Monday, July 6, 2015

Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I am aware that "gluten free" is all the craze these days--however there actually are people out there, like my mom and my best friend from college, who are actually gluten intolerant and cannot seem to digest wheat without major pain and illness. It's so sad that these folks can't have bread or sweets like the rest of us are used to! I think it's great that there are so many people out there experimenting with new kinds of grains and flours to make delicious treats that don't taste "healthy" but are still satisfying and rich.

This is my first crack at gluten free, and it went surprisingly well. This cake is moist, soft, and airy. It rose perfectly in the oven, and didn't cave in when it cooled. You can't even tell it isn't made with flour! Thanks to Divas Can Cook for the inspiration and main recipe.

Some things I have learned about making baked goods with gluten free "flour":

1. Use double the flavorings: it seems that these nut/rice/bean flours absorb any flavors you add, so add double the vanilla and double the cinnamon. You can also add more sugar. Ramp up the flavors on all levels! Taste your batter before you cook it. It should taste sweet, like a cake.

2. Use a batter with lots of moisture: It is true that oftentimes you can replace the regular flour in a cake recipe with the gluten free type, however, be sure that the recipe you choose has lots of wet ingredients like buttermilk or sour cream and oil (instead of butter) to add fat and richness.

3. Use a rice-flour blend: I just recently learned that bean-based flours can have a grainy consistency or taste gross when used in sweets, so try to get a blend based in rice flour, like King Arthur gluten free, instead of something  like Bob's Red Mill.

4. Do not overbake: If anything, underbake. As soon as the cake no longer has any giggle in it, take it out and put the pan directly into the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it directly. Gluten free things seem to dry out really quickly if you leave them in the oven too long.


1 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups gluten-free flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup buttermilk (substitute 1 tsp lemon juice with milk to add up to 1/2 cup)
2.5 cups carrots, finely shredded
1/2 cup apple sauce
½ cup sweetened desiccated coconut flakes

Preheat your oven to 325F. Prepare 2 8-inch cake pans by buttering and flouring the bottom and sides. You may also find it convenient to add in parchment circles (also buttered and floured) to allow easier removal of the cakes.

Combine the sugar and oil in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk until well combined and bubbly.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In two additions, mix dry ingredients into the sugar and egg mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Do not over mix, just blend until fully combined--it shouldn't be perfect.

Next, pour in your carrots, apple, and coconut. Fold in gently. Divide batter between the pans and bake for 20-30 minutes. Once you hit the 20 minute mark, check every few minutes. Give each pan a gentle shake. Remove the cakes as soon as the batter doesn't giggle. Place the pans in the freezer immediately, for about 15 minutes to stop then cooking process.

Remove from pans and place on cooling racks until fully room temperature.

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe:

16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3-5 cups powdered sugar (depends on how sweet you want it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cups pecans, pulsed in food processor until small bits

Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add in your powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until smooth and thick. Add in lemon juice and vanilla. Continue beating, and add in more sugar if you want it thicker.

To frost the cake: place the first layer on your cake tray. Scoop up a nice, large spatula-full of icing (about 1 cup) and spread carefully over the cake, being sure not to pull up crumbs. Keep this layer thick. Carefully pick up your second cake layer and lay it on top of the icing, press down gently to even the top.

Use another 2 cups of icing to carefully cover the top with your cake spatula, allowing frosting to overhang the sides. Lastly, slather frosting over the sides of the cake until fully covered. Take handfuls of pecans and press them all around the sides of your cake. Use any remaining frosting to garnish the top with some swirls. Refrigerate to firm up. Let this sit on the counter for about 20 minutes before serving.