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Carrot Cake

A slice of classic carrot cake--two carrot cake layers filled and frosted with cream cheese frosting; on top are crushed walnuts.
This carrot cake turns out moist and, yes, healthy. It's made with puréed rather than grated carrots, coconut, canned pineapple, and a luscious cream cheese frosting.
Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Prep 45 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr 30 mins
Dessert
American
12 slices
1167 kcal

Ingredients 

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)

Directions 

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.
  • Drain the carrots and transfer to a food processor. Process until smooth. (Alternatively, a potato masher can be used to make the purée, however, it will have a coarser consistency.)

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.