Packed with carrots and dried cherries, this truly is the best ever gluten free carrot cake. It’s frosted with the most luscious cream cheese frosting!
How is everyone doing these days in isolation? It’s been very strange times indeed and sometimes I’ve considered not doing posts like this because people may or may not be feeling festive or in the mood or whatever. But then I thought about it and I refuse to let this whole thing get me down. There is nothing at the moment we can do that we aren’t already doing to make our own situations any better, so we may as well enjoy what we have and make the most of it.
So if you don’t mind, I’m going to continue baking yummy food and sharing it with you, and maybe at least we can all feel a little more “normal” under the circumstances. This too shall pass.
I’m making a bold statement by saying this is the BEST EVER gluten free carrot cake, but I’m not exaggerating one bit. It truly IS the best ever! It’s loaded with a whopping pound of grated carrots and has a few unusual, but delicious, add-ins that make it better than all the rest.
Before all this social distancing went down, I had stocked up on plenty of cute Easter sprinkles and cupcake liners, sure I was gonna make dozens of cupcakes in the next couple of weeks.
But I just haven’t been feeling cupcakes lately. It happens. I go on what I call baking binges. All I can concentrate on for a while is one thing, like baking yeast bread, or cupcakes, or cookies, or making candy, etc, etc.
Right now it’s cakes, complete in all their layery goodness and anywhere from subtle to full-on sophisticated decorations. This cake was born from that recent obsession of mine.
How to Make Best Ever Gluten Free Carrot Cake
When I read Zoe’s recipe, I was so intrigued by the addition of not only dried cherries, but also apricots! How could it be that my two absolute favorite dried fruits were in this ONE cake? I knew I HAD to make this cake into a gluten free version and put my own spin on it! Here’s the ingredients:
- Finely grated carrots — Zoe recommends first shredding the carrots in a food processor with the shredding disk attached, and then putting the blade in to finely chop those shreds. You can also use a box grater on the smaller holes.
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Canola or vegetable oil
- Vanilla extract
- Kim’s gluten free flour blend — or the brand of your choice containing xanthan gum.
- Orange zest
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom
- Sweetened shredded coconut
- Chopped dried apricots and cherries
It might seem like a lot of ingredients, but most of these are pantry staples that you may already have on hand. Zoe’s recipe called for ground cloves, which I didn’t have, but I did have ground cardamom. I love the flavor of cardamom and it worked well here.
My Frosting of Choice
Back when I made this cake into cupcakes, I wasn’t real keen on cream cheese frosting so I chose to make Italian meringue buttercream. Which is a fabulous frosting. But I had cream cheese frosting again between then and now and decided I love it! Idk what the heck I was thinking when I didn’t like it. I mean, that’s almost sacrilege.
This cream cheese frosting is luscious and smooth and perfectly sweet without being sickeningly so. It’s made with only five ingredients:
- Cream cheese — go for the full fat blocks here. No low fat or fat free. You won’t get the same results and the frosting will be too runny.
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Freshly squeezed orange juice
Making the Brush Strokes
You don’t have to make these brush strokes to put on the cake. It’ll be delicious with just the cream cheese frosting. But these are so, so easy and incredibly beautiful, why not? Plus, your kids would have a blast making these AND eating ’em, too!
Melt a small amount of green and orange white chocolate flavored candy wafers. I had some leftover from another project I did and only had about 1/4 of a 14-ounce bag of green and 1/2 of a 14-ounce bag of orange so I melted both of those in separate bowls.
On a baking sheet lined with waxed paper (or parchment or whatever you have on hand) place about a silver dollar-sized dollop of melted chocolate. With the back of a spoon, “swoosh” through the chocolate to spread it across the paper. Don’t worry about being perfect.
Do this with all of the melted chocolate in both colors. Allow them to dry as recommended on the package before removing them carefully from the paper.
I only had enough of each to decorate one side of the cake. But when researching how to do these brush stroke cakes, I found that almost all of them were done on only one side of the cake anyway. So this was perfect as it was more of an abstract interpretation of a carrot.
After frosting the cake and allowing it to chill to firm up, remove the cake from the fridge and let it sit for just a few minutes (about 5) to make the frosting tacky enough to “glue” the brush strokes onto the cake. Line one side of the cake with the orange brush strokes, overlapping and gently pressing into the side of the cake.
Take the green brush strokes and line them up behind the orange ones, gently pressing into the top of the cake. Place the cake back in the fridge to set the frosting once again before serving.
I Don’t Have Apricots or Dried Cherries. Can I Use Something Else?
During this time of uncertainty with panic buying at its highest ever, you may find that either you don’t have some of the ingredients for the cake in your pantry or they’re not on the shelves in your local supermarkets. That’s okay.
Don’t have apricots? Use dates. Or pineapple. Don’t have cherries? Use raisins. Or cranberries. Don’t have any dried fruits? Leave them out. The cake will still be fabulous without them.
Even if you’re not having the typical Easter celebration you’re used to this year, you can still bake this cake and decorate it with your kids, and enjoy it with those around you.
Best Ever Gluten Free Carrot Cake
- 1 pound finely grated carrots (using the small holes in a box grater or shredding the carrots first in a food processor and then switching to the blade to finely chop)
- 1¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (225 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1¼ cups (300 ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- finely grated zest of one orange
- 2 cups (280 g) Kim's gluten free flour blend (or blend of choice containing xanthan gum)
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom, optional
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1¼ cups (145 g) sweetened shredded coconut
- 1½ cups chopped dried fruit (apricots and cherries or any other dried fruits you may have)
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 3 8-ounce blocks (678 g) cream cheese, softened
- 2 sticks (½ lb or 226 g) butter, softened
- 4 cups (about 1 lb or 453 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp (about half of a medium orange) freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ to ½ package each green and orange colored white chocolate flavored melting wafers (Melt N Mold is the brand I used, but any brand without gluten will work fine–Wilton is processed in a facility that processes wheat).
FOR THE CAKE:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients (flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, and spices). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugars, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Gently stir in the flour mixture.
- Add the carrots, dried fruits, and coconut and stir until well combined.
- Divide the batter between the 3 cake pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and place cakes in the pans on wire racks to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pans to cool completely.
FOR THE FROSTING:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, whisk the cream cheese until very smooth. Add the butter and whisk until the two are well combined and smooth.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and orange juice. Increase the speed to medium high and whisk for about 5 minutes or until completely smooth and there are no lumps.
- Leave the whisk in the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the frosting to chill for at least one hour or up to one day (to stiffen it up to make it easier to spread).
- When ready to frost the cake, remove the bowl of frosting from the refrigerator and place it back on the stand mixer. Whisk it again until smooth, but stiff. Fill layers with about one cup each of frosting and frost the top and outsides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
FOR THE BRUSH STROKES:
- Melt colored white chocolate as directed on package. Place dollops about the size of silver dollars 3 inches apart on waxed paper or parchment paper-lined baking sheets. With the back of a spoon, drag the spoon through the white chocolate to elongate and create a brush stoke effect.
- Allow the brush strokes to fully dry before removing and decorating cake as desired.
- Serve cake cold or at room temperature, but store cake in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Adapted from Zoe Bakes’ Ultimate Carrot Cake