Everyone needs an authentic recipe for a carrot cake they love. This gluten-free carrot cake continues to be a solid reader favorite, year after year. It’s not only made completely from scratch, but it’s entirely dairy-free, and lower in fat and sugar than the average carrot cake recipe.
Don’t let this healthy recipe fool you though, this recipe delivers a moist cake with a tender crumb. It’s utterly delicious and deceptively easy to make.
What Makes this Gluten Free Carrot Cake Special:
- Spices– Traditional carrot cake calls for cinnamon, but I’ve also included ginger and nutmeg because it deepens the flavor profile.
- Applesauce– Carrot cake recipes are usually hefty in oil, but I’ve reduced the fat to keep this cake lighter on the stomach and added applesauce to retain moisture. Just make sure you use the unsweetened variety.
- Coconut Oil– I use coconut oil because it provides a richer finish. However, you can use olive oil if you need a coconut-free option.
- Sugar– The sugar content in this recipe has been reduced not to be so sickly sweet, especially when frosted!
- Carrots– You can hand-grate fresh carrots or use a food processor. Just avoid the temptation of using pre-grated carrots from the grocery store! They are too dry from sitting for a long period (the moisture evaporates out of them as they sit), and will not blend in with the batter as well.
- Dairy-Free Vanilla Frosting– I forgo the cream cheese alternatives, and make a fluffy vanilla frosting that literally melts in your mouth. It’s a delicious compliment to a moist cake without overwhelming the flavor.
- Gluten Free – I’ve swapped out the flour, yet all of my family members love it – even those who eat wheat. Of course, no one will ever know this cake is gluten-free unless you specifically tell them!
Single Layer, Double Layer, or Cupcakes
You can bake this gluten-free, dairy-free cake as a single-layer 9×13-inch rectangular cake or a traditional two-layer 9-inch round cake.
For gluten-free carrot cake cupcakes, fill your paper-lined cupcake tins ⅔ full and begin checking the cupcakes for doneness in around 14 minutes.
Carrot Cake Gluten Free Variations:
- Pineapple– Add one drained 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple for a more traditional variation on this gluten-free, dairy-free carrot cake recipe. Pineapple adds more moisture, so you may find your cake a smidge dense.
- Nuts– My family prefers chopped pecans, but walnuts are also a delicious swap to this carrot cake recipe. Or you can always omit nuts from this recipe entirely.
- Raisins– Raisins absorb some moisture in the cake resulting in a slightly fluffier cake, an excellent addition if you decide to add crushed pineapple to keep the cake light and fluffy.
If you’re looking for a Paleo/grain-free option, try my Paleo Carrot Cake Muffins.
We love the look of gluten-free carrot cake pops from Food Faith Fitness!
Making Ahead and Storing
Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. This gluten-free dairy-free cake keeps well so you can make it a day ahead for easy time management.
This recipe was originally published October 2019. Blog post updated March 2023.
Gluten Free Carrot Cake
This gluten-free carrot cake is tender and moist, with a fluffy vanilla frosting that melts in your mouth.
For the Carrot Cake:
- 1 cup tapioca starch
- ½ cup sorghum flour or millet flour
- ½ cup brown rice flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, just melted
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 ½ cups grated carrots
- ½ cup chopped pecans (or walnuts), plus more for sprinkling on top
For the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting:
- ½ cup palm shortening
- ¼ cup ghee or vegan butter
- 1 lbs organic powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 3-5 tablespoons canned coconut milk
To make the Carrot Cake:
- Grate the carrots, chop the pecans, and set them aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, baking powder, ground cinnamon, xanthan gum, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, and sea salt. Set aside.
- Mix the organic cane sugar, unsweetened apple sauce, coconut oil, honey, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer.
- Whisk in the eggs until well blended.
- Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined.
- Stir in the remaining half of the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and stir again, just long enough to incorporate the remaining flour mixture from the sides of the bowl into the batter.
