This irresistible carrot cake is covered with a thick layer of cream cheese maple pecan frosting! Crushed pineapple makes it super moist. It’s a great layer cake for spring, and would make a perfect dessert for Easter! Originally published February 19, 2016.

two layer carrot cake with cream cheese maple pecan frosting and large pecans to decorate.
Table of Contents
  1. You will love this Carrot Cake with Pineapple
  2. What is Carrot Cake?
  3. Pineapple Carrot Cake Ingredients 
  4. Variations on this Moist Carrot Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting
  5. How to make Carrot Cake with Pineapple 
  6. Moist Carrot Cake Recipe storage
  7. Best Carrot Cake Recipe with Pineapple FAQs
  8. More great cake ideas!
  9. Best Carrot Cake Recipe with Pineapple Recipe

It’s done! Our new floor is officially installed!

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a small child on a freshly installed hardwood floor.
This was taken a few days ago, the kitchen on the right is done now.

We love it. Eric’s dad Chip did an amazing installation. If you can think of any way to repay a family member who does awesome stuff like drive across the country to install your floors for free, let me know. I’ve already baked him 2 cakes (one was this carrot cake), a batch of chocolate chip cookies, Dark Chocolate Waffles, pancakes, bought him several quarts of Gunther’s ice cream, etc. (PS if you are ever visiting Sacramento, Gunther’s is a MUST.)

a close up shot of a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese maple pecan frosting.

Now that Eric and I have a giant wood floor we are desperate to cover it up with a thousand rugs. (I know, I know. We are actually totally carpet people. It’s just so cozy! But everyone told us the space would look way better if all the carpet was ripped out, and there was no way I was keeping the white carpet in my dining room.)

We headed to a carpet place to see what kind of remnants they had (we wanted to get a remnant bound into a rug, because cheap.) But then I saw THIS:

a corner of a thick, shaggy rug.

Isn’t it awesome??? It’s like a muppet, but you can walk on it. Then the shop owner told me it was $5,000. Aagh!!

a geometrically patterned rug.

Here’s what we ended up getting. It hasn’t arrived yet. What do you think?

a redhead in a green sweater blowing out the candles on a carrot cake with pecans and cream cheese frosting.

My sister-in-law Reesy (who designed my blog) flew out for the weekend to hang with us and her parents. It was her birthday, and she requested a carrot cake. I’ve never even made a carrot cake before, so it was fun to try it out. It turned out amazing! The perfect level of spice. And the frosting!! Stuff of dreams guys.

close up shots of a two layer carrot cake with large pecans and cream cheese maple pecan frosting.

If the pecans on this cake look gargantuan it’s because THEY ARE. These pecans eat regular store-bought pecans for breakfast. They are making this look like a dinky cake, when in reality it’s not. It’s a pretty tall 2-layer cake. It’s just being dwarfed by monstrous pecans.

My parents have a pecan tree in their backyard and these are leftover from the fall harvest. I love having friends and family who are willing to give away the fruits (literally) of their labor.

You will love this Carrot Cake with Pineapple

Intensely flavorful, with spices and pineapple. Moist, tender, and rich. Loaded with maple pecan frosting that melts in your mouth. What is not to love here?? If you’ve tried carrot cake before and you haven’t loved it, believe me, I get it. (There were raisins weren’t there?? Trust me, you’re safe here, no raisins in THIS cake.) This cake is perfect for fall, because of the spices and pecans and maple, or Easter, because of the carrots. It’s also ideal for anytime you want to justify your cake eating by reminding yourself there are VEGETABLES in this, and therefore, a reasonable breakfast choice any day of the week. 

What is Carrot Cake?

Carrot cake is a warm, cozy spice cake with grated carrots in the batter. It often includes other mix-ins like crushed pineapple, toasted pecans, and raisins. Carrot cake is usually slathered in cream cheese frosting–the tang provides great contrast to the warm, spiced cake. This recipe amps up the cream cheese frosting flavor by adding maple and pecans. Carrot cake is oven decorated with little carrots made of buttercream, fondant, or marzipan, but here I chose to go the giant pecan route. 

What does Carrot Cake taste like?

When I take a bite of carrot cake, the first flavors to hit my mouth are brown sugar and cinnamon, followed by nutmeg. Next I can taste the vanilla and pineapple. You really can’t taste the carrots at all, but they do add tons of moistness. If I’m eating this particular carrot cake, I’m also getting rich maple and tangy cream cheese flavors from the frosting.

a slice of carrot cake with pecans and maple pecan cream cheese frosting on a white plate.

