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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 1970’s. 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 1970’s was from the 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 for 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:

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:

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Classic Carrot Cake

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

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 16 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert, Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

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

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

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

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

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

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

  7. 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.

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

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