This carrot cake turns out extra moist and rich, but still sophisticated and utterly spectacular. It’s made with puréed rather than grated carrots, coconut, canned pineapple, and a luscious cream cheese frosting.
In the beginning, Sheila’s mother drove her famous carrot cakes down to Manhattan daily from her Connecticut kitchen. The cake became a Silver Palate classic; it may now become yours as well.–Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
Can I use puréed carrots in carrot cake?
This carrot cake recipe ingeniously uses puréed, rather than grated, carrots in the batter, ensuring a more even and smooth dispersal of carrotiness in each bite. And that distinction alone makes the cake unparalleled in the realm of carrot cakes. However, it also adds serious moisture. While freshly grated carrots are pretty wet, a scoopful of puréed carrot will give you moisture while also giving the finished product a much smoother crumb than a carrot cake filled with veggie shreds.
You may notice shreds of carrots in the pics. Adding a small handful of grated carrots to the batter won’t hurt. It’ll just make it look like that beautiful old-school carrot cake.
For the puréed carrots
- 12 ounces carrots cut into 1/2-inch dice
For the cake
- Butter for greasing the pan
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups mild vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts chopped, plus more for garnish if desired
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
- 1 1/3 cups puréed cooked carrots (see above)
- 3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple juice reserved
For the cream cheese frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
Make the puréed carrots
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the carrots and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the carrots are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Adjust the oven rack to the center position and butter two 9-inch round cake pans or, in a pinch, springform pans. If desired, line the pans with parchment paper cut to fit.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in the walnuts, coconut, carrots, and pineapple. The batter will be quite thick.
☞TESTER TIP: If your batter seems impossibly thick, you can add a smidgen of the reserved pineapple juice. But use no more than 1 or, at most, 2 tablespoons.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. It may come close to the top. This is fine. Bake until the edges have pulled away from the sides and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
- Cool the cakes in the pans, on a wire rack for 3 hours. Remove the parchment, if using.
Make the frosting
- In a stand mixer or a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined and almost fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Your cream cheese and butter MUST be at room temperature, as noted in the ingredients list, to ensure a lumpless frosting.
☞TESTER TIP: If you prefer ample cream cheese frosting, as in the photo above, you'll need to double the recipe.
- Slowly, slowly sift in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated, which could take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 4 minutes. The mixture should be free of lumps.
- Stir in the vanilla, and lemon juice if desired.
Frost the cake
- Place the bottom layer of the cake on a serving platter. Spread a layer of frosting over the cake, then carefully top with the second cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting. (You can stash any leftover cake in the freezer and it will keep magnificently for up to 3 months.)
☞TESTER TIP: This carrot cake slices exceptionally easily when it's been kept in the fridge.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I have read many carrot cake recipes but this one is my first to bake. In spite of its many components like pineapple, walnuts, coconut, and puréed carrots, it baked up tall and beautiful. Kids declared it the best cake I have made yet.
For the carrots, I steamed 300 grams of carrots for 10 to 15 min in a metal basket over boiling water. I used a mini Cuisinart to make the purée. I had concerns that the sugar, sweetened coconut, and pineapple would be too sweet, but the walnuts balanced it out. There’s a lot of batter, so I used 3-inch-tall cake pans. The cake took 55 minutes to bake. I would double the frosting to adequately fill and cover the cake.
Everything about this carrot cake is perfect—it’s moist, flavorful, and, with the layers, fancier than a regular carrot snack cake. It was also reminiscent of the carrot pineapple muffins that my mum made when I was a kid. And it was that very same mum who dropped off a 10-pound bag of carrots a week ago with the words “good luck” and a smile. This is another recipe that I will make many more times—it comes together easily and tastes incredible. I shared it with friends as well as my mum, and it went over a treat with requests for more.
I only have 1 springform pan so I used 2 regular pans lined with parchment paper instead. I did find that the amount of batter came right to the top of the pans so I’d recommend using springform pans if you can.
