This Best 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 moist Carrot Cake with Pineapple on 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.

Why You Must Make

  • This is the recipe my mom started making in the early 1980s. I’ve never found a tastier carrot cake!
  • Made with oil, it’s super moist and perfectly dense.
  • It’s chock full of carrots, coconut, pecans, and crushed pineapple. It’s so good!
  • And just three more words: Cream Cheese Frosting!!!!

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 This carrot cake recipe quickly became my new favorite dessert.

Ingredient Notes

  • Kitchen Staples – Flour, Sugar, Salt, Cinnamon, Vegetable Oil (I use canola oil)
  • Baking Powder – Unlike baking soda, baking powder often expires before you use it all. Make sure to check the expiration date and replace if needed. To check its potency, put a spoonful in a cup of very hot water. If it’s still active, it will bubble vigorously. If it doesn’t, buy a new tin.
  • Eggs – I use large eggs. Have them at room temperature for easier incorporation. Beat slightly.
  • Vanilla – Always use real vanilla extract, never artificially flavored. Check the label carefully when you’re shopping. I prefer the Neilsen-Massey brand.
  • Chopped Pecans – Either toast for a few minutes in the oven or in a skillet to bring out their essential oils which will add more flavor. You will need extra pecans if you want to garnish the sides of the cake.
  • Shredded Coconut – I use Angelflake sweetened coconut
  • Carrots – Peel, slice and simmer in a pot of water until they’re tender enough to puree.
  • Crushed Pineapple – Drain off all the juices before adding it to the batter.
  • Cream Cheese – I use the Philadelphia brand. Have it at room temperature so it blends smoothly.
  • Butter – At room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar – Sift for the smoothest frosting.
Classic Carrot Cake with pecans on the sides on a white serving plate.

Best 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.

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!

Expert Tips

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 1⅓ 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!
  • PRO-Tip: Using vegetable oil instead of butter makes for a super moist cake. There’s enough flavor from the other ingredients that the lack of butter does not hamper the taste of this cake.
  • 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.
  • PRO-Tip: 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 overnight in the refrigerator.
Slice of Classic Carrot Cake in a white plate with a red handled fork.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does a Carrot Cake Taste Like?

It’s dense, moist, and flavored with cinnamon plus topped with a rich, sweet, slightly tangy cream cheese frosting.

What Else Can Be Added to a Carrot Cake?

This cake is loaded with pecans, crushed pineapple, and coconut along with pureed carrots. Other additions could be raisins, and you can always use walnuts instead of pecans. And some carrot cake recipes call for applesauce.

Why Does Carrot Cake Turn Dark or Even Green?

Carrots are sensitive to pH. If they come in contact with something alkaline like baking soda, they can turn black or green, discoloring the cake. I’ve never seen this happen, but don’t panic if it occurs.

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Classic Carrot Cake Recipe

Classic Carrot Cake Recipe

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

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



  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups well chopped pecans (plus more to garnish if desired)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded coconut
  • 1 ⅓ cups pureed cooked carrots*
  • ¾ cup drained crushed pineapple


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


  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.
  3. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat till well combined.
  4. Mix in nuts, coconut, carrots, and pineapple.
  5. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes (I have really heavy cake pans and mine take closer to one hour). Edges should pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks. Cool about 3 hours before icing.
  7. To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter till smooth. Sift powdered sugar into the bowl and mix well till no lumps remain.
  8. Add vanilla and mix well. Frost as desired.


Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

Cook 2 cups of sliced carrots, drain, and puree to make 1 ⅓ cups pureed carrots.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 slice

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


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carrot cake collage with 2 photos and a text box