Carrot cake has always been up there in my personal top ten cakes, but it’s not the one I usually select for my birthday cake. My daughter, however, always loved carrot cake when I made it with wheat flour. It was often her birthday choice. She was reluctant (and I can’t say that I blame her) to try the gluten-free version for the first time several years ago. But her reaction concurs with the response of my taste-testing friends: “This is the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten!”
So, why is this carrot cake an improvement over its wheat counterpart? One reason is that sorghum flour is just more tasty (and sweeter) than wheat flour. It might be harder to work with, but that doesn’t take away its hands-down better flavor. Second, when baking with most gluten-free flours, a lightweight starch is needed. This makes the consistency of gluten-free products lighter, somewhat like the difference between regular wheat flour and cake flour, but much more pronounced. These carrot cakes, which I bake in muffin tins so as to make them much easier to dole out in single portions, had even been frozen, and they were still rated “best.” A wheat-flour cake that has been frozen tends to dry out; a gluten-free baked good (at least the ones using my methods) are succulent and even softer when they thaw. I think that’s because of the starch “falling.” And because gluten toughens the dough as it binds.
But no matter the reason for their great taste, these are some of the best little cakes you can make. And you get 24 for your effort or one three-layer cake.
1 and 1/3 cups sorghum flour
2/3 cup arrowroot starch
1 rounded teaspoon xanthan gum
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups grated raw carrot—grate on large setting (approximately 8 carrots)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9” round cake pans or two muffins tins. Whisk together the sorghum flour, arrowroot starch, xanthan gum, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the eggs until frothy; slowly beat in oil. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Mix in carrots and nuts. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until done, less for cupcakes (convection oven: 22-26 minutes for cakes, 18-20 minutes for cupcakes). Cool in pans 10 minutes. When completely cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Or, freeze cakes without frosting. Can be frosted when frozen and returned immediately to freezer.
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. (3/4 of an 8-oz. package) cream cheese, softened
4 and 1/3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blend butter and cream cheese. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating till smooth and creamy. Stir in vanilla. Frost. Decorate top with pecan halves.
Yield: One three-layer cake or 24 cupcakes. Freezes well.
I’ve even had friends who say they don’t like carrot cake tell me that they love this version. So, start grating those carrots! You’ll have a gourmet dessert that all of your guests will enjoy.