I also found the batter to be very thick—almost like dough—and didn’t seem like it would spread once poured into the pans. I added a small amount of the pineapple juice, about 2 tbsps, and that was enough to give it consistency more like cake batter.
The icing came together quickly; it only took about 10 minutes to get a smooth consistency. I did use the vanilla and lemon, the lemon was an especially nice addition that cut through the sweetness of the icing sugar.
There is almost nothing better than a good carrot cake. That said, I am really picky when it comes to carrot cake as I have my own recipe that’s tried and true and never fails to be a crowd-pleaser. I decided to put this recipe to the test and compare it. I definitely was attracted to the ease of putting this cake together.
I opted to weigh out my ingredients. I didn’t have any difficulty finding the ingredients or assembling the batter. My cake fell slightly in the middle, however, this probably had to do more with my cell phone falling into the center of it at about 30 minutes. Cooking fail. The phone survived and the cake bounced back nicely.
The frosting was great. Not too sweet and a rich, thick, creamy consistency, and again, easy.
The pineapple added great moisture and I love good raisins in a carrot cake. The only thing I missed from my standby recipe was the lemon and orange zest. I think my next carrot cake will be a hybrid. I also am not a fan of the walnuts on top of the cake. I prefer them inside only.
All and all, a success!
This was beyond the best carrot cake I have ever had. I have never put puréed carrots into a cake, but it was great. Very moist, not too sugary, light, and airy. This is my new go-to dessert.
This was a very easy recipe to put together. It required a bit more prep because of making the purée. Since there are only two of us, I made half the recipe as everything halved quite nicely.
I cut up 7 ounces of carrots into 2-inch chunks and steamed them for 20 minutes in a steamer basket over boiling water. I then mashed them up with a fork. This amount of carrots made about 12 tablespoons of purée. I used 10 tablespoons of the purée. We found the cake very moist (perhaps a tad too moist). It had great flavor and like most carrot cakes I believe it will be better tomorrow.
I officially dub this the Polar Vortex Carrot Cake, baked on the first day (January 29th) of four long days of frigid Minnesota temps (-28°F was our low). It was the perfect cake to get us through (carbs and sugar load, please) and the tropical flavors of pineapple and coconut were a delicious spin on what would have otherwise been a typical carrot cake. The cream cheese frosting with a twist of lemon was one of the best I have tasted. My husband, who is not a carrot cake fan, rated this cake a 9 and my 11-year-old son (thanks to no raisins in this particular recipe) could not get enough of this cake. By the end of the Polar Vortex days, we had happily finished off half of this cake.
It was really quite easy to make and took only a few minutes. Puréed carrots are not a typical grocery item (unless you buy baby food), so plan on making your own puréed carrots. I did this by steaming the carrots for 7 minutes and mashing them with a potato masher. Since I only have 1 springform pan and 1 cake pan, I ended up using 1 of each. As it turned out, the cake pan was the one that was more evenly baked and the springform cake ended up having a few rough edges. Based on this, I recommend using 9-inch cake pans, rather than springform pans.
After baking for 50 minutes, the cakes were still a bit wobbly. At the same time, I received a phone call from my husband, he had a flat tire on his way home from work and needed a ride. Rather than leave him stranded in -21°F, I had to leave my cakes, which probably needed another 10 minutes of bake time. Since I wouldn’t be able to monitor additional bake time, I turned the oven off and left the cakes in the oven as the temperature dropped (indoors and outdoors), 33 minutes later we were home and the cakes were done. The cakes might have missed a bit of a rise in the middle but otherwise, they were perfectly done.
Both carrot cakes were cooled on a rack for 3 hours and were easily removed from the pans after this time. I highly recommend the addition of lemon juice to the cream cheese frosting. It added a pleasant tartness and smoothness.
The cake will serve 8 large slices or 16 small slices. Full disclosure: since we were in survival mode, we ate LARGE slices during the polar vortex.
This carrot cake is so delicious. It’s a classic carrot cake—moist and flavorful with walnuts that give it a little crunch and nuttiness. And, of course, the buttercream frosting. So it is a classic. But I had a few issues getting there.
