Carrot Cake

DessertBakingCakeCarrot

The best carrot cake recipe, with walnuts, coconut, and pineapple, and a cream cheese frosting. Our family favorite.

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. 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!”.

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? 25 years ago, no one I knew, but the combination was fantastic.

Best Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting and walnuts on platter

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 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.

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.

Easy Carrot Cake decorated with walnuts on plate

Today we made this carrot cake 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 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.

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
  • 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 and prepare cake pans: 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 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 on a cake rack.

4 Make cream cheese frosting: Beat 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 Frost and decorate the cake: Once cakes have cooled, 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.

More from Elise

Best Carrot Cake with pineapple coconut and walnuts

134 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Carol

    I made this cake for Easter and forgot to add the carrots. Since it was also April Fools Day, I called it an intentional prank. :) OMG this/these was/were FANTASTIC!!!! Even without the carrots! I halved the recipe, mixed it by hand, (no mixer needed) and made cupcakes out of it. I used the cream cheese frosting from the carrot cake cupcake recipe on this site and it was absolutely perfect. 1/2 c butter, 8oz. cream cheese & 1 cup confectioners sugar! Everyone raved about these and the leftovers were just as good the next day!

  • LJS

    The cake tastes much better when you use vegetable oil as opposed to olive oil.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • 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!

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