Follow this recipe for a classic Gluten Free Carrot Snack Cake made with simple ingredients. Moist, flavorful, and perfectly spiced. Topped with a delectable cream cheese frosting, this cake is the right "any day of the week" cake but can be dressed up for any special occasion like Easter Dinner. This small-batch carrot cake is not only gluten-free but also dairy-free, unlike many other gluten-free carrot cake recipes (if using a dairy-free gluten-free flour blend and a dairy-free cream cheese like kite hill).
This recipe for gluten-free carrot cake will make one 9″ round cake layer but you can easily double this recipe to bake it in two 9′ cake pans or a 9×13″ pan. You can also use an 8" cake pan but please be aware the cake will take longer to bake.
Recipe Ingredient Notes
Gluten Free Flour: I tested this recipe with Bob's Red Mill 1-1 and my gluten-free flour blend. Both flours worked great. I even tested it with a mix of "end of bags" flours (including Bob's Red Mill, King Arthur, and Cup4Cup) and this Gluten Free Carrot Snack Cake turned out fluffy and moist. All flour blends used contain xanthan gum and are a mix of flour. I do not recommend using a single flour in this recipe.
Grated Carrots: Please make sure you wash your produce before using it. The carrots need to be peeled and grated (the large holes on a box grater work great for your food processor). I do NOT squeeze out any liquid from the carrots before using them in the Carrot Snack Cake.
Neutral Oil: I recommend using a neutral oil in this recipe such as grapeseed oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil. I don’t recommend using avocado oil or coconut oil since both have a very strong flavor.
Cream Cheese: I use full-fat cream cheese in all my recipes calling for cream cheese.
Optional Add-Ins: If you like, add chopped nuts (such as pecans or walnuts), shredded coconut, and/or golden raisins to your gluten-free carrot cake batter. I only recommend using a total of 100 grams or less.
Garnish: For the garnish of this small-batch gluten-free carrot cake I use some extra shredded carrots which I blotted dry with paper towels, toasted pecans, and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.
What is a Snack Cake?
Technically any cake can be a snack cake. A Snack cake is a single-layer cake with easy topping like a glaze or a frosting. Snack cakes are made with just a handful of ingredients and come together in a pinch. Snack cakes are made most of the time with with oil instead of butter to keep them from drying out. They are perfect weekday cakes but can also be dressed up and turned into Mini Celebration Cakes.
How to make a Small Batch Carrot Cake
You don't need any fancy equipment to make this gluten-free carrot cake. All you need is a mixing bowl, a whisk, and a spatula.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350F and make sure your oven racks are in the middle of the oven.
Step 2: Line a 9" round cake pan with parchment paper and set it aside. To do this, place the cake pan on parchment paper and with a pen or marker trace around the outside of the pan. Then cut out the circle and place it on the bottom of the greased cake pan. One can use a gluten-free baking/cooking spray or some butter.
Step 2: In a separate bowl sift together the gluten-free flour (containing xanthan gum), cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and spices, and set aside.
Step 3: In a large bowl combine your sugars, oil, and vanilla extract and stir together using a whisk. Add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, and mix until the wet ingredients are well blended.
Step 4: Using a spatula, fold in your dry ingredients. I recommend adding the flour mixture gradually. Fold together until you don’t see any streaks of flour left in your carrot gluten cake batter.
Step 5: Fold in the shredded carrots. If you choose to add raisins/nuts/coconut, you can add them now as well.
Step 6: Transfer the small-batch gluten-free carrot cake batter to your prepared pan and with a small offset knife or the back of a spoon smooth it out evenly.
Step 7: Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes. This carrot cake will turn fairly dark while baking. I recommend using a toothpick and making sure it is fully baked. If the tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, your cake can be removed from the oven. When baking this cake in an 8-inch pan, please be aware that the baking time will increase to 50-60 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Run an offset or a butter knife around the edges and turn the cake onto a wire rack for cooling. Remove the parchment paper on the bottom of the cake, turn it back over so it's top side up and allow it to cool completely. This can take up to 2-3 hours. If you are in a rush you may place the cake in your refrigerator for 45 minutes to speed this step up.
How to decorate a Gluten Free Carrot Snack Cake
If you are not a fan of frostings, this cake is fabulous on its own. Technically it does not require frosting. But this traditional cream cheese frosting takes your carrot cake to the next level.
To make the cream cheese frosting, combine the room-temperature butter, cream cheese, salt, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and mix to combine. I use my hand mixer for this at a medium speed. You may also do this in your stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Mix until light and fluffy. Carefully add the powdered sugar (also known as icing sugar) - I recommend doing this in two steps (powdered sugar has a mind on its own). Remember you can always add more sugar if the frosting is not sweet enough to your liking. Mix until light and fluffy. Make sure to taste it before using it to top the best gluten-free carrot cake with this luscious cream cheese frosting (quality control)
Place your fully-cooled carrot cake on a platter and top it with the creamy cream cheese frosting. This recipe makes enough for a generous topping on a single-layer cake. Using an offset or the back of a spoon, smooth out the gluten-free cream cheese frosting.
I use extra grated carrots (blotted dry on a paper towel), toasted pecans, and some cinnamon sugar to decorate my gluten-free carrot snack cake.
Because of the cream cheese frosting, I recommend storing it in your fridge for up to 7 days. You may also keep it on your counter if your kitchen is on the cooler side for one to two days.
