I didn’t 100% intend to make grain-free birthday cakes this year.
Yes, I generally follow a grain-free diet but the rest of my family doesn’t. And birthday cakes aren’t regular life so I usually consider things like that on my list of “worth it” exceptions. But pandemic cooking made it pretty difficult to get my hands on flour, so I took another route and I am so, so glad I did.
Because this grain-free carrot cake is a REVELATION. It’s absolutely delicious, perfectly balanced between dense and light, and completely at home among its more glutenful cousins. I’m done making other carrot cakes because this is the only one I need.
I’ve made this recipe a few times now - first for Griffin’s first birthday, then again for my Mother-in-law’s birthday a month later. The second time I substituted cashew flour for the almond because the aforementioned pandemic cooking sometimes requires substitutions and almond flour was nowhere to be found. Both times it turned out great - with a tender, moist crumb, plenty of texture from the mix-ins, and a certain sturdiness that made decorating so very easy. The cashew flour version did brown a bit more deeply, I suspect because cashews are more oily than almonds.
But let’s not forget about the most important thing: the frosting. This cream-cheese mousse almost has a no-bake cheesecake vibe to it, and is all the tang you want from cream cheese frosting without the overwhelming sweetness. I love it. And the cream cheese works this kind of magic on the whipped cream, stabilizing it to the point that you can pipe decorations if that’s your style, and even cake can sit on the counter for a bit without wilting into an entirely devastating lump. It is best to store the cake in the fridge, though, for food-safety and deliciousness reasons.
And since there’s vegetables in it, it’s healthy, right? No need to wait until a birthday.
carrot cake with cream cheese mousse
- ½ cup virgin coconut oil plus extra for greasing pans
- 3 cups almond or cashew flour plus extra for flouring pans
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 5 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar packed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 10 oz carrots peeled and grated finely
- ¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- ¾ cup walnuts toasted and finely chopped
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream chilled
- 2 8oz packages cream cheese room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 6 inch cake pans with coconut oil and dust with almond flour. Line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper.
- Whisk almond flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and baking soda in a medium bowl to combine.
- Using a stand mixer, whip the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high until thick and at least tripled in volume, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Mix carrots, coconut, walnuts, raisins, and remaining 1/2 cup coconut oil in a bowl.
- Reduce mixer speed to low. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 carrot mixture, then repeat until you have added the flour in three additions and the carrots in 2 additions, ending with flour.
- Divide batter between pans. Bake until cake is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.
while cakes are baking, make mousse
- Using an electric mixer, whip cream to stiff peaks. Transfer whipped cream to another bowl. Using the same bowl you whipped the cream in, (no need to clean it) whip the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Whip 1/4 of the cream into the cream cheese to lighten, then fold the rest of the whipped cream until combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to frost cake.
- place one cake round on serving plate or platter. Top with about 1 cup of mousse mixture and spread mousse to a single thick layer. Repeat with remaining 2 layers of cake. Using remaining mousse, frost lightly around the edges of the cake to make a “naked” cake look. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.