GF Carrot Cake Bake-Off

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake Bake-off

March 30, 2012

Apparently when I’m feeling a bit down, I cook.  Seem to be doing alot of it lately.  A few days ago I needed some dessert and couldn’t decide between two GF carrot cake recipes.  SO, I made two 9″ round cakes, one of “The Best Carrot Cake” from Beth Hillson’s Gluten-free Makeovers, the other from Annalise Roberts’ Gluten-Free Baking Classics .  I calculated a half-batch of each recipe, baked them both at the same time, and then compared them both with and without a basic powdered sugar frosting.


Unfortunately for those wanting recipes, I didn’t make enough changes to the original recipes to feel justified in posting them here.  Both cookbooks were readily available at my public library (though I now own Roberts’ book and will probably buy HIllson’s soon as well).

For now I will try to describe the recipes in enough detail for you to know whether you would like to pursue them . . . trust me, they bake up good enough for non-GF-folks to eat!

Hillson’s recipe uses a flour blend of sorghum, rice flour, and tapioca flour combined with relatively small amounts of gum, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, & cloves.  These dry ingredients are combined with sugar, oil, and eggs.  Grated carrots, crushed pineapple, raisins and walnuts are then stirred in.

Roberts’ recipe uses her Brown Rice Flour Blend (super-fine brown rice flour, potato starch, & tapioca starch); somewhat larger amounts (compared to Hillson) of gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.  These dry ingredients are combined with sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Grated carrots, walnuts, and coconut are then stirred in.

The only modifications I made to the recipes were:

  • guar gum instead of xanthan gum
  • rehydrated unsweetened coconut instead of sweetened
  • reduced the amount of pineapple juice to adjust for moisture introduced by the extra 1/2 egg (half of 3 eggs became 2 eggs 🙂  )
  • baked for an extra 7 minutes because the centers were not firm after the listed baking times

I used my Farberware non-stick cake pans greased and lined with parchment circles.  I also used my Velcro insulated pan wraps (which keep cakes from doming and worked equally well with these GF cakes as they did with regular cakes).  In the picture above, the cake in the front-left is Hillson’s and the one in the back-right is Roberts’.

After tasting each of the cakes to make sure they were edible and compatible with each other, I stacked them and frosted with my Non-Dairy Coconut Powdered Sugar Frosting. (rather tricky after you’ve already cut into the cakes!)

Non-Dairy Coconut Powdered Sugar Frosting

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I use Spectrum Organics Palm Oil Shortening)
  • 2 Tbls Coconut Manna (I use Nutiva brand)
  • 2-3 cups confectioners sugar; sifted if lumpy
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • dashes of lemon juice or water or “milk” substitute as needed to thin the frosting
  1. Beat the shortening and coconut manna until light and fluffy.  Add extracts and beat again.
  2. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar and mix at low-medium speed until combined.
  3. Add liquid, one teaspoon at a time, to thin the frosting enough to use.

Note: The coconut manna provides some richness to make up for not using the butter and cream cheese that would be in the traditional version of my powdered sugar frosting.


  • The recipe in Hillson’s book is VERY different from one you might find posted online ( ).  I haven’t tested the online version.
  • Roberts’ recipe has been posted here
  • Overall, I preferred the texture and taste of Hillman’s recipe (lower cake in photo below) over Roberts’ (upper cake in photo below).  Hillman’s was sweeter, moister, and spicier. Hillman’s recipe does not rise as much as Roberts (due to smaller amounts of leavening), so next time I would use Hillman’s recipe, but substitute the baking powder and baking soda amounts from Roberts’.  I might also be tempted to toss in the unsweetened coconut as well. 🙂  Roberts’ cake tasted more like what I think of as “carrot/spice cake from a box”.  Edible, even tasty, just not as rich as I wanted in a carrot cake.


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