The best carrot cake recipe - pinapple and pecans, no raisins, and covered in the softest, just sweet enough, cream cheese frosting. This is a family favourite.
I believe in pineapple in carrot cake.
No really, I do.
There must also be pecans ... but no raisins. Please just don't. Please no raisins.
Maybe because my mom made it that way. Maybe my mom even made this very recipe.
It is a Canadian Living Recipe, after all, and we all know how much mom loves Canadian Living recipes. 🙂
Also -- Zoe, who has appointed herself the carrot cake expert (of all time, not just this family, but for all mankind) claims this is the best. So you know it is really very good. I also love that this recipe makes a 9x13 cake - great for crowds, bbqs, and potlucks.. all those summer things that need a good snack cake.
Zoe's with me on the pineapple (and the raisins).
Looking for a healthy carrot cake you can eat for breakfast? Check out my carrot cake breakfast bars. One of my most popular recipes. Healthy and vegan. You can feel good about eating on for breakfast. You can get the recipe here!
How to make the best carrot cake
Fresh grated carrots. You can use a 4-sided box grater to grate the carrots or your food processor. A food processor with a medium grater attachment will make quick work of a couple of large carrots. You need 2 cups of grated carrots. Go ahead and pack it gently into the measuring cup.
Pineapple. Maybe not traditional, but in my book, the most important ingredient here. Yes even more important than the carrots. Use a 398ml can of crushed pineapple and drain it of most of the juice, not all of the juice. I dump the can over a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl or over the sink and let it drain gently for a few minutes while I get the cake batter together. Stir it around gently with a fork to release some of juice, don't squeeze or press it. That little bit of extra moisture will keep the cake moist too.
Pecans. I love pecans in my carrot cake. They add just a bit of crunch. Optional if you don't like pecans or wish to keep the dessert nut-free. Lightly chopped.
White and brown sugar. White sugar helps keep the cake crumb light and airy, while brown sugar adds density and richness. Using both makes for the perfect cake texture.
Cream cheese frosting. Honestly, what is carrot cake with cream cheese frosting? This cream cheese frosting is fairly simple, a block of cream cheese, a half stick of butter and a cup of so of icing sugar. That's it!
The perfect cream cheese frosting for carrot cake is soft and creamy.
I like to keep the frosting slumpy and soft for this cake, so I keep the sugar in the recipe at just enough for sweetness, not much more. The ratio of cream cheese to sugar is almost even and that ensures a creamy and almost pillowy soft frosting.
The Best Carrot Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg fresh grated if possible
- ¾ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cups packed brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cups canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups grated carrot about 3 large, fat carrots
- 398 ml can of crush pineapple drained (about 1 cup drained pineapple), dispose of juice or save for another use
- ¾ cup chopped pecans
- 1 8 oz 250g package cream cheese softened
- ¼ cup butter softened
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1-½ cup icing sugar start with one cup icing sugar, add more as needed for desired consistency
- Line a 9X13 in baking pan with parchment or spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350.
- Prepare carrots and drain pineapple if you have not done so already.
- In a medium sized bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- In the bowl of stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together white and brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and vegetable oil. Beat until smooth. You can do this by hand if you wish.
- Add dry ingredients to wet and mix gently until just combined, adding in carrots, pineapple and pecans at the very end. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. When the cake is done a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Cool cake completely before icing. Cake can be cooled and then stored in the refrigerator overnight at this point and iced the next day.
For the icing:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl and using an electric hand mixer) cream together softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in vanilla. Then gradually add in icing sugar, until the icing is creamy and smooth. Use at least 1 cup of the icing sugar, one ¼ cup at a time until icing is creamy and smooth. You may use up to 1-½ cups to give the icing a bit more body. You want this icing to be creamy and slumpy, not too smooth. Spread on top of cake. In warm months, chill iced cake before serving so icing stays in place, the icing may wilt in realy warm environments.