I hope you can tell from the photos that this cake is MOIST. I don’t mess around when it comes to cake. Go moist or go home. There is probably nothing more unappealing than a dry cake. This recipe has an entire 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple in it, which not only tastes amazing, but also means that it is really hard to dry out this cake.

Pineapple Carrot Cake Ingredients 

Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!

For the carrot cake:

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Oil (canola or vegetable)
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Vanilla
  • Eggs
  • Crushed pineapple (8 oz. can)
  • Flour
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Cinnamon 
  • Nutmeg
  • Carrots (grated, about 5 medium)
  • Pecans (optional) 

For the maple pecan frosting:

  • Pecans
  • Salted butter
  • Cream cheese (12 oz.)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Maple syrup (real, not pancake syrup)
  • Maple extract (in the baking aisle with the vanilla)

Variations on this Moist Carrot Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

You can totally make this cake without the pecans, if that’s not your thing. I think I will try leaving them out next time for a smoother cake. I will NOT, however, be leaving them out of the frosting. It totally takes the flavor from amazing to AMAZING. If you know what I mean. They are chopped up so small (in the frosting) that you don’t have to take extra time to chew at the end of each bite; they just kind of melt away. It’s so good.

More variation ideas:

  • I know I already said something mean about raisins. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just am not the biggest fan in my carrot cake. If you want them, add them! I’d do about a cup. 
  • If you don’t like cream cheese frosting (or don’t have cream cheese on hand), try my Maple Frosting Recipe with Pecans. Same concept, just omit the cream cheese and replace it with more butter. 
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream (or vice versa). You might think that Greek yogurt is the less desirable “healthy” option, but I highly doubt you’ll notice a difference.
  • Swap applesauce in for the oil. Again, it is a “healthy” option, but it makes the cake just as moist and delicious. A time-honored carrot cake tradition!
a close up shot of a slice of carrot cake with pecans and maple cream cheese frosting.

How to make Carrot Cake with Pineapple 

Here’s a quick overview of how to make this cake and frosting. Scroll down to the recipe card below for the complete ingredients and instructions!

For the cake: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and  nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together white sugar, brown sugar, oil, Greek yogurt, vanilla, eggs, and undrained pineapple.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  4. Use a box grater to shred the carrots. 
  5. If you are adding pecans to the cake, toast the chopped pecans in a small skillet for a few minutes on medium until they start to smell good and are lightly browned.
  6. Fold in the carrots and pecans, then pour the batter into the prepared pans. 
  7. Bake at 325 for 38-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Wait about 20-30 minutes, then run a knife along the edge and flip the cakes onto cooking racks. Let cool completely.
  9. At this point, you can either wrap your cakes in plastic wrap and freeze so that it is super easy to frost (that’s what I did) or you can frost immediately. 
a cup of roughly chopped pecans, a layer cake with a pile of maple pecan frosting on top.

How to grate carrots for Carrot Cake

I know you’re thinking “But Karen, it will be so much easier if I just use the grating attachment on my food processor!” Nope. Sorry. You will ruin the magic of carrot cake if you do that. Instead of melting into the cake in nice tiny pieces, the carrots will be ginormous shreds of vegetable, and your children will not eat it. It won’t take that long on a box grater, and the results are worth it. Also, don’t try to use one of those flat graters. It will drive you mad. A box grater is a worthwhile investment and works just as well for cheese as it does for veggies. 

How to make Cream Cheese Frosting for Carrot Cake

For the frosting and finishing the cake:

  1. Chop up the pecans. Set a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pecans and stir occasionally until they start to smell delicious, or until they barely start to brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese for a couple minutes, until the mixture is high and fluffy.
  3. Add half the powdered sugar and all the maple syrup. Beat well.
  4. Add the rest of the powdered sugar, maple extract, and salt. Beat well.
  5. Add the chopped pecans when they are completely cooled and beat well.
  6. Place one of the cake layers on your cake plate. Top with about 1 cup of frosting and spread. Top with the other cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake.
  7. Garnish with toasted pecans.

Visit this Maple Pecan Buttercream Frosting post for more details on how to make the frosting. It’s almost the same recipe, I just swapped one stick of butter for a block of cream cheese.

Moist Carrot Cake Recipe storage

Because this cake has cream cheese in the frosting, I recommend storing it in the fridge. You can leave it on the counter for a day or two (I’ve never had a problem), but if you’re worried, that’s the precaution to take. You can pull it out before you serve it to bring it to room temperature, 1-2 hours before serving, if you don’t enjoy cold cake. 

How long does carrot cake last?

