Carrot Cake

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Years ago, when I was still in college, someone gave me a copy of the Silver Palate cookbook. I remember many of the recipes being over the top, both for my palate and budget at the time, and come to think of it, my cooking skill as well, but I still loved this book.

The carrot cake recipe I photocopied and sent to my parents, with the note, “Make this cake, it’s great!”.

Carrot cake had always been my favorite, and this recipe? Who ever heard of putting coconut AND pineapple in a carrot cake? 25 years ago, no one I knew, but the combination was fantastic.

carrot-cake-horiz-a-1800

Of course, we’ve made changes over the years to the recipe. The original recipe called for 3 cups of sugar (too much even for me) and for cooking the carrots first (not necessary in my opinion). Sometimes I added raisins or left out the nuts, but always included the coconut and pineapple.

My father has made this cake for my birthday countless times, even driving hours to deliver it when I lived in Palo Alto or San Francisco.

Carrot Cake

Today we made it together (that frosting job is mine, thank you) and the cake even survived a “D’oh!” moment when 3 minutes after it went in the oven dad realized he had forgotten to add the coconut.

After the requisite howls of exasperation, the cakes came out of the oven, batter back into the mixing bowl, coconut added, batter back in the pans, and pans back in the oven. No harm no foul. Cake lived, beautifully, I might add.

Carrot Cake Recipe

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  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 12-16

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped (more whole or chopped for topping)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 cups of finely grated carrots
  • 1 cup of drained crushed pineapple

Frosting:

  • 12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 9 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
  • 3 3/4 cups of confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9 inch cake pans. Cut out rounds of wax paper and place at bottoms of cake pans. Butter the top of the wax paper rounds.

2 Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in chopped walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.

3 Pour batter into pans. Set on the middle rack of oven and bake for 45-50 minutes (shift positions of cakes front-to-back if necessary about halfway through), until edges have pulled away from sides and a toothpick or sharp knife tip inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a cake rack.

4 To prepare frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl. Slowly sift in the confectioners sugar and beat until mixture is free of lumps. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.

5 Once cakes have cooled, frost. Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts or arrange walnut halves in a crown around the top.

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Carrot Cake

Showing 4 of 129 Comments

  • Jocelyn

    Hi Elise! This carrot cake is Amazing!! I’ve made this recipe many times and always receive tons of compliments. I would like to make it for a friend that is gluten-free and I was wondering if you had a gluten-free version?

  • Karen Parmelee

    Hi Elise! There sure are a glut of carrot cake recipes out there but I know from experience that I can always count on your recipes to be the best of the bunch! I would like to make this cake for a friend for Christmas. I will need to ship it, however, which causes unique concerns.. I’ve used KFC paper cake pans in the past to do this so no worries on that front but I am concerned about shipping a cream cheese-based frosting. If I shipped it to arrive in two days, would there be any health risks? Carrot cake is his favorite and as a last resort, I could buy a store bought version and include it in the box for him to frost but we all know that won’t taste nearly as good as homemade. What would you advise? Thanks in advance! (I also appreciated your gift giving ideas list email today with Christmas just around the corner!)

  • Eve

    Hi Elise! I’ve tried this several times and I love how it tastes! The only thing I have problem with is that the cake is not easy to cut. It tends to get crumbly so I can’t get a perfect slice. Any guess on why this happen? Any suggestion? Thanks, Elise!

  • Renee

    AH HA! A carrot cake that uses pineapple. I don’t know the history of carrot cake, I thought pineapple was as standard as the carrots themselves but I found many recipes where it was omitted! I’m eager to make this as a wonderful fall dessert! I enjoyed a good laugh over you & your Dad adding an ingredient after the cake was already in the oven!! I’ve done THAT before!!

  • Carol McCormack

    As many have commented – this cake is very forgiving. I made it, as directed by recipe with the following modifications: 1) left out the nuts 2) substituted 1 cup of fine petite dice apple that I microwaved for a minute or so in place of the pineapple 3) added a little nutmeg and 4) made 1.5 x the frosting. I am not at all a huge frosting fan, but I don’t see 1x frosting giving coverage to the cake.

    Turned out gorgeous! So moist. Lovely flavor, Texture from the coconut makes it so special. Wouldn’t describe it as easy to cut – but the fantastic flavor makes you say, “who cares!” Next time I’ll use the pineapple – I bet the addition of flavor is fantastic.

    Thanks, as always, Elise. Your blog is my go-to for new things to cook for my family. I’ve used buckets and buckets of your recipes and they have all been huge hits and proved the hard work, home-kitchen testing and personal commitment you put into your site and recipes. Not one has failed me. Thank you. -C

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