- Stir in the grated carrots and the chopped pecans.
- Place the cake batter into a well-greased 9x13” cake pan, or divide the dough evenly between 2 well-greased and parchment paper-lined 9-inch cake rounds.
- *For the 9x13” cake pan:* bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
- *For the 9-inch cake rounds:* bake for 25-32 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
- Cool completely before frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped pecans.
To make the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting:
- Mix all of the ingredients on low in the bowl of an electric mixer until just blended.
- Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then whip on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes (continue to scrape down the sides as needed) or until the frosting is light and fluffy.
This recipe is fairly versatile. Feel free to add up to 1 cup of crushed pineapple (just make sure you drain it first), and/or ½ cup of raisins if you'd like.
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Nutiva Organic, Steam Refined Coconut Oil from non-GMO, Sustainably Farmed Coconuts, 15 Fluid Ounces
Mott's Unsweetened Applesauce, 46 Ounce Jar (Pack of 8)
Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening, All Vegetable, 24 oz
Wholesome Sweeteners, Inc., Organic Powdered Confectioners Sugar, 16 oz (454 g) - 2pcs
Did you make this recipe? Tag me on Instagram @allergyfreeak and use the hashtag #allergyfreealaska.
It’s not dairy free if you use eggs. SMH….. SMDH
Eggs are not considered dairy. From the Huffinton Post:
“Dairy is a product of the mammary gland of mammals. Basically, it refers to milk and anything made from milk, like cheese, butter and yogurt. And eggs are not made from milk. They don’t even come from a milk-producing animal.”
My favorite answer is “Cows don’t lay eggs!”
Can’t wait to make this! Sounds wonderful. Thank you for all the great recipes. 🙂 ♡
Thank you for helping to clarify that eggs are not dairy. We have had countless problems with this misunderstanding.
Michelle @My Gluten-free Kitchen says
Here’s your PSA – Eggs aren’t dairy! Maybe you were SMH but we’re all scratching our heads that you somehow missed the fact that eggs aren’t dairy!
Since you are confused, how about you check this out: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/14/eggs-not-dairy-are-they_n_5976814.html
Huh??? Eggs are NOT dairy!!! They come from poultry ?
Lynn Paul says
Eggs are from chickens, no dairy (milk!!) involved!
No. It’s not Vegan if it has eggs. But for people like me who are very allergic to milk (dairy) this cake is perfect. Especially sense I am also allergic to gluten.
Eggs are definitely not dairy lol
sorry, I got a real giggle out of that. Eggs are not dairy…they did not come from a cow 🙂
Virginia Sissom says
Charlotte Moore says
WOW!! This looks so moist and like a gluten filled cake. We are not GF but I cook some for GF family members. Now we have a GF,DF person. This would be great.
Wow! One of the prettiest carrot cakes I’ve seen! It does not look gluten free!
Lovely cake Megan and yes, eggs aren’t dairy, well not in my world!
Cassidy @ Cassidy's Craveable Creations says
This cake looks SO beautiful Megan and I’m sure it tastes just as good 🙂
Thank you so much for supplying this recipe. I made the cake recipe just as you described. I was really happy to see the honey – that is an addition I find makes the cake particularly delicious. The recipe works perfectly and the cake is right now cooling on my baking racks! Thank you!
My son’s 13th birthday is tomorrow, he’s away at a camp – will be surprised to see his favourite cake! He has eosinophilic esophagitis and at least 8 food allergies including wheat. Thanks for the recipe.
And normally, I’d not comment but I see the post above said, “SDM” which means “shaking my head”. So: yes, indeed – eggs are from chickens. eggs and chicken are NOT dairy. Dairy foods are foods produced from the milk of mammals, particularly cows. Last time I looked, chickens were birds and chickens do not have mammary glands that produce milk. So, yes, I’m now shaking my head at anyone who would think an Egg is Dairy.
