Spiced and soft gluten free carrot cake layers filled with pineapple, walnuts and coconut frosted with creamy lemon cream cheese frosting.It’s my birthday! Happy birthday to me! And every birthday deserves a birthday cake surely? Truth be told, I love making my own birthday cake. Call me a control freak if you will, I have the exact cake I was craving so I really don’t mind. This year I was in the mood for something a little earthy, spicy, nutty – carrot cake was calling my name! I’m sorry I can’t send you all a slice, but today I’m going to share the recipe so you can make this for yourselves, and perhaps your family and friends, for Easter, or any other cake worthy occasion (see: any week Monday through Sunday). I have a few requirements of any carrot cake that finds its way onto my plate. It must be: moist (there, I said the word); spicy; nutty; gluten free; and coated cream cheese frosting. So, like any good baking scientist, I stepped into the kitchen and scienced the heck out of my perfect carrot cake.Let’s break this down:
- Moisture: we’re sweetening this cake entirely with brown sugar, damp, sweet brown sugar. Then we’re adding crushed pineapple for a touch more sweetness, and a ton more moisture. More natural sweetness and moisture comes from the carrots themselves! And capping off the quartet is vegetable oil, an addition that makes for a moister, softer, crumb than butter.
- Spicy: this cake features not just cinnamon, but also ginger and nutmeg. These spices work so well together and together with the tropical pineapple and coconut additions to the cake.
- Nutty: walnuts and shredded coconut keep this cake interesting. I love cakes with texture and nibbly bits.
- Gluten free: I think gluten free flours bring an interesting flavour dimension to a spicy carrot cake, especially buckwheat flour and sorghum. Two of my favourite gluten free flours.
- Cream cheese frosting. I’ve already got this on lock, but this time I added a touch of lemon juice for a little bit of zing to contrast with the sweet and spicy cake.
While this was baking away in my oven my house filled with the scent of the warm spices and brown sugar. When I brought the cakes out of the oven I just wanted to dive into the warm, soft and spicy cakes right away. But then, I remembered that good things come to those who wait. Those good things include cream cheese frosting…Clouds of softly whipped cream cheese frosting. Sweet, with an edge of tartness, like a cheesecake in frosting form. I love pairing cream cheese frosting with heavily spiced cakes. They are a match made in heaven. Tart creaminess, meet peppery warmth. A true love story.Now, some people are going to be nay-sayers about my addition of pineapple and coconut to a classic carrot cake, and to those people I say. Sorry? Or maybe, you know that you can leave the coconut out, right? And you can swap the pineapple for an equal amount of unsweetened apple puree? I get it, carrot cake is a very personal decision. Everyone’s perfect carrot cake looks a little different. Hey, no judgement here, we live in an equal opportunity carrot cake household. All are welcome. This interpretation just happens to be my favourite. Maybe, there’s room on your plate for a slice too.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Gluten Free | Makes one two-layer 9-inch round cake
Make ahead: you can freeze a frosted (I know, frosted) carrot cake so this is the perfect make ahead cake. Simply make this recipe all the way to the end. Freeze, uncovered, until hard (about 6 hours) wrap in cling wrap and leave in your freezer for up to a month. When you need it, unwrap and defrost in the refrigerator overnight!
- 1 cup walnuts
- 75 grams brown rice flour
- 75 grams white rice flour
- 75 grams sorghum flour
- 75 grams buckwheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 300 grams (1 1/2 cups) brown sugar
- 3/4 cup rice bran oil (or other flavourless vegetable oil)
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup crushed pineapple
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups shredded carrot (about 3 large)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup toasted coconut curls for decorating, optional
For the frosting:
- 250 grams cream cheese, softened
- 60 grams butter, softened
- 500 grams gluten free icing sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoons milk
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease and line two round 9-inch cake tins. Set aside until required.
- Once oven is heated spread walnuts out over a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Remove, chop roughly and set aside until required.
- In a large bowl whisk together the brown rice flour, white rice flour, sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
- In another large bowl (or in a stand mixer bowl of a machine fitted with the paddle attachment) whisk together the brown sugar and oil until smooth. Add the eggs and beat together.
- Add crushed pineapple and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until well combined. Add walnuts, shredded carrot, and coconut and stir until well-distributed.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins and place in pre-heated oven.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. If the tops of the cakes start browning too quickly you can cover them loosely with aluminium foil for the remainder of the baking time.
- Once cakes are cooked, remove from oven, cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Make the frosting while the cakes cool.
- Place cream cheese and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.
- Add icing sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and milk and beat on a low speed until everything comes together.
- Switch mixer speed to medium-high and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Place frosting in the refrigerator for an hour. Mix with a wooden spoon every 20 minutes or so. This frosting needs a little time in the fridge to firm up otherwise you may end up with very runny frosting.
- To assemble the cake. Place on layer onto your cake plate and cover the top with about 1/3 of the frosting. Place the second layer on top and frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the toasted coconut curls around the edge of the cake (if using). Leave cake to set in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving.