Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting

 

 

Carrot cake has always been my favorite cake. I could live the rest of my life and never have another thing for dessert so long as I can have carrot cake. But it has to be good. I have a very high standard. Carrot cake has a place in many of my memories.

 

 

 

When I was a kid, my mother and I would make carrot cake. I got the “fun” job of grating the carrots and trying not to add my knuckle flesh to the mix. My mother didn’t make any frosting for it. We just ate the cake as it was: moist and delicious.

 

 

 

At 15 years old, I had a huge crush on a guy who worked at the hospital where I volunteered. When I learned carrot cake was his favorite also, my mother helped me make one for him. The way to a man’s heart and all….swoon!

 

 

 

When Tom and I eloped to North Carolina, we called dozens of places trying to order 2 carrot cakes. Since we were doing everything for the ceremony ourselves including making the chuppah, decorating, etc., we thought we would also decorate our own wedding cake. We even make our own cake topper: 2 Westies standing under a chuppah.

 

 

 

But either no place would make us the 2 round cakes at such short notice or they wouldn’t make them without adding fruit to the cake. I’m a purist. I like my carrot cake plain.

 

 

 

Finally, we found a place, Sweet N’ Savory, who said, “No problem.” They made us 2 round carrot cakes in less than 24 hours. Then I set about decorating the cake with craft supplies and our special topper. Our theme was Westies (for Poochie, my flower girl in spirit) and autumn leaves.

 

 

 

The cake was delicious. And one year later, the piece we put aside for good luck was still delicious (though honestly I was worried about eating something that was a year old).

 

 

 

When Tom and I became vegan, we tried carrot cake from natural food stores and from vegan restaurants (even the famous ones) but none tasted right. We did find one place that made delicious vegan carrot cake, an Ital restaurant in the Bronx, but sadly they closed.

 

 

 

I have been unable to find a vegan carrot cake I love, let alone a gluten-free vegan carrot cake. So one day when I was bored, I went into the kitchen and attempted my own. To my surprise, it was amazing. Better than any of the ones I’ve tried. Tom said it’s the most delicious carrot cake he has had since our wedding!

 

 

 

Usually when I make a dessert, I try it and then it’s up to Tom to finish it. But this time, I had a piece of carrot cake every single night until Tom and I had finished the whole thing! That’s what is keeping me from making it again right away – I’ll eat it!!

 

 

 

The walnuts are optional but they add a nice texture. The gluten-free all-purpose flour mix I used (Bob’s Red Mill) does not contain xanthan gum and I didn’t add any. It doesn’t need it. It also has only unrefined ingredients – sorghum, fava and chickpea flours with potato and tapioca starches. If you don’t need it to be gluten-free, just use your favorite flour.

 

 

 

My Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting would make a wonderful dessert for Easter. Or for after Passover. Or for a wedding. Or for any day. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting

 

2 ¼ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1 tsp. baking powder
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ cup ground flaxseed
¾ cup warm water
¾ cup organic sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
Zest of one orange
1/4 cup of fresh orange juice
3 cups carrots, grated
1 ½ cups walnuts, chopped, divided (optional)
12 oz. vegan cream cheese, softened
½ cup vegan butter, softened
3 Tbs. maple syrup, or more to taste
1 ½ – 2 cups powdered sugar, or more to taste

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2-9 inch cake pans with butter, oil or cooking spray. Line them with parchment paper and then grease the parchment paper. The parchment paper will help you lift the cakes out of the pans. Set aside until ready to use.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and whisk it well so all the dry ingredients are well-combined.

 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flaxseed and warm water. Let it sit for 5 minutes until it thickens a bit. To this bowl, add the sugar and brown sugar. Using an electric hand mixer (or your own well-toned muscled arms), start on a low speed and mix the sugar with the flaxseed/water. Add the oil and 1 tsp. of vanilla and mix, starting on low speed and moving up to medium. Next add the orange zest and juice and mix again.

 

Now slowly add the dry ingredients to the large mixing bowl. I do it in thirds. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat with the mixer, starting on low speed and building up to high. When the batter is fully mixed, repeat with the second 1/3 and the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.

 

Fold in the carrots and ½ cup of the chopped walnuts (if using). You could also add raisins here. I like it best plain or with some walnuts.

 

Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and using a spoon, smooth out the top surface. Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Check the cakes at 30 or 35 minutes and see if a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. If the toothpick is still wet, bake for another 5 minutes at a time until the cakes are done. It took me 45 minutes total but everyone’s oven is different. Gluten-free cakes take longer to bake than gluten cakes (we made a gluten version and it took 30 minutes).

