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Classic Carrot Cake with Pineapple, Coconut and Pecans

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This Classic Carrot Cake Recipe chock full of carrots, nuts, and pineapple is my absolute favorite dessert. With a delectable cream cheese frosting, it’s impossible to resist! A birthday favorite.

My mom introduced me to a new dessert craze WAY back in the 1970s. She and my dad had devoured slices of carrot cake with pineapple a trip to St. Paul, then brought home the recipe to try in our kitchen.

Slice of Classic Carrot Cake on a white dessert plate

Classic Carrot Cake with Pineapple, Coconut, and Pecans

My rendezvous with carrot cake began with one innocent bite. As a teen, I wasn’t sure about a dessert named after a vegetable. But my mom had turned us on to exotic fare (at least for Iowa) like paella, baklava, wontons, and more. My hesitancy only lasted only a brief second. Carrot cake with pineapple, coconut, and pecans with cream cheese frosting quickly became my new favorite dessert.

Classic Carrot Cake with pecans on the sides on a white serving plate

Old Fashioned Carrot Cake Recipe

One of the carrot cake recipes my mom tested on us back in the 1970s was from The New Basics Cookbook. It became the gold standard in my eyes. I’ve taken this old fashioned carrot cake to a retreat in Harbor Springs, Michigan, a massive Halloween party in Brown County, Indiana, a dear friend’s 50th birthday party and to the cardiac cath lab where Bill works.

Whether I bake up a half batch of this Classic Carrot Cake with Pineapple, Coconut and Pecans in a 9 x 13 or go all out with this layered gem, it’s well-loved by all those who indulge. To make those long trips, I freeze the cake and place it in a cooler for the trek. The recipients are always delighted I went to the extra effort. The pictured carrot cake stayed right in my fridge until I served it to our friends and family at our annual 4th of July cookout last night. A few lucky guests even took some slices home.

More Carrot Cake Recipes You’ll Love:

If you love carrot cake AND caramel, this Caramel Filled Carrot Cake will rock your world! Save this recipe for Easter or a special occasion. But if cheesecake is more your thing, how about this Carrot Cake Cheesecake from Taste and Tell? It looks fabulous!

Or if something more bite-sized is appealing, I’d recommend these Giant Carrot Cake Cookie Cups from Wishes and Dishes. These Carrot Cake Scones with Maple Cream Cheese Glaze from A Beautiful Plate are a way to eat carrot cake for breakfast or brunch and my Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies are a yummy portable carrot cake dessert!

Slice of Classic Carrot Cake in a white plate with a red handled fork

Tips for Making the Best Carrot Cake

As a self-proclaimed carrot cake aficionado, this is the best carrot cake out of all I’ve tasted. Dense, moist and filled with just the right amount of nuts, coconut, and pineapple, it always gets rave reviews.

  • PRO-Tip: Toast the nuts to bring out the natural oils, which makes them more flavorful. If you don’t like or have an allergy to nuts, they can certainly be omitted.
  • This cake calls for cooked puréed carrots, which allows them to be evenly distributed throughout the batter. I cook and drain about 2 cups of sliced carrots, drain and puree for the 1 1/3 cups needed in the recipe. If your recipe calls for grated carrots, grate them finely as that will encourage them to be dispersed well, compared to coarsely grated.
  • Pineapple might sound like a weird addition if you’re new to carrot cake, but it works well. It adds sweetness, moisture and also contains an enzyme that tenderizes proteins, which certainly won’t hurt!
  • This is a rare cake that always bakes up flat for me, making it super easy to layer and frost.
  • Carrot cake, either frosted or unfrosted, freezes well. You can freeze the unfrosted layers, well wrapped, for up to 3 months, but it will probably last longer.
  • A frosted cake freezes well, too. I’d suggest putting the frosted cake in the freezer for a few hours to let the frosting harden, then wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze. You’ll want to defrost in the refrigerator.

