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Easy Gluten Free Cake Mix Carrot Cake Hack

by Donna Hann on 11/05/2016

GF Cake Mix Carrot Cake Hack

I’m typically a purist when it comes to baking. Call me a snob, but I generally don’t use mixes in my kitchen. In my opinion, it takes just as much effort to whip up a cake (or brownies, or pancakes, or bread) from scratch as it does to open a box of mix and add the eggs, oil, or other items listed in the directions on the back of the box. Now certainly I understand that not everyone enjoys being in the kitchen as much as I do, or gets as much satisfaction as I get from creating something from ingredients that on their own might be…ick. Think about it, you’d never eat baking soda, salt, raisins, carrots, oil or eggs individually for dessert, would you? But when married with a few other items from your pantry you’ve got a fabulous cake.  Perhaps a carrot cake? One of my all-time Fall favorites.

Gluten Free Cake Mix Carrot Cake Hack

But this week I stretched myself. Just as some might be stretched by baking from scratch, I was stretched baking from a mix. Not one way right or wrong. Just different approaches to a similar outcome. Deliciousness.

I purchased some mixes online a few weeks ago when King Arthur Flour announced they were having a sale, including all of their gluten free mixes.  I already trusted the brand and have had fun playing around with their gluten free all purpose flour so I  thought I’d load up on yellow cake mix, brownie mix, and pancake mix. If you haven’t checked out King Arthur Flour for their high quality ingredients, trusted recipes, or helpful videos, then I suggest you put it on your radar. Take it from the baking snob. {Snort}

Gluten Free Cake Mix Carrot Cake Hack

My parents invited me to join them for dinner this week as they had asked a long time family friend over that they thought I might enjoy seeing. Mary used to be my father’s secretary when he worked as a veterinarian for the OARDC. She was already a fixture in my family’s life for several years before I was even born. She and her late husband, Ivan, were members of a private fishing club and they would invite us to fish, swim, and picnic with them regularly. I have very fond memories of walking the banks of the lake fishing for blue gill or swimming in the “swimming pond” (the difference between the fishing pond and the swimming pond was simply fish-or the absence of them-at least that’s what they told me). I also loved going to Mary’s house because she had the largest and fluffiest cats. As a lover of my own barn kitties as a little girl I didn’t know too many people who had indoor cats and I thought it was just fabulous.

Prepare the Cake Plate with a Dollop of Frosting

I told my Mom I would bring a dessert. Kind of a given when it comes to me coming for dinner at your house (hint, hint). Wanting to make my standard carrot cake recipe but running a little short on time, I took inspiration from King Arthur Flour once again. On their site they feature a carrot cake recipe using their yellow cake mix. Problem solved. I had my gluten free yellow cake mix in my pantry already. Truth be told, my pantry is too full of other ingredients I love to buy and try out, and it was still sitting on the counter awaiting a home. So into a Gluten Free Cake Mix Carrot Cake Hack it went.

Simple GF Cake Mix Carrot Cake Collage

A sheet cake is delicious, a two layer cake, impressive, but a four layer cake…a stunner. It truly takes the same amount of batter to create any of them, so why not go all out? For this recipe, I simply divided the batter between two 8″ round pans, baked them, and after they had cooled completely, sliced them each in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Voila, 4 layer cake!

Easy Gluten Free Cake Mix Carrot Cake Hack
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A gluten free yellow cake mix turns into a show stopping four layer carrot cake to celebrate a friend's 100th birthday.
Recipe type: Cake
Serves: 16-20
For the Cake
  • ½ cup oil, olive or vegetable
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoons nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoons ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 box King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans, divided
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, shredded
For the Frosting
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 2 -3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 8" diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Lightly grease parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat oil and eggs until combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl as needed. Add spices, salt, and vanilla and mix again to combine.
  3. Measure the baking soda and dump it into the opened cake mix bag. ....Pour the cake mix/baking soda mixture into the bowl and blend on low speed until almost combined. Mix in ½ cup pecans, raisins, and carrots.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely. Slice each cake in half horizontally, creating 4 layers. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature)
For the Frosting:
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add enough powdered sugar to create a spreadable (not runny) frosting. Mix in salt and vanilla.
  2. Place a small dollop of frosting on the top of your cake plate to create a "glue" to hold the cake in place. Top with 1 layer of cake. Spread ¾ - 1 cup frosting on first layer, spreading just to the edge of the cake. Top with another cake layer. Spread with ¾ - 1 cup frosting. Continue until all four layers have been used. With a small amount of the remaining frosting, spread a very thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake creating a "crumb coat" to seal any crumbs away from your final layer of frosting. If there is time, refrigerate the four frosting filled layers for an hour or more before generously spreading the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Lastly, sprinkle the remaining ½ cup pecans around the outer layer of the top of the cake. Refrigerate until serving. Can be made 2 days ahead.
You can choose to make 1 two layer 8" round cake, 1 four layer 8" cake, 1 9"x13" sheet cake, or 24 cupcakes, adjusting the time as follows: 45 min, 45 min, 50 minutes, 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe

And here is Mary – Spunky, active, happy, bright, and full of stories to share. Happy 100th birthday, Mary! And I would love to take you up on that offer to go fishing at the lake again.

Mary and Me

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