It’s around this time of year that I always start to get a bit impatient.  The first few days of spring are so very welcome but as soon as I’ve had a taste of the longer days and warm (!) sunshine, I’m desperate for more.

I always think that April seems one of the most tedious months, second only to January. My excitement, therefore, at waking up this morning and seeing ‘Thursday 1 May’ displayed on my phone should not be underestimated. Not least because it means that the communal heating in our block of flats should finally be turned off and I’ll no longer have to angst over the fact that the radiators are on and all the windows are open.

I have a bad habit of wishing my life away. Not on a particularly grand scale but in the way that I count down the hours until the end of the day and focus on how long it is until the weekend, rather than on the here and now. In yearning for summer, I write off the spring and lose another few months.

Carrot and Pistachio Cakes 1

Carrot and Pistachio Cakes 2

I’ve written before about my indifference towards carrot cake.  It’s not like I’d turn down a slice if you offered me one but it would never be my first choice of cake. In fact, short of anything involving bananas (ugh), it would probably be my last choice.

This is my latest attempt to try and see the point of carrot cake and, I think, I might just about be getting there.  The beauty of this recipe really is in the lack of flour. The crunchy and nibbly ground pistachios and ground almonds give the cake a bit of bite while keeping each bite sticky and fragrant. There’s a subtle spice from the nutmeg and ginger and an earthy sweetness from the carrot. Everything is brought together with rich, vanilla-flecked mascarpone and finished off with a scattering of chopped pistachios.

I don’t know who decided that carrot cake was associate with spring. Is it as simple as carrots = bunnies = easter?  In which case, I suppose that I should have posted this recipe a couple of weeks ago. It seems fitting for this time of year though; a celebration of the new season’s produce (even if the carrots in the shops at the moment are most likely still the dregs of last year’s harvest),  full of vibrant orange and greens. For someone who has a tendency to lose themselves in anticipation of the future, it’s a good reminder to live a little more in the moment.

Carrot and Pistachio Cakes 3

flourless carrot and pistachio cakes {gluten free}

Yield: Makes about 24 little cakes

There's nothing particularly complicated about this recipe but there are just a couple of crucial points to bear in mind. Firstly, it's imperative that you really squeeze out as much liquid from your carrots as possible. I decided to see if this step was optional during one of my tests and learnt the hard way that it wasn't. It's also important to grease your tin well - the texture of these cakes makes them a little more inclined to stick than usual. I tend to melt some butter and use a pastry brush to paint a couple of layers but you could use oil or just save yourself the stress and use paper cupcake liners. The lightly sweetened mascarpone is a rather nice topping but you could make a more traditional cream cheese frosting if you prefer. To keep it dairy free, I think some whipped coconut cream would be pretty perfect.


    For the cakes
  • 2 smallish carrots, grated (about 140g or1 1/3 cups)
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 100g (a very scant 1/2 cup) demerara sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 100g (1 cup) ground pistachios (make sure to measure after you've ground)
  • 65g (2/3 cup) ground almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • For the frosting:
  • 150g (3/4 cup) mascarpone (homemade or otherwise)
  • 2 teaspoons icing sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • Chopped pistachio kernals, for decoration.


  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F and grease two twelve-hole mini cupcake tins exceedingly well. Grate the carrots and squeeze as much water out of them as possible; set aside on a couple of paper towels to dry off.
  2. To make the cakes, beat together the oil and sugar until light and well-mixed. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, continuing to beat well.
  3. Fold in the grated carrots ground pistachios, ground almonds, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder and salt. Dollop heaped teaspoons of mixture in the prepared cupcake tins and bake for about 20 minutes until slightly risen and golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing.
  4. When the cakes have cooled, make the sweetened mascarpone by beating together the cheese, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. Top the little cakes and sprinkle with chopped pistachio.


Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe.
38 Responses to "flourless carrot and pistachio cakes {gluten free}"
  1. April is one of those months I look forward to being over with as well – it’s “officially” spring but it never feels like it and there’s always a ton of rain : /
    These cakes are perfect, Kathryn! Loving the flourless-ness of it, and the olive oil component! I’ve been baking with olive oil non-stop and I am totally loving it.
    Happy May, friend! xo

  2. Franziska says:

    These look lovely Kathryn!
    Since I am allergic to pistachios, do you reckon these would also work if I used only almonds?

    • kathryn says:

      Absolutely! The original Nigella recipe used almonds only (and a lot of other bits and pieces that you may or may not want to include!)

      • Franziska says:

        Great news! And thanks for the quick reply! Off to buy carrots once the shops re-open tomorrow. (Leave it to public holidays to hinder spontaneous baking.)

  3. Jenny @ BAKE says:

    These look beautiful! carrot and pistachio sound like an amazing combination.

  4. Medeja says:

    Carrot and pistachio.. it actually sounds like a delicious combination!

  5. These cakes are just perfect little bites, aren’t they! I love what gorgeous and vibrant colour pistachios add!

  6. Yessssss! These little cakes look so yummy!

  7. These look fabulous! Pistachio, almond, ginger and nutmeg are some of my favourite flavours – just delicious.

  8. Tieghan says:

    I cannot totally relate to dying for the weekend, earning for summer and writing off Spring. I need to try and leaving in the moment a bit more!

    Adore these cupcakes. Pistachios are a love of mine!

  9. Love these little cakes, Kathryn. I’ve never been that fond of carrot cake, but the surprising addition of pistachios have me craving a bite.

