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King Arthur carrot cake is tender, flavorful, old-fashioned carrot cake at its absolute best. Over the years, our family has made a few adaptations to the recipe, and the result is a long-time family favorite. Here’s how to make it.

a slice of old fashioned carrot cake with not too sweet cream cheese frosting on a plate, with the whole cake behind it on a cake stand
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Why we love this recipe

If you’re looking for an old-fashioned carrot cake recipe with pineapple, you won’t find a better, more thoughtful version than this. Over several decades, my mom and I have made this cake countless times and gently tweaked it to perfection. Our take on King Arthur carrot cake:

  • Is beautifully moist and tender, with a delicate crumb
  • Has generous hits of cinnamon and nutmeg but isn’t muddied with other spices
  • Is studded with finely shredded carrot, crushed pineapple, and sweetened coconut
  • Has the sugar reduced just a touch so the flavors and natural sweetness of the other ingredients shine through at their best
  • Uses the dreamiest ingredient ratios in the frosting to yield a lightly sweet, lightly tangy, smooth and spreadable result

You can make this cake in a 9×13-inch pan with a single batch of frosting, or in two 9-inch rounds with a double batch that both fills and ices.

I first published this recipe here in 2012, with apologies that it was long overdue. I’ve since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

For the old-fashioned carrot cake

There’s nothing fancy in this adaptation of King Arthur carrot cake, which is one of the things I love about it. Here’s a bit of clarification on some of the ingredients.

cake ingredients in bowls
  • You’ll need about 3/4 pound carrots (before trimming) to get three cups shredded. See the FAQ section or the recipe card below for more details on how to shred the carrots just right to achieve the ideal cake texture.
  • You can use chopped walnuts or pecans, but I almost always choose walnuts for their slightly softer and sweeter vibe. When you buy them pre-chopped, the fineness varies by brand, but this cake does well regardless. If the ones you buy are coarser than you prefer, you can always run a chef’s knife through them, pop them into the food processor for a few pulses, or place them in a zip-top bag and hit them a few times with the flat side of a meat mallet or a hammer.
  • The coconut called for here is good old sweetened, flaked coconut in the blue bag (or its equivalent) that you’ll find on grocery store shelves. It’s very finely shredded and has added sugar.
  • For the pineapple, buy crushed pineapple in a can and drain off the excess liquid before using.
  • Safflower oil is my neutral-tasting vegetable oil of choice, but you can use your favorite (vegetable oil blend, canola, peanut, sunflower, etc.)

For the not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting

The same straightforward ingredient choice goes for the frosting, though I do have a few preferences noted below.

frosting ingredients
  • Use good-quality, full-fat, block cream cheese.
  • For the butter, you can do as you like, but I really like to use a cultured, salted butter like Kerrygold for its nuanced flavors.
  • I tend to use good old powdered sugar from the grocery store and give it a sift. (You’ll only use half the amount pictured for one batch of this frosting.) However, if you like, you can use organic powdered sugar. It tends to be processed with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch and have a smoother, more powerful thickening capacity.
  • I always recommend a good-quality pure vanilla extract. In addition to vastly superior flavor, it adds a pretty tinge of color to the frosting, giving it a soft, organic off-white look.
a slice of King Arthur carrot cake with not too sweet cream cheese frosting on a plate

How to make the cakes

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make King Arthur carrot cake with not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. You can see the cake-baking steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll mix the wet ingredients together, adding the oil and then the sugar to the eggs little by little.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet a little at a time, mixing on low just until everything is incorporated.
  4. Add the good stuff — the carrot, walnuts, coconut, and pineapple — and mix by hand (or with the stand mixer paddle on low) until distributed throughout the batter. Bake at 350°F according to the timing in the recipe card, which depends on the type of pan(s) that you’re using. Cool completely before frosting.
Easy Carrot Cake Recipe 780 | Umami Girl
A diminutive slice from a 9×13 carrot cake

How to make the frosting

This is a standard cream cheese frosting recipe but with less powdered sugar added, and a slightly different mixing technique that I find yields more predictable results. Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Have the ingredients at cool room temperature — about an hour out on the counter before using unless it’s a very hot day.
  2. Start by sifting the powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Cut the butter into approximate 1-tablespoon pieces and add to the bowl. Mix on low at first, gradually increasing to high, until well incorporated. It’s okay if the mixture is crumbly rather than smooth at this point. Coating the sugar with the butterfat before adding the cream cheese helps to prevent the frosting from being too loose.
  3. Mix in the vanilla.
  4. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and creamy, but no longer. (It is possible to over-mix cream cheese frosting.)

