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Can you make a good gluten-free carrot cake from a box cake mix?

What are your thoughts about box cake mixes? Time-saver or time-waster?

Free & Easy Gluten-Free Carrot Cake Mix
Will the Free and Easy carrot cake mix actually be easy? Or free?

I grew up thinking they were a cheat's way forward and they didn't do you any favours when it came to the actual cake. For me it was a pound cake recipe and a wooden spoon all the way. Coo, it didn't half take a long time to mix!

But going gluten-free made me re-evaluate a lot of things. Cake came pretty close to the top of the list. I quickly realised I couldn't bake a decent one with my old recipes. Add a demanding job into the mix and suddenly time wasn't on my side.

Plus, seeing all the new gluten-free box mixes piqued my curiosity. Maybe cake mixes had got better. I knew gluten-free stuff had. Why couldn't cake mixes be the same?

Free & Easy carrot cake box mix
That's a pretty impressive allergen-free list!

But going gluten-free made me re-evaluate a lot of things. Cake came pretty close to the top of the list. I quickly realised I couldn't bake a decent one with my old recipes. Add a demanding job into the blend and suddenly time wasn't on my side. .

Carrot cake mix ingredients
Inside there are 2 little packets

Firstly, I was rather pleased to see I only needed to add 4 ingredients. Three if you don't count water. (Oil, milk and an egg, if you're wondering, or just oil & dairy-free milk if you want a vegan version.) You may remember me moaning not so long ago about finding a banana bread mix that required you to add bananas. I mean, come on! That's not banana bread mix. That's bread mix. Admittedly, real bananas wouldn't last very long in a box mix, but there are ways around the problem...

Freeze-dried carrots
Adding the freeze-dried carrots...

...And with the carrot cake box mix they've made them freeze-dried. (Carrots, that is, not bananas.) They looked a bit odd, admittedly, but who cares if you haven't actually had to peel and grate a carrot yourself?

Mixing the carrot cake
Mixing the carrot cake is swift work

A lot of liquid was required. Milk and water, both in quite large quantities. Now I know a good gluten-free cake needs more liquid than a regular one (it's thirsty work being gluten-free) but this seemed a bit much. Still, I did as I was told, and ended up with pancake batter.

Carrot cake mix being poured into tin
That's a very thin batter...

The next bit was even more dubious. The box reckons you make either 12 muffins or 2 x 20cm sandwich tins.

Being someone who bakes quite a bit, I was sure the mixture was only enough for one sandwich tin. Holding my breath, I lined two anyway and poured in the mixture.

Carrot cake in oven
Is it really cooking if there isn't a small person to check?

The recipe recommended 25 minutes on a low heat (160 Celsius) and was spot on with timing.

Cooling carrot cake
Warm carrot cake....mmmmmmmmmm!

They looked pretty good when they came out of the oven but...

Thin carrot cake
That's not quite the thickness I was hoping for...

As I suspected, they were wafer thin!

Adding yogurt to cake
I love yogurt or fromage frais as a filling

However, a few lashings of thick yogurt later and I was confident the cake would be an acceptable height in the end.

Carrot cake finished
The final cake!

Sure enough, a beautifully coloured cake sat before me with a wonderful aroma.

And it wasn't long before some small people and I tucked into a hefty slice. One of us even sneaked back for seconds (*blushes*).

Ali Walsh with carrot cake
Better get in quick before he pinches the cake!

So what's my verdict? On the plus side, everything is very quick and you get a nice-tasting cake, if slightly too moist (that'll be all that liquid).

But it's not a patch on making your own from scratch and I felt a part of me sighing as I took my first bite.

That said, if you're not someone who has a pantry stuffed with fresh goods, Free & Easy shows it's possible to make a cake using ingredients with a long shelf life (vegan milk lasts up to a month in the fridge). Plus, the great beauty of cake mixes is you can just shove all the ingredients in and mix them up in seconds. I reckon you could be box to oven in 6 minutes, including lining the cake tins, and that's pretty good when you're a coeliac who's short on time.


Hi! Great to have you here...

My name's Ali and I help people on gluten-free diets have a better, easier and healthier lifestyle. 

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