My mom introduced me to a new dessert craze WAY back in the 1970’s. She and my dad had devoured slices of Classic Carrot Cake chock full of carrots, nuts and pineapple on a trip to St. Paul, then brought home the recipe to try at home.
Classic Carrot Cake
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 cream cheese frosting became my new favorite dessert.
Have Cake, Will Travel
One of the carrot cake recipes my mom tested on us was from the The New Basics Cookbook. It became the gold standard in my eyes. I’ve taken this 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 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:
- Caramel Filled Carrot Cake
- Carrot Cake Cheesecake from Taste and Tell
- Giant Carrot Cake Cookie Cups from Wishes and Dishes
- Carrot Cake Scones with Maple Cream Cheese Glaze from A Beautiful Plate
- Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
Tips for Making the Best Carrot Cake
I promise, this is my favorite carrot cake out of all I’ve tasted. The cake is dense, moist and filled with just the right amount of nuts, coconut and pineapple.
- Toast the nuts to bring out the natural oils, which makes them more flavorful.
- This cake calls for cooked puréed carrots, which allows for them to be evenly distributed throughout the batter. If your recipe calls for grated carrots, grate them finely as that will encourage them to be dispersed well, too, 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.
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Classic Carrot Cake
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings
- Category: Dessert, Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- 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 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
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350º. Grease two 9 inch cake pans; line with parchment. Grease parchment.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.