Carrot cake doesn’t necessarily have a season. But if it did, it would have to be spring because Easter and carrot cake go hand-in-hand. Plus, eating carrot cake sometimes seems more virtuous than eating chocolate cake because the main ingredient is an actual vegetable. But what I love most is carrot cake’s adaptability. You can make it vegan, gluten-free, or even nut-free depending on your needs.
For our Easter carrot cake, I like to make a two layer cake with all the traditional add-ins of raisins and nuts. Then I cover it with a fluffy cream cheese frosting. When it’s all finished it tastes like a deliciously sweet cake with notes of caramel and added sweetness from the raisins. The carrots and nuts give a satisfyingly firm texture that is complemented beautifully with the cream cheese frosting. Since I am not a fancy cake decorator, I bypass decorating the cake with mini carrots and bunnies. Instead I swoosh my offset spatula to make waves in the frosting. Then I cover it with a light dusting of coconut and serve it up in thick slices.
Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes: 1 8-inch round cake
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups gluten-free flour (King Arthur Flour is my favorite)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons orange zest, freshly grated
- 3 cups carrots, grated
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup seedless dark raisins
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil two 8-inch round baking pans and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the sugar and eggs until smooth. Then beat in the oil and vanilla until completely incorporated.
- Working carefully, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt), stirring just until everything is smooth and combined.
- Fold in the orange zest, carrots, nuts, and raisins with a spatula.
- Spread the batter evenly in the two greased pans and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the cakes are firm in the center and golden brown around the edges.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove them from the cake pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Next make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of milk. If it needs to be a smoother consistency add a little more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Frost the cake by spreading a 1/8-inch thick layer of frosting on top of the bottom cake piece. Place a second piece on top. Then evenly spread frosting on the sides and top of the cake. Use your offset spatula to make swirly patterns with the frosting. Lightly sprinkle the coconut on the top and sides of the cake. Slice and serve.