If you have been looking for the best carrot cake out there, look no further. Not only does this cake use common ingredients in extraordinary ways, but it is far easier to make than you would think. And the flavors are perfection, with a balance of spices and a nice smooth icing. Not to mention a great consistency. And I share lots of details for substitutions and tips for making it the perfect cake!
I often wonder why we reserve the deliciousness that is carrot cake for holidays like Easter when it is something we should be enjoying year round. It is decadent, delicious, and because it has carrots in it, we can even pretend it is a serving of vegetables. Something I can definitely get behind.
Carrot Cake with Pineapple
The first thing we have to talk about when it comes to this carrot cake recipe is the idea of whether or not you should have pineapple in your carrot cake. As a huge fan of all things pineapple, especially Dole Whips, I am going to say yes! Yes you should have pineapple.
Obviously not everyone agrees with me though, which is why I want to start by saying I have tested this recipe with and without pineapple, and you can get away with NOT adding the pineapple if you truly prefer. It will still taste good. The texture will be slightly different as there is less moisture. And there won’t be as much depth of flavor. But it will still be a dang good cake.
A few things to consider when making carrot cake with pineapple:
- This recipe was tested using canned pineapple that has the lightest syrup I could find. I didn’t want to add too much extra sugar.
- You can use fresh pineapple which will be a lighter taste, but be sure to cut it fine.
- Be sure to drain out as much of the liquid as you can, as you don’t want to add too much extra liquid, if you do you will need to cook it longer so it cooks through and it will end up a little denser. Of course, I am sure you can find all kinds of delicious ways to use that pineapple juice, like in this teriyaki skillet chicken.
What Nuts Should I Use In Carrot Cake?
I debated for a long time when making this cake if I should make it with pecans or walnuts or a combination of the two. After testing it with both, I liked the pecans better. But that may just be my personal preference runs to pecans over walnuts.
But the pecans give it a rich flavor, and I love the slight nuttiness you will find in each spiced bite of this carrot cake recipe. Adding the chopped pecans to the top as a garnish adds some extra texture too, which is really nice and can cut through some of the sweetness of the cake. Which means you can eat more! Woot woot.
Of course, if you are partial to walnuts over pecans, or they are easier to find, or cheaper, then go with what you feel is best for you. It works well with either.
A few things to note:
- Use raw nuts so you aren’t adding any salt or additional flavors to the cake.
- Chop them finely for the batter and the garnish to allow each bite to be perfect.
- Remember who is eating this carrot cake and make it for their preference. I worked hard to make sure this recipe works for you with adjustments.
Carrot Cake Recipe Spices
It is funny, in the food blogging world I have come to realize there are some pretty strong opinions about recipes and food in general. What makes something good, what makes something bad. And what is the “right” and wrong way to make a recipe.
As I was researching and testing carrot cake recipes to come up with what I feel the perfect density, flavor combos, and icing ratio, one of the things I realized is that the spices you add or leave out can make a big impact on how flavorful a carrot cake is.
For example, a few of the recipes I tried had a touch of ginger in them. And while I am generally a HUGE fan of ginger, I found it overplayed its hand in the carrot cake and made some of the more subtle flavors obsolete. When I eliminated it and used other spices I liked the combo much better. In the end I felt like the traditional players like cinnamon and salt were a must, as was nutmeg, but adding just a touch of all spice elevated the whole thing.
I also found that using a combination of brown and white sugars helped to deepen and elevate the flavors of this cake.
As you can see, this is the ultimate in best carrot cake recipes ever, and the fact that it barely lasted a day in my house is a testament to that. I highly suggest not only adding it to your Easter menu along with your Honey Baked Ham and your Scalloped Potatoes, but make it something you prepare regularly.
You deserve it!
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups grated carrots
- 8 oz can of crushed pineapple drained (optional: for video do not leave out)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Icing
- 1 cup butter softened
- 16 ounces cream cheese softened
- 7 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Prepare your ingredients by first eliminating excess moisture from the crushed pineapple by placing a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, and using a spoon or measuring cup to press down on it until excess moisture has drained out. Set aside.
- Next, peel your carrots, then use a box grated to grate carrots so they are grated, but not so finely grated they are full of excess moisture. Set aside.
- Lastly, finely chop pecans, set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- In a large bowl, add eggs, oil, white and brown sugar, and vanilla extract and beat together. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon.
- Carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet, combining the two bowls until just mixed, do not over stir or over beat.
- Carefully stir in carrots and drained crushed pineapple and fold in pecans.
- Prepare two 9 inch round baking pans by lining with parchment paper then spraying them with nonstick cooking spray and flouring them or grease and flour pans.
- Pour even amounts of the cake batter into the two baking pans
- Bake in 350 degree pre-heated oven for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely before layering and frosting. Can be done a day ahead.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Make sure butter and cream cheese come to room temperature to soften.
- In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, powdered or confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.
- Using a hand mixer, carefully beat mixture until there are no lumps and it is smooth and creamy.
- Place a small dollop of frosting on a cake stand and put the first cake on top. Then frost the top of the cake, and layer the second cake on. Frost the top and sides of both cakes with remaining frosting.
- Hide any frosting imperfections and garnish with finely chopped pecans.
- Be sure to remove excess moisture from pineapple or your cake will be too wet.
- You can replace some of the oil with applesauce (about ½ cup) if desired.
- Peel your carrots before grating, and use a box grater to get a nice shred, but not so fine that it is too wet and juicy.
- Do not use matchstick carrots, as they are too big.
- If you over beat the cake it will fall in the center due to too much air being in the batter, so be sure to only mix until ingredients are incorporated.
Our recipe card software calculates these nutrition facts based on averages for the above ingredients, different brands, and quality of produce/meats may have different nutritional information, always calculate your own based on the specific products you use in order to achieve accurate macros for this recipe.
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