This is my favorite carrot cake from scratch recipe, I’ve been baking it for years! This carrot cake recipe has a hint of tropical flavor, but is traditional enough to have everyone come back for seconds.
I wish I had a better story about this carrot cake recipe, I really do. But there was no carrot cake from scratch in my childhood, there was some amazing carrot cake from Publix though, which inspired me to make my own as an adult that was equally amazing, and now – because I’m on a bit of a high after hearing compliments from the Godfather’s office – I’ll say mine
may be is better. 😉 Not that I’d turn down Publix cake…
Years ago, I printed this recipe from Southern Living because it sounded about right to me. As a Florida girl at heart, how could I resist a carrot cake with pineapple and citrus? I couldn’t. And once you try my version, neither will you! Of course, over the years, I’ve changed the recipe and adapted it to suit my tastes and preferences to create what one of the Godfather’s co-workers deemed “perfection” this morning.
The true beauty of this cake is that it’s so incredibly moist, it can be made a day in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and still taste amazing the next day! If you’re like me and make a big meal for Easter, save yourself a little stress and bake this cake Friday night or Saturday so you have one less thing to do on Sunday.
Please don’t limit yourself to carrot cake on Easter though – I think this cake is just amazing anytime. In fact, one day, when we live in a house with a yard again or with a larger patio so I can fit more containers, I think I’ll grow carrots just so I can use some of them in this cake. It’s worth a few minutes of grating to make a carrot cake from scratch, trust me. Be sure to use the coarse side of your box grater for the carrots and then use the finer side for the orange zest. Then eat the orange. Who knew making carrot cake from scratch also encourages healthy eating? (Ha!)
I decided to take a cue from the ingredients in the carrot cake and add a tropical twist to the frosting by adding coconut to the cream cheese frosting I use for my red velvet cake from scratch. I toasted unsweetened coconut in a stainless steel skillet, mixed some right into the frosting and then used the rest to decorate the cake.
Speaking of decorating the cake, this particular rustic look is very easy to achieve. Just use an offset spatula or a butter knife to spread the frosting, then take a small espresso spoon (or baby spoon) and drag it lightly up and down the sides of the cake and in squiggles around the top. Easy! Sprinkle some or all of the extra toasted coconut along the top, add nuts or carrot curls if you’re so inclined, and voila, a beautiful carrot cake to serve for dessert!
I hope you enjoy this tropical carrot cake recipe, darlings, and that it inspires you to make your own carrot cake from scratch!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup vegetable or canola oil
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
- 2 cups peeled and grated carrots (5-6 carrots)
- zest from 1 orange
- 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- ¼ lb unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ lb (12 oz) cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4-5 cups sifted powdered (confectioner's) sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease two 8" or 9" round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
- In a larger mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the sugars and canola oil. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs, one at a time.
- Stir half the flour mixer into the sugar mixture, scrape the bowl, add the buttermilk. Stir and scrape the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and stir until just combined.
- Mix in the carrots, orange zest, pineapple, coconut, and nuts.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake 35-40 minutes until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or the center of the cake bounces back when lightly touched.
- Remove from the oven and allow to set in pans for 15 minutes before carefully inverting on to wire racks to cool completely. You may also wrap the cakes in plastic wrap while still slightly warm and refrigerate for a day before decorating.
- Place a skillet over medium low heat and pour in the unsweetened coconut flakes. Stir constantly until the flakes turn a light golden brown then immediately transfer to a plate to cool. Set aside.
- Beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Once the frosting has reached your desired consistency, stir in ½ cup of the toasted coconut.
- Frost your cake, using the remaining ¼ cup of toasted coconut as garnish.
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