Carrot Cake

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This Carrot Cake with pineapple and coconut is a family favorite, made every year for all sorts of celebrations from birthdays to Easter! Originally from the Silver Palate cookbook, we've made several changes to make it easier and tastier.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Featured in 12 Desserts for Your Easter Table

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. What I really loved, was this easy carrot cake recipe.

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

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Carrot Cake with Pineapple and Coconut? Yes!

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

Of course, we’ve made changes over the years to that original carrot cake recipe, and now I can say the recipe that follows truly is the best carrot cake recipe.

The original recipe called for three 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.

Not a fan of pineapple and coconut? That’s ok! You can leave them out and the cake will turn out just fine.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake – A Family Favorite

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

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

After the requisite howls of exasperation, the carrot 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.

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Carrot Cake Recipe

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

Not a fan of pineapple and coconut? That's ok! You can leave them out and the cake will turn out just fine.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple

For the frosting:

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Extra whole or chopped walnuts, for topping

Special equipment:

Method

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

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

3 Bake: Pour batter into pans. Set on the middle rack of oven and bake at 350°F 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 completely on a wire cooling rack. 

5 Make cream cheese frosting: In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or using hand mixers, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Slowly sift in the powdered sugar and beat until mixture is free of lumps. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.

5 Frost and decorate the cake: Once cakes have cooled, remove from the pans and frost. Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts or arrange walnut halves in a crown around the top.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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184 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Cathay

    I made half of this recipe for my husband’s birthday. It was incredibly good. The lemon juice in the icing was perfect.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Audrey Austin

    Baking this cake for over 40 years, yes, recipe from nurse friend in Maryland. Difference:
    Only use 2 cups flour, 1 1/2tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 salt , 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp baking powder etc except salad oil instead of olive oil. Try it. Friends love it.
    Use 2 10” pans or 3 9” pans in original recipe.

  3. DeeDee

    I have a carrot cake recipe I have used forever but decided to try something new during this quarantine. A lot of cake for just my husband and I but I wrap slices and freeze for future indulgence. The cake was delicious and the frosting was absolutely delicious, although there wasn’t enough to frost the sides of the cake. And the frosting was quite runny. Not the consistency of your normal cream cheese frosting. But we absolutely loved the addition of the lemon juice!

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Beth L.

    Wow. This carrot cake was the best carrot cake we’ve ever had! The family was unanimous. My husband always requests carrot cake for his birthday, and I usually order it from a local bakery. But we are are in the midst of Covid-19, so I baked my very first layer cake ever. We will never order carrot cake again, because it will never compare to this fantastic recipe. Thank you, Elise!

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (2)
  5. Chichi

    Hi, My daughter is allergic to nuts would you recommend taking out the walnuts and adding raisins. Or what other item could you suggest i add instead of the walnuts. Then perhaps reduce the sugar by 1/2 a cup?
    This will be my first time making a carrot cake I hope it turns out well.

    Show Replies (1)
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