Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

October  4, 2022
8 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • makes one 9-inch cake
Author Notes

Carrot cake is the perfect dessert to transform into a gluten-free treat without anyone knowing the difference. With the moisture of the shredded carrot and the texture and crunch of chopped nuts, carrot cakes are already fantastically rich and dense, so we don’t have to worry about achieving the light, delicate crumb of an angel food cake or chiffon cake. For this gluten-free carrot cake recipe, simply select your favorite cup-for-cup gluten-free flour blend, or make your own.

Adding mayonnaise to carrot cake is a trick that goes all the way back to the Great Depression and World War II, when ingredients were scarce and home cooks had to get creative. In a denser cake such as this one, the oil from the mayonnaise contributes to a tender crumb, and the acidity of the vinegar enhances the flavors and balances the sweetness.

The traditional cream cheese frosting has a twist here as well: I whip in a bit of molasses for a more robust flavor. The molasses frosting is nestled between the two layers of cake, and blankets the top and sides. I like to garnish the top of the cake with a sprinkle of whole or halved hazelnuts and a few ribbons of fresh carrot. You can even snip a few greens from the carrot tops to add a pop of color to the decorated cake. The decorations will give you a little hint of what's inside, even before you cut the first slice.

A note: Some cup-for-cup gluten-free flour blends are prepared with the correct amount of xanthan gum already incorporated into the mix. Others need it to be added separately. Read the ingredients in your flour blend, and add only if necessary. —KristinaVanni

What You'll Need
  • Carrot cake
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour blend
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 1/2 cups freshly grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • Molasses frosting
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • Whole or halved hazelnuts, ribbons of fresh carrot, and sprigs of carrot top greens, for garnish
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the mayonnaise, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the gluten-free flour blend, xanthan gum (if using), baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  5. Fold in the grated carrots, chopped hazelnuts, and grated fresh ginger.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
  7. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, until completely incorporated. Mix in the molasses and beat until fluffy.
  8. Place the first cake layer on a cake plate or serving platter. Frost the top of the first layer and top with the second cake layer. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  9. When ready to serve, garnish the cake with whole or halved hazelnuts, ribbons of fresh carrot, and small sprigs of carrot top greens.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jaque
  • MissMouse

2 Reviews

Jaque February 10, 2023
Moist and flavorful. Icing with molasses is the best! Awesome
MissMouse January 4, 2023
This cake was out of this world. I never write reviews, but I had to come here to say that if you are doubtful that a GF cake made with 1 cup of mayo could be good - DO NOT DOUBT. It is excellent. Not only that, it was just as delicious 3 days later as it was the first day! It does not taste Gluten Free - and if you have had a number of GF cakes you know what I mean. Follow the directions exactly, and don't hold off on the molasses in the frosting. The combination is heavenly.