Pumpkin Carrot Cupcakes & Cake

Pumpkin Carrot Cake. Or cupcake. Gluten-free. Like carrot cake, only more tipsy.

Autumn is officially here. I know this because holiday decorations have showed up in full force at Target and since it’s October 3, Halloween candy is almost all gone.  But it’s still the season for pumpkin everything. And carrot cake with pumpkin and spice is a tasty change from plain old plain. Because I could not decide if this should be a cake or a cupcake, we have both. 

Be sure to read through the recipe before you begin because you’ll want to allow time for the raisins to soak in the rum/water mixture – they plump up nicely and when they’re processed with the carrots the whole thing comes out with an evenly grated crumb – my own preference.  I don’t enjoy digging into a cake only to find it loaded with chewy raisins. Reminds me of fruit cake. This cake, while loaded with carrots, pumpkin and raisins, is nothing at all like a fruit cake. It isn’t as dense, nor as sweet.

The rum is perfect behind-the-scenes flavor for the cake, but if you don’t want to use alcohol, then try the same amount of  juice as a substitute and add water as directed.

The cream cheese frosting contains a little bit of pumpkin and spice complimenting the flavors in the cake – and a little bit of frosting goes a long way so no need to completely cover the cake. No special decorating skills necessary. In fact, piping the frosting with little blobs or covering it with some toasted chopped pecans is a great way to dress it up and call it an autumn dessert.

When making the frosting, be sure to keep the cream cheese and butter slightly chilled so they don’t make the icing all melty. Also, be careful when adding pumpkin puree – one tablespoon at a time until the frosting consistency is just right. If you’ve gone a little overboard and it is too thin – the 411 rescue is to add more powdered sugar (sift the sugar for best results) until you’re back at the right consistency. Whip just until it comes together – further whipping warms up the cream cheese and butter making it susceptible to oh, say, becoming soup. If you wanted to use ready-made frosting, it would be ok with me. I’ve been known to do that from time to time. Dress up the canned frosting with a little pumpkin pie spice.

If you love carrot cake or cupcakes, this edition should be a winner. Here’s to autumn (and if anyone can tell me where all the O’Henry bars went, I’d like some for Halloween: Hello, Target?!).

Pumpkin Carrot Cake. Or cupcake. Gluten-free. Like carrot cake, only more tipsy.

Pumpkin Carrot Cupcakes & Cake
The cake is going to be moist because of all those carrots and mushed raisins soaked in rum. Be sure to whip the frosting just until it comes together and then stop - making sure the butter and cream cheese are still slightly chilled for best results. And using a pre-made commercial icing is fine - it makes the whole process a little quicker. Add a touch of pumpkin pie spice to the commercial frosting to give it a little kick. Also, be sure to toast the pecans for optimal flavor. Makes one 9-inch layer cake or 18-21 cupcakes.
  • 150 grams dark raisins (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons rum (or orange juice)
  • 285 grams carrots, shredded (3 cups loosely packed)
  • 140 grams pumpkin puree (1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger powder
  • 100 grams granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 150 grams brown sugar (3/4 cup)
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 85 grams buttermilk (1/3 cup)
  • 115 grams canola oil (1/2 cup)
  • 260 grams Canteen blend flour (2 cups) (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 120 grams toasted pecans, roughly chopped (1 cup)
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 115 grams unsalted butter, chilled but not hard (8 tablespoons)
  • 57 grams cream cheese, cold pieces (4 tablespoons)
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 500 grams powdered sugar, sifted (about 4 ½ cups)
  • 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  1. Add rum to raisins in a small bowl. Add water until liquid reaches the top of the raisins. Soak at minimum 30 minutes and then drain the liquid (save for another use or discard).
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place liners in two 12-count cupcake pans or grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of the 9-inch pans with parchment so the cake releases easily.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor or using a hand grater, shred carrots. Place shredded carrots, plumped (and drained) raisins, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger in the bowl of a food processor with a cutting blade. Pulse until the mixture is fully combined and the carrots and raisins are small pieces – the mixture will look gritty and smell great. In a large mixing bowl using a whisk, blend together sugar and eggs until light and frothy. Blend in buttermilk and canola oil until fully combined. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Beat until batter is smooth and light. Add the carrot pumpkin mixture and fold until fully combined and the batter looks like a happy orange pumpkin. Fold in chopped pecans. Scoop into liners or cake pans about ⅔ full.
  4. For cupcakes: bake 12 minutes and rotate pans. Bake 6-9 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out with dry crumbs. Wet crumbs mean it should bake a few minutes more, but dry crumbs will mean it is done. It should be about 200° in the center using an instant read thermometer. For cake: bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with dry crumbs (see above). Cool cupcakes or cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes or until the pan can be handled without an oven mitt. Remove cupcakes to a rack to cool completely. Flip cake upside down onto clean parchment rounds on a rack and cool completely before frosting.
  5. Whip butter and cream cheese just until combined. Beat in pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar on low until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree one tablespoon at a time until the consistency is right: thick but spreadable. Whip on high until the frosting turns a lighter color, about 15 seconds - don't over whip or it will become too thin. Pipe or spoon onto cupcakes. Split icing in half and apply to the cake. Add some chopped toasted pecans to the frosting and then top with another cake layer. Spoon or pipe frosting on the top layer. Optional: sprinkle cupcakes or the top of the cake with toasted pecans.
Canteen flour blend is 2 parts superfine brown rice flour plus 1 part each superfine white rice flour and tapioca flour by weight. See About Flour or Resources: Flour for more information.

Pumpkin Carrot Cake. Or cupcake. Gluten-free. Like carrot cake, only more tipsy.


  1. I made this as a “sneaky” GF recipe – My mother is GF, but my family isn’t. These cakes were so delicious and moist, my whole family loved them, and were shocked they were GF. Thank you for the excellent (precise!) recipe!