Just wanted to confirmed- this recipe is SUPERB! Thank you again for sharing it. I followed recipe as I said above – to the letter – turned out perfectly. The texture is very moist. I think this recipe will become a birthday cake staple. 🙂
Yay!!! You are SO welcome, Eliza! Thank you for taking the time to come back and leave me a comment with your review. I’m so happy you enjoyed it! 😉
Can flax meal with water replace the eggs?
No, I’m sorry, but 4 eggs is too many to try to replace in this recipe. You might want to looks for a gluten-free vegan recipe instead. Best of luck!
Yum! This cake looks perfect!!
I just want to reach through my screen and grab a piece! It looks amazing! Thanks o !such for sharing it with u at Allergy Free Thursdays, Megan! I’m going to be featuring it at this week’s party. Hope to see you there! 🙂
G Davis says
Carrot cake is my favorite and I’ve missed this so much!
Im also a country girl and to SMH:
Cows go moooooo and they have calves (veal) you can object to eating veal (baby calves)
Chickens lay eggs…..pretty much everyday. They go bwaaaak bwaaaak.
Wonder if they covered that in “Everything I needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten “? ?
I’m allergic to egg whites. Can I use an Egg Replacer? The white stuff in the box that you get from the Health Store.
No, I don’t recommend using egg replacer in this recipe, as there are too many eggs to replace. I would suggest searching for a vegan (will not contain eggs) carrot cake recipe instead.
Is there a suitable substitute for the coconut oil?
You could try olive oil, I’m sure it would be fine, but just know I haven’t tried it myself. 😉
Hannah Hoogland says
Could I substitute a flour mix for your tapioca starch, and the two flours?
This is beautiful!
Do I need to refrigerate it if I make it the night before serving it?
I would! 😉
Thank you so much! It turned out amazing.
I was going to make it again as Cupcakes- Do you see any issues with that?
That’s a GREAT question… it’s been a while since I’ve made this recipe. BUT, from what I remember, I think you’ll be fine (granted, I haven’t made these into cupcakes). Please come back and let us know how they turn out!
Michelle Weidenkopf says
I made this cake today and substituted bananas for the carrots. It turned out delicious!! I had 3 frozen bananas (thawed/pored the excess water into the sink) and one non-frozen ripe one. I blended them in the food processor. I ended up not adding 1/4 of the pureed banana because I thought it would be too much. I added the puree in with the wet ingredients. Other than that I did not change thing. I love every recipe of yours that I have made, Megan! I make your hamburger buns every time we make burgers. Thanks for sharing.
Michelle, what an awesome and flattering compliment! Thank you so much! I’m so happy to hear everything you’ve tried has been a success. 🙂 Thank you for letting me (and all of us) know your substitutions. It always helps many when you do that!
An absolutely amazing recipe! A keeper for sure!! The cake is so delicious, even without the frosting!!
Thank you so much! 🙂 I’m very happy you like it!
This is not 100% dairy free if you use the icing recipe.
The recipe says to use (1/4 cup ghee or vegan butter)………..
Ghee Is Clarified Butter….
Which last time i checked is dairy.
the butter comes from solidifying milk fat , the ghee comes from removing milk solids
and water .
what is left is clarified butter oil ..(Ghee).
That’s also why the recipe states, “or vegan butter.” 😉
I’m really excited about making this cake, Megan! I’m planning on serving it for Christmas. I’m planning to make a “Cream Cheese” Frosting by making corn-free, gluten-free, soy-free Marshmallows and adding Daiya Cream Cheese. Thanks for all you do. I LOVE your website! Marry Christmas <3
Annie, your frosting sounds so good! Thank you so much for your sweet compliments! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Hey I love this recipe! I’ve made it twice now but today I’m out of brown rice flour:( Do you think it would be ok to sub white rice flour? Otherwise I have some blended flour from Bob’s Red Food Mill. I’m thinking because it’s just a half a cup it would be ok. Probably not as good as the original! Thanks for the excellent recipe!!
