In need of the perfect homemade carrot cake? You found just the recipe. Studded with sweet coconut and toasted walnuts, this ultra moist carrot cake features the right kick of spice and plenty of creamy coconut cream cheese frosting for good measure.
After plenty of recipe tests and tweaks, this is my perfected carrot cake recipe that's been a favorite for years. Easter, birthdays --- you name it. I've brought this carrot cake to many different occasions, and it always disappears to rave reviews. I've even converted carrot cake haters with this recipe, so if that's not a sign of a delicious cake, I don't know what is. This carrot cake has my heart.
Now, you may be wondering what exactly makes this homemade carrot cake so perfect. For me, the perfect carrot cake must check off each item below.
- Lots of moisture. OK, this is a must for every cake recipe, but it's still worth noting. Dry cake is the worst.
- Plenty of spice. A scant of cinnamon doesn't cut it for me. Give me all the spices.
- Rich, caramel-like undertones for complexity. We achieve this with dark brown sugar rather than just white sugar.
- Dense texture with a soft crumb. Light and airy is great for angel food cake, but when it comes to carrot cake, I want a hearty, rich bite.
- No raisins. Why are raisins even a thing? I'm not a fan, so you won't see raisins in these parts. Don't even get me started on raisin cookies.
So what say you? Do those components sound like the perfect carrot cake to you? I'll go ahead and assume you make good decisions and are on board.
Bonus: For another great spring dessert, try my Easter egg cheesecake!
How to Grate Carrots
Before we jump into preparing the rest of the cake, let's chat about how to grate our carrots. First, we peel our carrots and then grate them along the fine side of a box grater. Super simple, huh?
You could also use the grating attachment of your food processor but make sure you note the size of the carrot after grating. If your grating attachment gives you larger chunks than you'd get with the fine side of a box grater like pictured below, pulse it a few times. We don't want large, crunchy pieces of carrots in our cake.
Oh, and do not use preshredded carrots for this recipe. Those preshredded carrots are much too dry and large. When you grate your own carrots, you'll notice how moist they are compared to preshredded carrots, and we want that moisture to go into the cake. As we discussed, dry cakes make me sad, so let's avoid that.
All right, now that we prepped our carrots, let's chat about putting together the rest of this homemade carrot cake. In one bowl, we first measure our dry ingredients and then sift them together. Give the sifted dry ingredients a good stir to make sure they're well-combined and set aside.
In another mixing bowl, we combine our wet ingredients, which includes eggs, buttermilk, dark brown sugar, white sugar, oil, vanilla extra and pineapple puree from crushed pineapples. A lot of other carrot cake recipes simply call for crushed pineapple, but I don't want pineapple chunks in my carrot cake. At the same time, I love the moisture and flavor pineapple adds, so I like to compromise by making a pineapple puree.
You may have also noticed I specify dark brown sugar in this recipe. If you've made some of my other dessert recipes, you already know how much I love dark brown sugar compared to light brown sugar. I much prefer the more pronounced molasses in dark brown sugar and find it gives desserts an extra special flavor kick.
From here, we gently fold in our grated carrots, shredded coconut and toasted walnuts and then add the dry ingredients. Pour that delicious batter into parchment paper-lined cake pans, and we're ready to bake.
Generally, I like to bake my cakes in 8-inch pans rather than 9-inch pans because it gives me three layers. I firmly believe three layers is better than two when it comes to cake, and there's no changing my mind.
That said, I get that a 9-inch cake pan is the standard size. If you go that route, you might need to bake the cake for about five extra minutes.
Once our cake layers bake, we allow them to cool and start on our coconut cream cheese frosting.
To start, we beat together butter and cream cheese until they're well-combined and perfectly smooth. In order to get the right texture, we want to first soften butter and cream cheese by leaving them out in room temperature for about an hour. Go ahead and pull the butter and cream cheese from the refrigerator when you start on the cake, and it should be ready for whipping once the cake layers finish baking.
If you forget to take care of this ahead of time, you can soften the butter and cream cheese separately in the microwave, but make sure you only do so in short bursts and keep a close eye on them. The microwave will start to liquify them, and we won't get that fluffy texture if they're partially melted.
Now we add a little salt and vanilla extract and beat in half a cup of powdered sugar at a time. At the end, we stir in our coconut, and we're ready to frost once the cake layers have completely cooled.
Carrot cake and a barley wine are a perfect match. Bonus points if the barley wine was aged in bourbon barrels. The dried fruit and caramel-like notes of the barley wine are perfect with the warm spice and dark brown sugar of the carrot cake. Plus, this carrot cake with its rich coconut cream cheese frosting is one dense cake, so I like serving it with a bold beer that can stand up to a big bite. A Belgian quad is also nice.
If you're craving a glass of wine with this homemade carrot cake, try a Madeira. Similar to a barley wine, a nice Madeira boasts plenty of caramel flavor with a notable nuttiness that match well with the carrot cake.
When only a big piece of moist, perfectly spiced carrot cake will do, I hope you give this recipe a try.
Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth?
- Apple spice cupcakes with praline filling and brown sugar frosting
- Orange-ginger-maple cookies
- Bourbon-peach clafoutis
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Homemade Carrot Cake With Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cheese grater
- Fine-mesh sieve or sifter
- Mixing bowl
- 3 (8-inch) cake pans see recipe for 9-inch option
- Parchment paper
For Carrot Cake
- 1 cup walnuts chopped
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda see note for high-altitude baking
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice, pureed in blender until smooth
- 1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups grated carrots using the smallest holes on a box cheese grater
- 1 cup shredded coconut
For Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
- 16 ounces cream cheese softened (see note)
- 1 cup butter softened
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
- Pinch of salt
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 3 cups shredded coconut
- Set out the cream cheese and butter for the frosting to allow to soften. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. I like to do this by tracing the cake pan on parchment paper and cutting it out to ensure it fits well. Alternatively, you can use two 9-inch round cake pans.
- In a skillet over medium heat, toast the chopped walnuts until fragrant. Stir frequently to prevent burning. This should only take a few minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, sift together the measured flour, baking soda, salt and spices and put aside.
- In another mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, pineapple puree, dark brown sugar, buttermilk, vegetable oil, white sugar and vanilla until well combined. Gently fold in the shredded carrots, coconut and toasted walnuts. Stir in a couple scoops of flour at a time until all the dry ingredients are mixed into the batter.
- Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes. Insert a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it's ready, but if the batter is still wet, give it another couple minutes and check again. For 9-inch pans, you'll probably need closer to 30 minutes.
- Run a knife along the side of the pans. Let cool in the cake pans for about 10 minutes and then turn out on wire racks to completely cool. While cooling, make the coconut cream cheese frosting.
- For the frosting, beat together the softened cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and pinch of salt until fluffy. Add about a ½ cup of powdered sugar at a time and beat until well combined. Periodically, scrape the side of the bowl. Once all the powdered sugar is incorporated, stir in the coconut.
- Spread frosting on top of one cooled cake, place another cake on top and repeat if making three layers. Cover the layered cake with the remaining frosting. Store covered. Serve and enjoy!
- For baking at 5,280 feet, I reduced the baking soda to 1 ¾ teaspoons.
- Make sure you buy the kind of cream cheese that comes in bar form, not a tub.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.