The first hurdle was the puréed carrots. The recipe says drained pineapple but even after it was drained, I found a decent amount of liquid gathering in the bowl. Finally was the cooking time. The recipe says 50 minutes and check it with a cake tester. I followed the instructions and my cake tester came out clean. But the center of both cakes sunk and so when the cake was done, we had little pools of frosting in the center (not the worst thing in the world) and it looked like a waterfall when the cake was cut. I’m not sure if my batter was too moist or whether the 50 minutes should be closer to 55. But again, the cake was amazing.
We used lemon juice in the frosting. Loved it.
This recipe produces my absolute favorite carrot cake. It is moist and full of flavor as well as texture from its long list of ingredients. It makes a cake that could serve a small army but there isn’t a person who is a fan of carrot cake that wouldn’t be happy to receive a slice of this.
I made this in 2 springform pans but they had different surfaces and produced two different-looking layers. I think this is too much batter for standard cake pans and might consider making it in 9-inch layer cake pans and then using some of the batter for some cupcakes. Another option would be to make 3 layers in standard cake pans. The layers were very large measuring 1 1/2 inches high when fully baked.
I think this carrot cake is best mixed in a stand mixer. It is a very thick batter that would be hard to mix well by hand. I buttered the springform pans and then lined them with parchment so that there would not be an issue releasing the layers from the pans. The timing was accurate for 1 layer but I found that 1 required a bit more time. The edges were starting to get a bit well done so I ended up loosely covering one of my layers with a piece of foil. That layer actually ended up sinking while it cooled so I am assuming that it wasn’t quite well done enough! I should mention that one of my springform pans had a darker finish than the other. I did cool them in their pans for 3 hours.
I used the metric measurements and found that I used 1 pound of carrots and ended up with 324 grams of carrot purée. I might consider using baby food carrots the next time to save the most time-consuming part of prepping the ingredients.
The key to the frosting is to be sure that the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature and to sift in the sugar slowly. This is tedious and a bit messy but done with a stand mixer the resulting icing was smooth and spreadable. I didn’t use the lemon juice. My frosting didn’t make as much as the picture showed so I might consider making a bit more frosting or perhaps frosting the middle and sides and simply covering the top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
This recipe could easily serve 12 to 16 people as written. The sides of my cake were done a bit more than I would have liked but somehow under the frosting they softened up and it wasn’t an issue. When I frosted the cake, I trimmed the layer that had sunk since it had domed around the sides and put the flat sides facing the top and the bottom so that the cake would have a neat professional finished look. I frosted it on a 10-inch cake circle so that it could easily be moved.
I like it served cold, it also seems easier to cut when chilled. Leftovers freeze beautifully.
This is a classic take on one of my favorite cakes, and the recipe is simple and to the point…just as it should be. The puréed carrot was an interesting if minor twist—I actually love grated carrot (there’s something about SEEING the carrot in carrot cake…), but found the puréed version to be equal in flavor, so no complaints here.
Two things: This turned out a fairly dense cake for me (I’m used to softer versions) and there was almost not enough frosting to cover the entire exterior and fill the middle of this cake. Neither of these turned me against this cake; I ended up loving the texture, and I made the frosting count. This cream cheese frosting is sooo good, I could have done with probably another cupful.
I used 3 carrots (weighing in at about 8oz) and that yielded the amount needed. I boiled them for about 10 minutes, put them into my food processor for about 15 seconds, scraped the sides, then puréed for another 10 seconds, and done! (NOTE: this was a rough purée for me, it was not liquidy or smooth.)
Not sure if this is due to my use of coconut oil, but the outside of my cakes was almost caramelized, which was a fabulous addition to the texture overall. I slowly added the confectioner’s sugar over 1 1/2 minutes while mixing. Satiny result. Love. Personal opinion: there MIGHT be too much sugar in the frosting recipe.
I think you could get 12 to 14 servings out of this carrot cake.
Originally published June 9, 2007