Hi Ang, Yes, I think white rice flour will work just fine. 😉 And you’re totally welcome!
Hi I am new to this gluten free. I do not have millet or sorghum flour. Can i sub for gluten free all purpose baking flour? I do have the rice flour and coconut flour as well as the xanthan gum. Thnx.
Hi Carem, you could try an all purpose mix, but I haven’t tested the recipe using one, so you might have to experiment!
Can you substitute arrowroot starch for tapioca starch?
Hi Elise, While I haven’t tried that sub specifically in this recipe, it should work just fine!
Elise Del Rio says
Thank you! I ended up using tapioca starch. THIS CAKE IS FANTASTIC! I made it for my boyfriend’s birthday (carrot cake is his favorite). He is not GF or DF, but he’s a supporter of my restrictions. Anyway, HE ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! Thank you so much for creating this recipe Megan, I’m making it for Thanksgiving and I believe, every birthday of my boyfriend’s going forward <3
You are very welcome! I’m so happy you both enjoyed it! 😉 And thanks for coming back and leaving me a comment. It made my day!
I’m planning on making this for my son’s first birthday party this next weekend. We are celebrating the weekend before his birthday and honey is not safe till one year old. I’m probably being overly cautious with him being so close, but I want to avoid honey. Do you think maple syrup will be a decent substitute? I’m making a test batch this weekend since it is a new recipe to me. I’ve loved every one of your recipes I’ve made, so I’m sure it will be divine. Just again being cautious. Don’t want anything to go sideways!
Maple syrup will work just fine! 🙂 Happy Birthday to your little one!
Karen Keshishian says
I don’t have xanthum gum, Will it work without.
Xanthan gum is what binds the batter together – without it, the cake will fall apart and will not bake/turn out like it should.
I made this carrot cake this week, and it is amazing! You made it with flours I can have, like no coconut flour! Yeah! Usually, I have to make flour substitutions, but I didn’t have to do so with your recipe. So nice! The only change I made was adding an additional teaspoon of baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid powder and omitting the baking powder as I am allergic to the cream of tartar in baking powder. It turned out great. Thank you so much!
That’s wonderful, Sheryl! I’m so happy this worked for you and that you enjoyed it! 🙂
Emily @ Recipes to Nourish says
This cake is amazing – the texture and flavor is on point! My husband and little one LOVE this cake. I’ve made it many times over the years for holidays and birthdays and even when I’ve had to make substitutions, it still comes out perfect. Love this cake!
I’m so happy to hear that! Thanks Emily!
If using aquafaba to replace the eggs would you suggest whipping it first or just as is?
Hmm… 4 eggs is a lot to replace in a recipe. I’m not sure if aquafaba will work as a replacement here? Though, if you were to try it, I’d whip it first. Best of luck! If you do try it, please come back and share your results!
Bakery beautiful! The texture and rise on the cake is beautiful! Flavor is tasty too! I admit that I usually use a home made all purpose gluten free flour mix. It’s easy and it generally works. When I take a little more time and mix different fours and xanthan gum specified for your cakes (banana, sponge, 2 chocolate and now this carrot cake) I am truly rewarded! Every one of them is a winner. Does your ebook baking book have more cakes?
Thank you so much for coming back here to leave a comment for me! Made my day. The ebook has one other cake recipe in it (the coconut cake). All the others are on the blog. 😉
Hi Megan, while my family has no dietary restrictions, I do have a friend who’s gluten-free and not a baker. I am a prolific baker but just starting to bake gluten-free to help her out.
I am about to start baking several of your recipes and stashing them in the freezer for her next visit. Can you tell me if you’ve had good results with freezing your items. Specifically hamburger buns, this cake, breads/rolls. Appreciate your efforts. Tina
Hi Tina, Most items freeze fairly decently. There are items I definitely prefer fresh (like breads), but also freeze because it’s handy to have gf items on hand!