler from rainbow carrots make a pretty, natural decoration for the top of this cake. I was inspired by a few recipes around the web (here, here, and here) to make a carrot ribbon ombré on top. I wasn’t sure how the ribbons would taste, but I found I actually enjoyed some crispy bits of carrot with my slice!

Just peel the carrots, then lay a carrot down and begin peeling big strips from just one side of the carrot to form wide ribbons. I prefer using a T-shaped peeler for more control. You can use whatever color of carrots you like, or get a rainbow-hued bunch like I did here.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Carrot Cake Recipe

Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Cupcakes and Carrot Muffins

If little cakelets are what you’re after, divide the batter among muffin tins lined with paper cups and decrease the baking time as needed. I think you should get 10-12 out of one recipe. Leave off the frosting and top the unbaked batter with an extra handful of walnuts for muffins. For gluten free carrot cupcakes, use a piping bag to pipe pretty swirls of frosting on top.

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Got leftover carrots? Try these recipes:

Looking for more healthyish gluten free cake recipes? Try these:

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram,  Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten free dairy free carrot cake, I’d love to see. Tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet  and  #bojongourmet.*

 

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake
5 from 4 votes

Dairy Free & Gluten Free Carrot Cake

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Earthy oat flour gives this cake a healthy, whole-wheat vibe, brightly spiced with cinnamon and ginger, while luscious cream cheese frosting keeps it tasting like a treat. Be sure to grate the carrots on the small holes of a box grater – the ones that measure about 1/8-inch in diameter; they help the cake bake up with a light and springy crumb. If dairy isn't an issue for you or your guests, you can make this with regular cream cheese frosting.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
cooling time: 1 hour
Total: 50 minutes
Author: The Bojon Gourmet

Ingredients

Cake:

Topping:

Instructions

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the grated carrots, eggs, sugar, and oil until combined. Place a medium mesh strainer over the bowl and add the oat, sweet rice, millet, and tapioca flours along with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until combined. Stir in the walnuts.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 22-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 20 minutes in the pan. Turn the cake out onto a serving board to cool completely.
  • Spread the cream cheese frosting over the cooled cake. Chill briefly if the frosting is becoming overly soft.
  • Peel the carrots. Lay a carrot on a cutting board and begin peeling long, wide strips from one side. Repeat with the other carrots; you’ll have more carrot ribbons than you need for one cake. (Throw them in a salad!) Use your fingers to curl the ribbons into rounds and stick them into the frosting; the frosting will hold them in place. Sprinkle the cake with finely chopped walnuts and decorate with carrot greens.
  • Chill the cake until firm enough to slice, 30 minutes and up to several hours, then cut into wedges. Let the cake slices stand at room temperature to soften the frosting and serve. Leftover cake keeps well, refrigerated airtight, for up to 4 days.
Making this? I'd love to see!Tag your snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet!

Dairy Free Gluten Free Carrot Cake

14 thoughts on “Dairy Free & Gluten Free Carrot Cake”

  1. Such a pleasure to eat this cake with you and the girls! The best gf carrot cake I’ve ever tasted, both flavor and texture. And just love the carrot curl decorations. xo

  2. I’ve been craving carrot cake and was inspired to make a double batch of this today in a big rectangular pan. I decorated it with the multi-color carrot slices which were a nice touch. (I forgot to peel them first so let’s say they had a more earthy appearance. Good thing no one looked too closely! I also completely forgot to take photos. Next time!)
    Tango class heartily approved! Ratings included “This is the best- the most moist- carrot cake I’ve ever had!” and “How is this frosting vegan? It’s so good!”
    One woman found me to tell me the frosting was so deliciously tangy she didn’t want to stop eating it. I agree!

    It is another winner. <3 Keeping it in the repertoire.

  3. I needed a fairly last minute cake to bring to a dinner party, and just happened to have all the ingredients in my fridge. This was super yummy–thank you! I also justified having the left overs for breakfast the next morning because it had so many carrots in it.

    I don’t own a 9-inch cake pan, so I multiplied all the ingredients by 0.78 to make an 8-inch version. This seemed to work out fine (same cooking time). I used your dairy-full cream cheese frosting, although I’m interested to try out your maple cream frosting from the GFF recipe next. :)

  4. What a lovely and informative post! I have a bad habit of simply skimming through blog posts and jumping straight to the recipe – but this was full of useful information on types of flour (how they impact cake), leaveners and appreciate the comment on oil vs. butter. For years, I tried to make vegetable based loaf cake/muffins with butter thinking it would be better tasting, but I completely agree with your conclusions – oil is best for these recipes. Also, I was thrilled to see the amounts of sugar and oil really are “healthy-ish” as far as cakes go. Often I see a recipe claiming to be healthy because it has reduced the fat but added 2 cups of sugar to compensate or vice versa. Can’t wait to try this!!

    1. I’m so glad you found the post useful! Yes I can’t stand the taste of overly-sweet desserts. Gag me! I always try to keep the sugar on the low side in my recipes while making sure the taste and texture still feel like a treat. Please let me know how you like this cake!

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