Carrot cake is good for about a week in the fridge–that’s actually a pretty long time for a dessert. If you’re freezing it, it will last for 2-3 months. 

Does carrot cake need to be refrigerated?

Carrot cake itself doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but cream cheese frosting does. You can leave the frosted cake at room temperature for an hour or two, but then it needs to go in the fridge. 

Can you freeze carrot cake?

Yes you can, and you can freeze it baked AND frosted. How great is that?? You can freeze the whole cake or cut and freeze individual portions. I recommend chilling it in the fridge for a few hours before you freeze it so the frosting  will set up and won’t get squished. You can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then put it into a tupperware container with a lid or a tightly sealed ziploc bag. It will last for months (if you can avoid digging into your cake stash that long). 

Best Carrot Cake Recipe with Pineapple FAQs

How do you keep carrot cake moist after baking?

Cake dries out when it’s exposed to the air. If you’ve baked a two-layer carrot cake like mine, you’ll want to put it in a covered cake carrier in the fridge. If you made a 13×9 rectangular cake, you can of course just snap on the lid. The great thing about carrot cake is that it’s really good at staying moist, so taking minimum precautions is enough to ensure tender cake for days. 

Why do you use oil instead of butter in carrot cake?

When you’re making a carrot cake, moist is the name of the game. Oil is much better at creating a cake that starts moist and stays moist for days. It also creates a lighter, less dense texture than butter can. That lighter texture is an amazing contrast to the dense ingredients baked into the batter, like chopped pecans and grated carrots. 

Do you eat carrot cake warm or cold?

Yes. Ha! I’m happy eating carrot cake at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. If you have a temperature preference, go with it. Just know there’s not a right or wrong temperature at which to serve it. If you have been refrigerating it and you’d prefer to serve it at room temperature, it’s fine to leave the frosted cake out on the counter for a couple of hours to take off the chill. 

Why did my carrots turn black in my carrot cake?

Carrots don’t turn black in carrot cake; they turn green. Not all the time, but sometimes. It’s nothing to worry about–the carrots are just reacting with the pH of the baking soda. This has not happened to me yet. If it does happen to you and you’ve got green carrots, please don’t throw your cake out. The cake will still taste perfectly delicious! Next time, you can try decreasing the baking soda by ¼ teaspoon or mixing it more thoroughly into the dry ingredients. It’s purely aesthetic and has nothing to do with freshness or flavor. 

If you make this carrot cake, snap a photo and share on Instagram using #TheFoodCharlatan! I love to see what you’re making!

More great cake ideas!

Cinnamon-Cardamom Cake with Maple Pecan Frosting << This frosting is almost identical, just minus the cream cheese.

Almond Sheet Cake << perfect for spring! This cake is amazing! One of my personal favs.

Blackberry Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting << comes together in a flash. Huge family favorite.

Mississippi Mud Cake << just literal rivers of marshmallow and chocolate.

Caramel Cake with Caramel Icing << I’m making this classic Southern treat surprisingly easy.

The Best Chocolate Cake I’ve Ever Had << I’m not lying.

Louisiana Stranger Cake from 2 Cookin’ Mamas

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake from Liv for Cake

Pistachio Raspberry Cake from The Sugar Coated Cottage

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Best Carrot Cake Recipe with Pineapple

4.80 from 25 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 10 Servings
This irresistible carrot cake is covered with a thick layer of cream cheese maple pecan frosting! Crushed pineapple makes it super moist.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup lightly flavored oil, *
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple, with juice

Whisk together:

  • 2 cups flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Fold in:

  • 3 cups grated carrots, I used about 5 medium.
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional!)

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, 1 & 1/2 sticks, soft
  • 1 & 1/2 8-oz packages cream cheese, soft (12 ounces total)
  • 4 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons real maple syrup, I used Grade A
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • more pecans, to garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare 2 9-inch cake pans: trace the bottom of each pan onto parchment paper, cut it out, and place in the bottom of the pan. Then generously spray the paper and the sides of the pans with nonstick spray.
  • In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together white sugar, brown sugar, oil, Greek yogurt, vanilla, 4 eggs, and pineapple. (don’t drain it!)
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, (don’t pack your flour! Spoon it into the measuring cup.), baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  • Use a box grater to shred the carrots. It’s annoying to do this by hand, but if you use a food processor, the shredded pieces will be too big and won’t melt into the cake.
  • If you are adding pecans to the cake, toast the chopped pecans in a small skillet for a few minutes on medium until they start to smell good and are lightly browned.
  • Fold in the carrots and pecans.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans, do your best to distribute evenly. If you have a kitchen scale you can weigh them.
  • Bake at 325 for 38-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Wait about 20-30 minutes, then run a knife along the edge and flip the cakes onto cooking racks. Be careful! This cake is heavy but delicate. Eat as many crumbs and scraps and you can legitimately get your hands on.
  • Let cool completely.
  • At this point, you can either wrap your cakes in plastic wrap and freeze so that it is super easy to frost (that’s what I did) or you can frost immediately. Just be careful.

