There’s something about biting into a piece of carrot cake — it brings back memories of family holidays and springtime. It’s no wonder carrot cake has become a traditional American dessert. Most carrot cake recipes, however, call for not-so-healthy ingredients that should really be avoided by you and your loved ones.
My gluten-free carrot cake recipe, just like my carrot cake cupcakes, are made with beneficial ingredients like coconut oil, maple sugar and, well, carrots, which provide beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is crucial for improving immunity and fighting free radical damage. With this cake, you can indulge without feeling guilty afterwards, and to boot, you will be happy knowing that you’re serving your family a more nutritious option for dessert.
Short History of Carrot Cake
Carrot cakes have been a favorite amongst Europeans since the 19th century. A carrot cake recipe appears in a 1827 cookbook entitled “The Art of French Cookery.” In the recipe, you are to choose 12 of the reddest carrots possible, boil them, put them through a “cullender” (bowl shaped strainer) and into a stewpan, then “dry them upon a fire.” All this work before preparing the dough!
Nowadays, the carrot cake recipes are obviously much easier, but Europeans clearly didn’t mind spending the time making one of their favorite cakes, and carrots served as a cheaper sugar substitute.
Despite the popularity of carrot cake in Europe, American cookbooks didn’t start listing carrot cake recipes until the early 1990s, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that carrot cake became a more common cake choice in the U.S. Today, it’s a go-to cake for many holidays and special events, like Easter, Mother’s Day and other family get-togethers.
Best vs. Worst Ingredients In a Carrot Cake
Traditional carrot cake recipes call for refined, white flour, white sugar, brown sugar and canola oil — all ingredients I try to keep out of my desserts. Just because a slice of carrot cake is a treat, doesn’t mean that you have to negate all of the work you do to stay healthy and fit. If you’re sticking to clean eating, take a look at the ingredients I use in this gluten-free carrot cake recipe.
First of all, I choose to use coconut oil instead of canola oil. As of 2005, 87 percent of canola grown in the U.S. was genetically modified, and by 2009, 90 percent of the Canadian crop was genetically engineered. (1) Canola oil is also a refined oil that’s often partially hydrogenated to increase its stability, but this increases its negative health effects.
For these reasons, I use coconut oil in my carrot cake recipe because it’s made up of medium-chain fatty acids that are easy to digest and processed by the liver, which means that they are immediately converted to energy instead of being stored as fat. Coconut oil benefits also include its ability to prevent heart disease and high blood pressure, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.
I also choose to use maple sugar (which comes from antioxidant-rich maple syrup) instead of refined sugar and gluten-free all purpose flour instead of white, refined flour. I always use gluten-free flours in my recipes because most white flours are bleached, contain gluten (which is problematic for people with a gluten allergy or intolerance) and hard on your digestive system.
How to Make the Best Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
Let’s get into this recipe! Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F and adding all of your ingredients to a large bowl. I add my wet ingredients first, which includes 4 eggs, 1 cup of coconut oil and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Then start mixing in your dry ingredients, which include 2 cups of gluten-free all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1½ cups maple sugar.
Maple sugar is what remains after the sap is boiled for even longer than what’s needed to make maple syrup. This is a great sugar substitute because its high in antioxidants, and it helps to reduce free radical damage that can cause inflammation. (2)
Finally, add in half cup of raisins and, the most important ingredient of all, 3 cups of grated carrots.
Grease a medium spring-form pan and add the carrot cake mixture. Then bake your healthy carrot cake for 40 minutes or until the top is golden.
Now is that the smell of comfort, or what? You’ll want to let your cake cool and then top it with my cream cheese frosting. which is made with grass-fed, organic cream cheese, coconut milk, maple sugar and coconut flakes.
And with that, your gluten-free carrot cake is ready to enjoy!
- 3 cups carrots, grated
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups maple sugar
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoons nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cream cheese frosting recipe
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.
- Grease a medium spring-form pan.
- Add the carrot cake mixture to the pan and bake for 40 minutes or until top is golden.
- Allow cake to cool then top cake with cream cheese frosting.