FAQ about Gluten-Free Carrot Cake Recipe
Can I make this cake ahead of time?
Yes! This gluten-free carrot cake stays moist and fresh for several days. I recommend storing it in an airtight container. You may also bake the cake ahead of time and freeze the unfrosted cake for up to 3 months.
How do I freeze a cake layer?
Wrap the unfrosted, fully cooled cake in plastic wrap and place it in your freezer. I like using large ziplock bags for this since this will limit the chances of freezer burn. When ready to use, thaw it in your refrigerator overnight and frost as directed.
Can I turn this gluten-free carrot cake into cupcakes?
Absolutely. I recommend baking them for 16-20 minutes. I have not tested this recipe as cupcakes so I can't provide exact baking times. This recipe should give you 12 gluten-free carrot cupcakes.
Can I double this recipe?
You may double this Small Batch Carrot Cake to bake two 9″ round cake pans of gluten-free carrot cake or a 9×13″ rectangular sheet cake.
Can I replace the eggs in this small-batch carrot cake recipe?
I have not tested this recipe with any egg replacements. If you do, please share your experience.
Can I replace the oil with applesauce?
If you feel the need to reduce the oil in this cake, you may replace up to HALF of it with unsweetened apple sauce. I have not tested this recipe with apple sauce. The texture may change.
I don't have celiac - can I make this recipe?
Please substitute the gluten-free flour used in this recipe with 140 grams of All-Purpose Flour.
Baking in grams
I share my recipes in grams and by weight since baking by weight is the most accurate way to bake. Digital Scales are very affordable and very affordable. You can purchase them on Amazon for less than a set of measuring cups. Measuring cups are very inaccurate and can cause significant errors when it comes to gluten-free baking or baking in general. Especially since I bake with gluten-free flours which weigh differently than “regular” flours. I do provide some ingredients like spices and leavening agents in measuring spoons. To learn more about Baking with a digital scale, make sure to check out my post about Baking by weight.
Note about Ovens and Oven Temperatures
All my recipes are tested and developed with a conventional oven. I always bake my baked goods on the rack placed in the MIDDLE of my oven. This way the heat coming from the bottom will not burn my baked goods.
If you are baking with convection (fan-forced), please adjust the recipes accordingly. Be also prepared that the convection oven can cause your baked goods to dry out quickly and still be raw inside. Be aware that it takes at least 15-20 minutes for a standard American Oven to be fully preheated. I highly recommend investing in an Oven Thermometer.
Substitutions and Modifications
Any dietary or ingredient modifications/substitutions to this recipe may alter the end result in appearance and taste. I test my recipes several times as published in this post and The Gluten Free Austrian Blog is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe you find on our website.
For the Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
- 150 grams gluten-free multipurpose flour (including xanthan gum)
- 10 grams cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper (optional)
- 135 grams neutral oil (such as grapeseed or canola)
- 125 grams light brown sugar
- 75 grams granulated white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 150 grams grated carrots (2-3 medium-sized carrots)
- 100 grams add-ins such as nuts, raisins, or coconut (optional)
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 120 grams cream cheese, room temperature
- 50 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
- 100-120 grams powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like your frosting)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
For decoration (optional)
- Extra grated carrots, chopped pecans, cinnamon sugar
How to make a Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350F, line a 9" round cake pan with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Shred and measure out carrots (a total of 150 grams). The large holes on a box grater work perfectly.
- Sift together the gluten-free flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and ground pepper in a bowl and set aside.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine your sugars, oil, and vanilla and whisk together using a whisk. Add room temperature eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated.
- Using a spatula, fold in your dry ingredients until you don’t see any streaks of flour left.
- Add your shredded carrots to the batter and mix to combine. If you choose to add raisins/nuts/coconut, you can add them now as well.
- Transfer the gluten-free carrot cake batter to the prepared cake pan and with a small offset knife or the back of a spoon smooth it out evenly.
- Bake the carrot cake at 350F for 40-45 minutes. The cake is done when a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake will turn fairly dark so don't be alarmed about the color.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Run an offset or a butter knife around the edges and turn the cake onto a cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper on the bottom of the cake, turn it back over so it’s top side up and allow it to cool completely. This can take up to 2-3 hours.
How to make Cream Cheese Frosting
- Combine the room temperature butter, cream cheese, salt, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and mix until light and fluffy.
- Carefully add the powdered sugar – I recommend doing this in two steps (powdered sugar has a mind on its own). Mix until light and fluffy.
Store any leftover cream cheese filling in your fridge for up to 7 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Allow for it to come to room temperature before using (you may need to re-whip it)
How to frost and decorate your Gluten Free Carrot Snack Cake
- Place your fully cooled carrot cake on a plate and top with the cream cheese frosting. Using an offset or the back of a spoon, smooth out the cream cheese frosting.
- I use extra grated carrots (blotted dry on a paper towel), toasted pecans, and some cinnamon sugar to decorate my gluten-free carrot snack cake.
Since the cake is topped with cream cheese frosting I recommend storing it in your fridge for up to 7 days. You may also keep it on your counter if your kitchen is on the cooler side for one to two days.
Baking Time: When baking this cake in an 8-inch pan, please be aware that the baking time will increase to 50-60 minutes. It took almost a full hour for my 8″ cake to be fully baked.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 400
Calories are a guestimate.