For the frosting:

  • Chop up the pecans. You can chop them with a knife or in a food processor. Click on the photo of the frosting below the recipe to see what level of choppiness we’re talking.
  • Set a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pecans and stir occasionally until they start to smell delicious, or until they barely start to brown. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese to within an inch of its life. Just kidding, beat it for a couple minutes until it’s high and fluffy.
  • Add half the powdered sugar and all the maple syrup. Beat well.
  • Add the rest of the powdered sugar, maple extract, and salt. Beat well.
  • Add the chopped pecans when they are completely cooled and beat well.
  • Place one of the cake layers on your cake plate. Top with about 1 cup of frosting and spread. Top with the other cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake.
  • Garnish with toasted pecans.

Notes

*I haven’t tried it, but using half applesauce and half oil is pretty common for carrot cake. Try it out to cut calories!

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 1020kcal | Carbohydrates: 134g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g | Monounsaturated Fat: 27g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 779mg | Potassium: 360mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 108g | Vitamin A: 6962IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 138mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 1020
Keyword: Carrot Cake, Cream Cheese, frosting, Maple, pecan
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have made this cake twice in less than a month. I made it for my son’s birthday. When I asked my granddaughter what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she said “that carrot cake you made for Uncle Andrew’s birthday. Once again your precise directions make it easy for me to make a successful cake. And I loved the parchment paper on the bottom of the cake pan! Thank you Karen!!

  2. 5 stars
    This has to be the best best carrot cake I have ever had! I have made this cake a few time and each time it gets loads of compliments from family and friends. I find carrot cake can be on the drier side sometimes but this cake is so incredibly moist and keeps it’s moister days after being cut into.

    The only changes I’ve made are due to personal preference. I opted not to put the chopped pecans in my frosting and made my frosting less sweet by reducing the amount of powdered sugar to about 1 cup or to taste. 

    Thank you for such a great recipe, this will always be my go to for delicious carrot cake!

  3. Hi! This looks delicious and I want to make it for Easter but wondering if you’ve tried to make it into cupcakes? It may be easier to transport that way. Thoughts? Thank you!

    1. Hi Amanda! Absolutely I think it will work great.Don’t fill the liners more than 2/3 full. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Jessica! I think it will work out okay but I haven’t tried it myself. When you pour the batter into the cake pan, make sure it doesn’t go more than about 2/3 up the sides of the pan and you should be safe from overflowing. Let me know how it goes!

  4. I just served this cake at a ladies gathering, every one absolutely loved the cake. I added raisins and also used 1/2 apple sauce and half oil. It was perfect, nice and moist. Iceing made the cake over he top!

  5. I was wondering what’s the most common “lightly flavored oils” to use? Would coconut oil be considered a good option? Which one do you use?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi AC! I always use light flavored olive oil. Coconut flavor would work but would add a coconut flavor to your cake, very faint. Which might actually be good in carrot cake!

  6. I make this cake every year for Easter. It is perfect. Sometimes I add in raisins… but they aren’t necessary. Thank you for a wonderful family tradition! <3

    1. YAY! I love this so much! Carrot cake at Easter is the best :) Thanks for leaving a review, it means so much to me!!

  7. Hi just wondering what size eggs, medium or large? Caster sugar? Should I substitute vanilla extract for the maple extract or just leave it out entirely? Thanks!

    1. Hey Aine! Large eggs, regular granulated sugar (caster will work fine too!), and yes you can sub vanilla. Great questions! Hope you love the cake!

  8. I made this for my family and took the rest to work. People said it was the best carrot cake that they have ever had and the frosting is amazing!

  9. This looks absolutely wonderful!! Do you think it would be possible to switch the canned pineapple with applesauce? I’m making it for one of my good friends’ weddings (she actually found the recipe!) and she says she doesn’t like pineapple. what do you think?

    1. Hey Ashley! Yeah I bet it would work! Definitely test it first. Don’t try out a new recipe for a wedding, ahhh!! Let me know how it goes :)

    1. Hey Brittani! I usually don’t, I just leave it on the counter. It will keep for 2-3 days. But if you prefer to eat it cold, stick it in the fridge!

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