While the cakes are baking, make the frosting. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and softened butter and beat with an electric hand mixer. Don’t beat it too long because vegan cream cheese tends to get watery. Add the maple syrup and the remaining tsp. of vanilla extract. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, beating it with the mixer on low and then high speed.

 

When the sugar has been fully incorporated, taste the frosting. This is important. You’re looking for 2 things here: you want the frosting to be as thick as you can get it while also keeping track of how sweet it’s getting. I don’t like my frosting too sweet so what I used was enough to give me a frosting that was sweet enough and thick enough. For me. You may want it thicker and/or sweeter. Some recipes use up to 6 cups of powdered sugar. Yuck!

When you have the frosting to your liking, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to frost the cake.

 

When the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cakes from the oven and set the cake pans on a cooling rack. Let them completely cool. When they are completely cool, lift them carefully by the parchment paper and rest them on cooling racks until you are ready to frost them.

 

When you are ready to frost them, transfer one cake to a cake stand or platter. Frost the top of the cake. Carefully stack the second cake on top of the first. Frost the top of the 2nd layer and the sides of the cake. If there is extra frosting, enjoy!

Decorate with chopped walnuts on the side of the cake. Place a small amount of chopped walnuts in your hand and gently pat your open hand along the sides of the cake – the walnuts should stick to the frosting.

Keep the cake refrigerated so the frosting stays firm. It tastes even better after it’s been in the fridge.

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33 Responses to Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Kathy April 15, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Do u have a substitute for the premade flor mix? My daughter has allergies and Bob’s mills products are cross contaminated. Thanks!

    • Rhea April 16, 2014 at 9:52 am #

      Hi Kathy, you can substitute the blend with your own. Use about 70% whole grain flour and 30% white flour/starch. I would probably use more than one whole grain flour though. Combos taste best. My personal favorites would be brown rice flour and sorghum flour with maybe 45% of that 70% being brown rice and the rest sorghum. Then for the starch would use a combo of white rice flour and tapioca starch. You can just use one flour like brown rice and the white rice flour and tapioca starch.

      Also, check out other GF mixes. Trader Joe’s has one, King Arthur has one. Mrs. Glee’s makes a great one with navy beans. Everything comes out perfectly with it!!! Plus there are other mixes you can find, probably online, that won’t be cross contaminated because allergens are their concern. Jennifer’s Way is my very favorite mix and I would use it in everything if I could. You can order that online from Jennifer’s NYC store. Check out her website for details.

      If you like the taste of Bob’s Red Mill, just use those flours that they use and keep the ratios in mind. Hope it works out!! xoxo

  2. Jenny April 15, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    I´ve been looking for a gluten free/vegan recipe for carrot cake – I have only had carrot cake one time in my life, and that was when I was about 10 years old!
    I was sceptical to 1 cup of oil, because we don’t use a lot of oil and suger in our baking in Sweden – but the batter came out perfect… and I have to admit that I tasted the batter before putting it in the oven 🙂
    Waiting on the cake to be done.. thank you for, what seems like, a perfect recipe!

    • Rhea April 15, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

      Hi Jenny,

      I know, it’s a lot of oil but gluten-free baking needs added moisture. A lot. You should totally taste the batter. I have to make sure I just “taste” it and not eat it. So how was it???

  3. lily December 19, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    Hi! this cake looks and sounds delicious. But I was wondering, if I didn’t want to make it a two layer cake and just use one 9 inch cake pan, should I cut all the measures in the recipe in half? Also, do I have to use baking powder in addition to baking soda?

    • Rhea December 19, 2013 at 1:33 am #

      Hi Lily, I divide it in half all the time. The whole thing is too much for just me and Tom. I divide everything in half except the vanilla. I love vanilla. I have never tried making it with only baking powder. I’m still in the learning stages of baking. 🙂

  4. Rhea Parsons August 4, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Thank you! I think it shocks me because I find gluten-free baking hard. It’s rare I ever bake something GF that doesn’t weigh the same as a hockey puck. Thanks so much.

  5. Anonymous August 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    I just made this today and I have to commend you on the texture and stability fronts of this gluten free cake, in addition to it being delicious. I love serving things like this to people who aren’t gluten free/vegan to pleasantly surprise them, and people who are gluten free/vegan to make them smile and feel special. Thanks for the very solid recipe!

  6. Rhea Parsons June 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Lauren, I used to use Galaxy but they changed the formula and now it’s thinner and more watery. So I switched back to Tofutti. I would like to try Daiya’s new cream cheese and see how that works.