You Might Need:

Classic carrot cake photo and text collage

More Delicious Layer Cakes

When it comes to celebrations like birthdays or anniversaries, a layer cake is perfectly apropos. Carrot cake would be my first choice if I didn’t have to bake my own birthday cake, but the rest of my family prefers chocolate or red velvet. Here are some of our favorite layer cake recipes:

Classic Carrot Cake

Classic Carrot Cake

A loaded two layer carrot cake with a dreamy cream cheese frosting

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield 16 servings

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups well chopped pecans (plus more to garnish if desired)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 1/3 cups pureed cooked carrots*
  • 3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple

Frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease two 9 inch cake pans; line with parchment. Grease parchment.
  2. Sift or whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat till well combined. Mix in nuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.
  3. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 30-40 minutes (I have really heavy cake pans and mine take closer to one hour). Edges should pull away from sides of pan and toothpick inserted into center of cake should come out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks. Cool about 3 hours before icing.
  4. To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter till smooth. Sift powdered sugar into bowl and mix well till no lumps remain. Add vanilla and mix well.

Notes

Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

  • Cook 2 cups of sliced carrots, drain and puree to make 1 1/3 cups pureed carrots.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 720Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 383mgCarbohydrates: 86gFiber: 3gSugar: 64gProtein: 6g

HOW MUCH DID YOU LOVE THIS RECIPE?

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60 comments on “Classic Carrot Cake with Pineapple, Coconut and Pecans”

  1. Your carrot cake has been around!! haha An all-time fave! Great travel tips!

  2. I love carrot cake too but not as much as my mother-in-law. She might eat it with her knife and wipe her face on the tablecloth but she’ll be ready for a second piece of cake. 🙂

  3. Very happy 4th of July to you. I am the same as you! My mother introduced me to the ‘new best thing’ in the early 80’s. It was love at first sight and a recipe a cooked so often it was memorised. I do love a moist carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Especially one with pineapple and pecan. And I used to put chopped pecans in the frosting as well! Beautiful cake, Liz xx

  4. I wish I had this cake as my centerpiece for dinner today, now that would be great:@)

  5. Ah yes, such a classic cake. And Liz I have got to find out your secret for perfect slices.

  6. That is one very fine looking carrot cake. It’s so strange, my guys do not really like cake…I can make a cake and it will sit here until I toss most of it as they just aren’t “cake eaters” as they say. A pie will disappear in a couple of hours. I have no idea where cookies go but when I go to get one they are always gone. That said, Carrot Cake is the one cake they all love and will eat anytime anyplace. I think it is the standard for all cakes, a beautifully made carrot cake, and yours looks just perfect! Happy 4th Weekend…you would not believe the view of the fireworks from my living room, and best of all, no traffic getting home! lol It was like a private show right out my windows. I hope Izzy survived and wasn’t too afraid of fireworks going off, used to make our dogs just shake and shiver when they heard fireworks.

  7. Good idea to freeze the cake before traveling. That’s actually what momofuku does when shipping their cakes. Plus I wouldn’t want anything to happen to this beauty!

  8. Look amazing Lizzy!!
    I have to try this love this:)
    xoxo

  9. what a gorgeous cake! I’m loving the retro recipe too, but three cups of sugar??? Looks like it’s totally worth the splurg!

  10. Wow, look at all those yummy ingredients peaking out of the slice of cake. Now that’s what I call a fantastic carrot cake. 🙂

  11. My mom used to make carrot cake when I was growing up. Haven’t had one in years. Don’t tell but yours looks better.

  12. I love the way you pressed nuts into the cream cheese icing, LIz. Absolutely stunning!

  13. If that was the only cake left on the planet I would be happy, I adore carrot cake and yours looks top notch as always!!

  14. Carrot cake has always been Grumpy’s request for his birthday. He has an obvious love affair with this cake also 🙂

  15. Your carrot cake looks amazing with all the pecan nuts!

  16. What a cake, those towering layers look irresistible!

  17. From the first piece of carrot cake I ever had, I was in love! It’s my all time favorite! Yours is just beautiful! Great choice for food that travels!

  18. Carrot cake is my husband’s absolute favorite! I love making this and your cake turned out so beautifully!

  19. This looks gorgeous, as all your desserts always do. I love that you added crushed pineapple, that’s a fabulous idea. I will be trying that next time!

  20. The best carrot cakes have some crushed pineapple in them! Yours is gorgeous as per usual.

  21. Beautiful Liz! I haven’t had carrot cake in a while so I’m over due!

  22. *dies* Carrot cake is my KRYPTONITE!! Love it

  23. Beautiful! Love carrot cake, and The New Basics Cookbook!

  24. Each time that I been in London, I looking for the parfait carrot cake ! Sometimes I found it and when you found its like heaven!!Yours look like this and the pineaple is a very good idea!!

