This decadent gluten-free carrot cake is incredibly moist, flavorful, and infused with sweet chunks of pineapple and coconut (optional). You won’t miss gluten when you dig into this delicious cake that Is topped with a smooth and tangy cream cheese frosting. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
My new gluten-free carrot cake recipe is just as rich, sweet, moist, and tender as any carrot cake made with gluten would be, ensuring you don’t have to miss out on your favorite dessert just because you can’t eat gluten.
This delightful carrot cake doesn’t compromise on taste or texture. It’s sweet and tangy and offers a moist and delicate cake crumb.
Plus, it’s made with simple and fresh ingredients that you can easily find at any grocery store in the U.S.
Why Add Pineapple?
It’s not that uncommon to add pineapple to carrot cake. The sweetness of the pineapple complements the earthy sweetness of the carrots, creating a balance of flavors and taking this gluten-free carrot cake to a new level of deliciousness.
It also adds moisture to the cake, giving it the perfect texture and crumb.
Ingredients for Carrot Cake
Here’s what you’ll need to make this delicious pineapple-infused gluten-free carrot cake:
- Light brown sugar to add sweetness and moisture
- Vegetable oil
- Vanilla extract
- Gluten-free flour blend. I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour for this recipe, which worked well.
- Xanthan gum (omit if using a gluten-free flour blend that already includes xanthan gum, like Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour)
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Shredded carrots
- Canned pineapple tidbits
- Unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
For the frosting, you’ll need the following:
- Cream cheese (dairy or dairy-free)
- Butter or palm shortening if dairy-free
- Vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar
- Cream or dairy-free milk if dairy-free
How to Make Carrot Cake
Start by preheating the oven to 350°F, lightly greasing two 9-inch round cake pans, and then lining the bottom of each pan with a 9-inch parchment paper circle.
Then, in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand or stand mixer, cream the brown sugar and oil for five minutes. Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. It should be very creamy.
Whisk together the gluten-free flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and xanthan gum (omit if your flour blend contains xanthan gum) in another bowl, then add the dry ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture and mix until just combined. It will be very thick.
Add the shredded carrots, canned pineapple tidbits, and shredded coconut and mix until evenly combined. The moisture from the carrots and pineapple will give the cake batter the right texture that isn’t so thick.
Evenly divide the carrot cake batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. Allow the cake layers to cool thoroughly before removing them from the pans.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
To make the cream cheese frosting, whip the cream cheese and butter or shortening until everything is light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Use an electric hand or a stand mixer to do this.
Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and beat slowly until the powdered sugar is incorporated. Add cream or dairy-free milk, ½ a tablespoon at a time, until you get a smooth, spreadable consistency.
Keep whipping the cream cheese frosting until smooth and creamy, another 2-3 minutes.
Frost and Layer the Cake
Level and trim your cake layers as needed, then place one cake layer in the center of the cake plate, securing it to the plate with a dab of cream cheese frosting.
Spread a thick layer of cream cheese on top of the first layer to act as the carrot cake filling.
Place the other carrot cake layer on top of the filling upside down. (Placing it upside down prevents the crumbs from the trimmed bottom from getting into the frosting.)
Frost the top and sides of the cake with the cream cheese frosting and decorate as desired.
Now you’re ready to slice the cake and enjoy. Look how beautiful it looks with the layers of frosting and cake. You can even see chunks of sweet pineapple and a tender crumb.
FAQs and Substitutions
Managing Moisture: The cake batter does not contain milk, which is by design because the canned pineapple tidbits and freshly shredded carrots add a lot of moisture. If you added milk to the batter, the batter would become too thin. A thin batter couldn’t sufficiently suspend the shredded carrots and pineapple tidbits in place, and they would likely sink to the bottom of the cake as it cooks.
Coconut Is Optional: You don’t have to add coconut, but if you do, you’ll find that it adds texture to the cake and compliments the pineapple. Alternatively, add raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped nuts, if desired. I recommend no more than one cup of add-ins.
Chill the Cake: It’s much easier to prepare the cake when you let the layers chill before leveling and stacking them. This also prevents crumbs from getting into the frosting and ruining the clean look of the cake.
Dairy-Free Options: As pictured, the cream cheese frosting was made with dairy-free cream cheese and palm shortening. The recipe has been tested many times using dairy cream cheese and butter with cream. It works equally well both ways.
Extra Frosting? This recipe makes a lot of cream cheese frosting recipe. Some people like to thickly frost their cakes, while others use less. You can half the frosting recipe if you want to use less frosting. As pictured, only ¾ of the frosting was used on the cake. You can store the remaining frosting in the fridge in an airtight container for one week or more than a month in the freezer.
You might enjoy these gluten-free recipes too:
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Sheet Cake
- Sinful Gluten-Free Devil’s Food Cake Recipe
- Gluten-Free Black and White Cookies
- Simple Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake Recipe
- Surprisingly Simple Gluten-Free Pound Cake
- Giant Gluten-Free Cookie Cake (Dairy-Free)
Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
- 1 Electric handheld or standing mixer
- 2 9" round cake pans
- Parchment paper
For the carrot cake:
- 2 cups light brown sugar packed
- 1 cup vegetable oil I used avocado oil
- 4 eggs large
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups gluten-free flour I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour for this recipe; I have not tested it with other flour blends
- 1 tsp xanthan gum (see notes) OMIT if using a gluten-free flour blend that already has xanthan gum, like Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups shredded carrots about 6-9 carrots, depending on their size
- 1 ½ cups canned pineapple tidbits drained
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut optional
For the frosting:
- 16 oz cream cheese dairy or dairy-free
- 1 cup butter softened (or 1 cup palm shortening if dairy-free)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 lb powdered sugar 1 bag and approximately 7 1/2 cups
- 1-3 Tbsp heavy cream or dairy-free milk
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottom of each pan with a 9-inch parchment paper circle.
- In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer, cream the brown sugar and oil for 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. It should be very creamy.
- Whisk together the gluten-free flour (and xanthan gum if needed), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture and mix until just combined. It will be very thick.
- Add the shredded carrots, canned pineapple tidbits, and shredded coconut and mix until evenly combined. The batter is thick but not to worry. The moisture from the carrots and pineapple will give the cake batter the right texture as it bakes.
- Evenly divide the carrot cake batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.
- Please allow the cake layers to cool thoroughly before you remove them from the pans.
For the frosting:
- Prepare the frosting by whipping the cream cheese and butter or shortening until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes, using either an electric hand or a stand mixer.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat at low speed until the powdered sugar is incorporated. Add cream or dairy-free milk, ½ a tablespoon at a time, until you get a smooth, spreadable consistency.
- Whip the cream cheese frosting until smooth and creamy, another 2-3 minutes.
To frost and layer the cake:
- Level and trim the cake layers as needed. Place one cake layer in the center of the cake plate, securing it to the plate with a dab of cream cheese frosting.
- Spread a thick and generous layer of cream cheese on top of the first layer to act as the carrot cake filling.
- Place the other carrot cake layer upside-down on top of the frosting. Placing it upside down will help to prevent crumbs from getting into the frosting as you spread the frosting.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with the cream cheese frosting and decorate as desired. (You may have extra frosting depending how thick you frost the cake.)