  7. lauren June 22, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    which cream cheese did you use? this looks AMAZING, btw

  8. Renée Lawrence May 31, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Thanks so much Rhea!

  9. Rhea Parsons May 30, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Renee, yes you can! And it is a 1:1 but you have to keep it in a liquid state.

    http://www.ehow.com/how_7440387_substitute-coconut-oil-vegetable-oil.html

  10. Rhea Parsons May 30, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I bet you could Renee and it would be delicious but I don’t know if it would be a 1:1 ratio. A cup of coconut oil is like half the jar!! I will try to find out.

  11. Renée Lawrence May 30, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    This cake looks AMAZING! I’m curious if you think I could substitute the canola oil for coconut oil…I’m trying to cut out canola/veggie oil from my diet. Thanks so much!

  12. Tina May 4, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    I am going to try your carrot cake Rhea! Looks delicious! Tina

  13. SusPittie April 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Hi! Can’t wait to try to bake this. One little note – Sublime Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale does make the best carrot cake I have ever had – if you are ever in the area – try it1 =)

  14. Rhea Parsons April 6, 2013 at 2:45 am #

    Hi Stuart,
    Yes, the frosting does need that fridge time. I made it while the cakes were baking so it had hours in the fridge while the cakes baked, then cooled.
    I’m so glad you liked it. I could use a 2nd fridge myself.

  15. stuartambient April 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Great recipe. One thing though I’ll do next time is make the icing in advance, perhaps the day before. You warned that the cream cheese gets watery, which is what it did. Maybe I mixed it too long, not really sure. Regardless an hour in the fridge and it was spreadable again.
    The cake is perfect. Amazing stuff. Now my only problem is I need another refrigerator.

  16. Rhea Parsons April 2, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    Sarah, I’m so glad everyone liked it. Thank you!

    Patty, so glad you the hubby liked it. Yay! Thanks.

  17. Patty April 2, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    I made this last night for my vegan self and my celiac husband–it was awwwesommmme!!! Thank you! I can tell I’m going to be visiting your blog a LOT.

  18. sarah April 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing this great recipe. I made the cake for my gluten-free friend and everyone else (not gluten-free) loved it too.

  19. Rhea Parsons April 1, 2013 at 4:34 am #

    Molly, see? Everyone’s oven is different. That’s why I stress using judgment over directions. Mine took 30 minutes with gluten and 45 gluten-free.
    And thank you for the kind words.

  20. Molly Clark Duffy March 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    The toothpicks came out clean at 30 minutes in my oven. I’m giving the cakes just 5 more minutes just to make sure, especially since I would expect 2 gluten-based cakes to be done in 30 minutes in these same pans I’ve used for years.

    Thanks for creating this recipe and not providing a modification to add back in eggs. Thank you for speaking for all the hens and male chicks. Peace to you <3 45 seconds till I take out these cakes!!

  21. Rhea Parsons March 31, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Sarah, I’m sorry but I cannot in good conscience give any advice that involves using an animal product. Everything on this blog is 100% vegan. I hope you understand. Peace.

    • Chas October 6, 2013 at 8:49 am #

      But you use powder sugar? Not Vegan! They use beef bones to grind down the sugar.

      • Rhea October 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

        There are vegan sugars that do not use bone char. Just read the labels. If you can’t find any, you can make your own. I teach how in my whipped cream recipe.

  22. sarah March 31, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    I’m making this Gluten Free, but not vegan. Would you replace the flaxseed mixture with an egg?

  23. Molly Clark Duffy March 30, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Thank you for the OJ measurement!! 🙂 I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out. I know it will be great 🙂

  24. Rhea Parsons March 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Eek! My worst habit -I hate measuring. Let me think – it was a small orange and it didn’t give a lot of juice. I’m guessing but I would say 1/4 cup. Plus you don’t want a lot of orange taste, just a hnt. The batter was like any regular cake batter – not too thick, pourable. I hope it comes out well. I was amazed it styed moist all week. GF things usually get hard by the next day.

  25. Molly Clark Duffy March 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Hi–would you estimate that there would be about 1/2 cup of orange juice? It’s my first GF cake, so I’m not at all sure about consistency of the batter. Thank you!

    I am FOR SURE making this for Sunday. We normally have a quiet Sunday, but have been invited with family. I LOVE showing off vegan recipes–and I love eating what I bring along <3

  26. Rhea Parsons March 27, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    Interesting? Not really. Tom and I have no family so we went away. We had been planning the trip anyway. I planned the entire ceremony – Rabbi, photographer, violinist, etc. – completely online without ever seeing or meeting anyone. It was all done in good faith. We got there, met the Rabbi, Tom converted and the next day we got married.

    Benny was our Best Man and Tom held him during the ceremony.

  27. Vanilla Rose March 27, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    Eloped? Is there an interesting story about the elopement?

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