  25. I won! The Blogher pop up that comes from the bottom up kept interferring with my comment, but I figured out how to get rid of it! My sonin law loves carrot cake but he lives four hours away, now I can make it and take it! How do you cut your slices so neatly?

    • Ooh, sorry about that popup. Can you let me know how you got rid of it, so I can pass that along to other readers??? Thanks! As far as slicing goes, my first slices weren’t so nice, but once I put it back in the fridge, got it well chilled and cut immediately after pulling it out, it sliced perfectly. Also, using a serrated knife worked best.

  26. I totally share your love affair with carrot cake. This looks AMAZING and has me seriously craving a slice!

  27. What a delicious looking carrot cake!

  28. Lizzy,
    Carrot cake is a favorite at our house too. I don’t think ours looks as good as yours though.
    Annamaria

  29. my 18 years old just mentioned that she wanted a good homemade carrot cake the other day! She loves to bake, I’m going to pass this recipe along to her!

  30. LOL. I’ve been strategizing for days figuring out how I can make a stop at Susie’s Cakes for a huge wedge of carrot cake!…Your looks equally divine…If you lived closer, I might be strategizing how I could pay a visit to you =)

    Anyway, I love, love the spirit of your adventurous mom and her desire to travel and experience the world via food =) Also, I can relate to the trepidation on the first intro to the cake (from my older sister.)

  31. The only cake that I will choose over chocolate cake is carrot cake. Be still my heart!!

  32. What a sweet story re your parents discovering carrot cake in St. Paul.

    I usually put grated carrot on top of my cake. The uninitiated look askance, but once they try it, they love it.

  33. I’ll take a sliver of cake with a triple side of frosting, please!

  34. Now that is what I call a stunning cake! Carrot cake will always have a special place for me it is just so tasty 😀

  35. We love carrot cake and this sounds similar to one my aunt used to make. She puts pineapples in her carrot cake too and it’s so good! Thanks for sharing your recipe on Merry Monday. Pinned.

  36. Indeed a classic with the crushed pineapple and the whole bit! Delicious!

  37. This is the perfect carrot cake recipe!

  38. Love a good carrot cake! We make them year round!

  39. This carrot cake is exactly how it should be done. Classic, and so good!

  40. Such a great recipe. And I love how you garnish with the extra pecans!

  41. My whole family really enjoyed this!

  42. This truly is the best carrot cake ever!

  43. Love this tried and true recipe. The frosting is amazing, too.

  44. Beautiful carrot cake – love the nuts on the exterior!!

  45. what beautiful carrot cake ! I love this recipe !!

  46. Hiding this from my husband. He has been craving a carrot cake recently and I’m resisting since I have never made a cake! If he sees yours, I’m sure he start bugging me until I give in and make it. 🙂 A perfect carrot cake Liz!

  47. Such a wonderful recipe Liz! I love carrot cake and I’ve found that once people try it they usually love it too!

  48. This carrot cake looks lovely, perfect for a birthday or any occasion. Great tips for making the best cake. I really like the tip to toast the nuts before baking with them. Delicious!

  49. That is one perfect slice of cake! I’m a huge carrot cake fan especially the classic combo with the cream cheese frosting. This just made me extremely hungry!

  50. This is such a showstopping dessert! Sure to be a big hit!

  51. Coconut and pineapple for the win! I bet they make this cake so moist!

  52. I like your frosting and with its nutty decoration! I always appreciate your tips. And, that cake looks fabulous.

  53. I love it! So easy to make and delish!

  54. My husband has been craving carrot cake for weeks, so I ordered one from a local bakery. It was so disappointing. Yours was the type he was craving and the one I bought was nothing near as good as this. Looks like I might just have to make a cake (the first one of our marriage :)).

    BTW – We saw a Chef’s Table on Christina Tosi recently and the whole time I was thinking of you. She is another skinny pastry chef. Her recipes are crazy and look crazy good – just like yours.

  55. Pureed cooked carrots, what a delightful change! I’d rather puree that grate any day.

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