Carrot Cake

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.

The best carrot cake recipe with a slice removed from the layered cake.
Sally Vargas

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!"

A slice of a carrot cake with pineapple.
Sally Vargas

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.

A plate with a slice of carrot cake on it.
Sally Vargas

My Family’s Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe

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.

An easy carrot cake recipe with a couple slices missing from the cake.
Sally Vargas

Watch How to Make This Carrot Cake Recipe

1:19

Carrot Cake

What Is the Best Type of Pineapple to Use in This Recipe?

We prefer canned crushed pineapple that's been drained. If you only have pineapple chunks or rings, just chop and drain them before adding to the batter. Finely chopped fresh pineapple also works.

No pineapple? No problem!

You can leave it out and the cake will be fine. Or you can substitute a cup of unsweetened applesauce. The chunkier the better to preserve the texture, but any applesauce will do.

Decorating Your Carrot Cake

Feeling fancy? Get some marzipan, tint it orange and green with food coloring, and shape tiny carrots to place atop the cake. If you're feeling less ambitious, press chopped nuts on the side of the cake. Or just artfully arrange whole walnut or pecan halves around the edge of the top. The possibilities are endless, and there's no wrong or right way. So, go wild!

Tips to Help Make Your Carrot Cake Even Better

  • Substitute the walnuts for pecans.
  • Toast the nuts at 350°F until aromatic, about 5 to 7 minutes, before adding them to the batter.
  • Don't have olive oil? Use vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil.
  • For a more spiced cake, use 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, allspice, clove, or ginger to replace part of the cinnamon.
  • Sub pumpkin pie or apple pie spice for the cinnamon.
  • Don't over-mix your batter; just combine until moistened.
  • Don't use a blunt table knife to check the doneness of the cake; it'll cause it to buckle. A toothpick or wooden skewer is best.
  • Look through the comments for other tasty ideas add-ins and swaps.

How to Store Leftover Carrot Cake

Store the leftover carrot cake at room temperature for a few days if it's cool in your kitchen. If not, put it in the fridge, covered, where it'll keep up to a week, though it's best eaten sooner. Let the carrot cake come to room temperature (30 to 60 minutes) before serving.

Did you know you can freeze carrot cake? Slice the cake, then freeze just until the frosting is firm to the touch. Double-wrap each slice snugly with plastic wrap and place in a zip top freezer bag. They'll keep this way up to 4 months (they would never last that long in our freezer!) To serve, remove the wrap and thaw at room temperature, about 2 to 3 hours.

Love Carrot Cake? Check Out These Recipes!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Carrot Cake

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 75 mins
Servings 12 to 16 servings

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 carrots, finely grated
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • For the frosting:
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at 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

Method

  1. Preheat oven and prepare cake pans:

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 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. Combine until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in chopped walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.

    Batter in a bowl for an easy carrot cake recipe.
    Sally Vargas
  3. Pour batter into pans and 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 cakes comes out clean.

    Two cake pans filled with batter to make the best carrot cake recipe.
    Sally Vargas
  4. Cool on wire cooling racks:

    Remove the cakes for the oven and set on wire racks until cooled completely.

  5. Make cream cheese frosting:

    While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, 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.

    The bowl of a stand mixer with frosting inside to make the best carrot cake recipe.
    Sally Vargas
  6. 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.

    A whole carrot cake with pineapple on a platter.
    Sally Vargas