  10. These little cakes look great! I’m pretty ambivalent about carrot cake, and it’s usually my last choice for cake. My husband loves it though, so I’m keen to try making it more often. Thanks for sharing a gluten-free version!

  11. April/beginning May here in Greece is just wonderful (sorry!), but I’ll be back to the UK’s rather dubious Spring next week. Blah! This post is a great reminder to me to try to live more in the moment, because I’m terrible at not doing that, too. The little cakes are beautiful. Carrot and pistachio sounds like a perfect combo.

  12. cynthia says:

    I have that exact same tendency to wish my life away, Kathryn! And I kick myself for it all the time! Love reading your posts because they always remind me (in the most soothing ways) of the best parts about life and the little things we could be more appreciative of. These little cakes are perfection — I adore the touch of whimsy from the pistachios. Happy May to you, lovely friend <3

  13. It is so hard not to rush to tomorrow, I know just what you mean. And also ps I literally yesterday was looking at the idea of flourless carrot cakes, so I’m taking this post as a sign. Sounds right up my alley!


    Also, gorgeous.

  15. Living in the moment – oh, how often do I find myself in a position as far away as it gets from that… Totally get your point! Other then that a flourless carrot cake sounds like a genius idea ;-) and no, I don’t think the shortage of flour is the most beautiful thing in this recipe – ’cause that spot is already the one saved for your photos! They look so great and appealing, I wish I could grab one right from the screen! :)

  16. Erika says:

    Lovely little cakes and love the addition of pistachios… I can completely relate to being impatient.. wishing the day (and work week away) so guilty of this. I adore your post so much..

  17. Yes please! I need one of these immediately. (Like, ASAP. Seriously, I might die without one.)
    I have such a weakness for anything carrot cake + pistachio, so really, these are a must.

  18. These little cupcakes look so sweet. Always surprised when I stop by here and there is another amazing gluten free treat on offer. Fantastic!

  19. Skye says:

    I completely agree – carrot cake doesn’t really inspire me that much either. Although I made one earlier this year with stem ginger and almonds that I did enjoy… Was quite surprised.
    That said, these look utterly divine. Love that you’ve added pistachios – a nice exotic touch that has me rethinking my whole position on carrot cake… Plus gluten free so virtually a health food… Xx

  20. I’ve been waiting for this recipe since I saw it on instragram – these look delish!

  21. Carrot cake is so often overbearingly sweet in my opinion. So sweet that you can’t taste the other goodness–sweet carrots! These guys look a bit more my speed.
    As for the spring association, I think it’s just a cake based on mostly winter storage products in the spirit of spring–nuts, dried fruit, and then carrots, which also could have been stored through the winter. All made into a celebratory cake with fresh flavors!

  22. Loving the pistachio carrot combo! These cakes sound so amazing, and the fact that they’re flourless makes them even better. Pinned!

  23. Joanne says:

    Nut-based cakes are some of my favorites!! And while I love carrot cake, I can totally understand your indifference. Though I hope these persuaded you over to the LOVE side of the spectrum a little!

  24. Oooh, I love these little carrot cakes! Pistachios are my secret obsession so I really like that you’ve used them in your batter. The only downfall is that raw pistachios are so expensive, at least here in Finland….BUT I just brought a big bag full of them from my recent trip to Germany ;) Also, mascarpone frosting!

    Wishing you a lovely May and spring, Kathryn! Let’s all try to live more in the here and now (so hard!).

  25. I too am guilty of looking forward to events in the future rather than the here and now (but I wonder if it is all just part of human nature?). The first of May has special significance for me too- it’s my birthday. It truly is a lovely date to have a birthday- the evenings are longer, Spring has sprung and the bank holiday is round the corner. These look really, really lovely little cakes – a great way of celebrating a bank holiday weekend

  26. Kelly-Louise says:

    I usually bake carrot cake, called “Rübli Kuchen” in Germany, with almonds, but I really have to try it with pistachios! Looks soooo good!

    Could you check out my blog and follow it on bloglovin? I will follow back!
    A have a new post every day!

    Stay fancy!
    xxx Kelly-Louise

  27. I totally agree with you Kathryn, I was pretty eager fro April to be over, now we get to enjoy MAY!!

    These cupcakes look fantastic. I have never baked anything gluten free before, but I have been wanting to for a while now, and I am pretty sure these cupcakes will be my first attempt.

  28. I wish I had a problem turning down carrot cake – but it’s one of my favorites. And the pistachio just put it over the top! I’m there!

  29. Eva says:

    These cakes looks fantastic and you’re right! We have to live the present !!

  30. I always look forward to finding out what yummy gluten free treats your baking.. these look fantastic

  31. I have yet to try carrot cake! I love the flourless idea and the pistachios on top are perfection! My favorite nut!

  32. Shelly says:

    I love all you’re bakes!!
    One question with the carrot cakes can I use coconut sugar instead of the brown sugar??
    Thank you! ????

  33. Betty G says:

    Hello, Kathryn.
    If I needed to substitute the ground almonds in most of your recipes, what would you recommend?
    I really love your recipes because they use simple ingredients (and I really love almonds too), but my mother-in-law is allergic to them. I want to do something everyone in the family can eat, since my husband has a gluten and dairy intolerance (and I dislike the taste of pecans).
    More pistachios in this one, perhaps? Or which other nut/seed could be used?
    Thank you for sharing and inspiring!

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