Expert tips and FAQs

What is “finely shredded” carrot?

Use the largest holes of a box grater or the shredding disc of a food processor to finely shred your carrots. Don’t buy pre-shredded carrots in a bag — the shape is different and will prevent the carrot from melting into the batter to just the right degree. Also, don’t grate the carrot on the smaller holes of a box grater. This shape is too small to yield the perfect texture, and also a real pain in the butt to achieve.

How do you get the rustic swirls on the frosting in the photos?

This cream cheese frosting is soft, smooth, and easy to work with. I achieve a “just woke up like this” vibe on my frosted layer cakes by lacking any special skills. Here’s a post I wrote on how to decorate a cake with sheer force of will.

Can I make King Arthur carrot caek in advance? What about leftovers?

Since the cake is made with oil and contains plenty of moisture, you can bake the layers up to a day or two before you need them (or up to three months in advance if you want to freeze them). For storage at room temperature or in the fridge, cool completely and then wrap each layer gently but thoroughly in plastic wrap. For freezer storage, once cool, wrap in plastic wrap, followed by foil, followed by a zip-top freezer bag.

I like to assemble and frost the cake on the day of serving.

Assembled cake, and any leftovers, can be stored in an airtight container (like this one) in the fridge for a week.

More favorite classic cake recipes

king arthur old fashioned carrot cake with pineapple, iced with not too sweet cream cheese frosting, on a cake stand, with one slice cut out

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old fashioned carrot cake with pineapple on a cake stand, with one slice cut out
4.75 from 56 votes

King Arthur Carrot Cake with Not Too Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
King Arthur carrot cake is tender, flavorful, old-fashioned carrot cake at its absolute best. Over the years, our family has made a few adaptations to the recipe, and the result is a long-time family favorite. Here's how to make it.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 16
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Ingredients 

For the cake

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups (350 ml) safflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups (350 grams) sugar
  • 2 cups (240 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups (325 grams) shredded carrots
  • 1 cup (120 grams) chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup (120 grams) sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 8- ounce 225-gram can crushed pineapple, drained

For the frosting (see note 6)

  • 2 cups (240 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons (84 grams) good salted butter (such as Kerrygold)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 8- ounce 225-gram package cream cheese

Instructions 

For the cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9x13x2-inch pan with cooking spray.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs.
  • Slowly pour in oil while mixer is running.
  • Beat in vanilla.
  • Gradually add the sugar.
  • In a separate medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture a little at a time, mixing each addition on low speed until just incorporated. 
  • Add the carrots, nuts, coconut, and pineapple and fold in with a rubber spatula or on low speed with the stand mixer paddle until well-distributed throughout the batter.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan(s). For a 9×13 inch pan, bake for 45 to 50 minutes. For two 9-inch rounds, bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cake is done when it has slightly pulled away from the edges of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • For a 9×13-inch pan, cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. For 9-inch rounds, remove cakes from pans after 15 minutes and continue cooling on wire rack.

For the frosting

  • Have ingredients at cool room temperature — an hour max out of the fridge.
  • Sift powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle.
  • Cut the butter into approximate 1-tablespoon pieces and add to the mixer.
  • Beat, on low at first, and increasing speed to medium eventually, until well-incorporated. It's okay if the mixture is still crumbly rather than smooth at this point.
  • Beat in vanilla extract.
  • Add cream cheese and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, but no further. (For this and all cream cheese frosting recipes, overbeating can result in a frosting that's too soft.)

Notes

  1. You'll need about 3/4 pound carrots (before trimming) to get three cups shredded. Use the largest holes of a box grater or the shredding disc of a food processor to finely shred your carrots. Don't buy pre-shredded carrots in a bag — the shape is different and will prevent the carrot from melting into the batter to just the right degree. Also, don't grate the carrot on the smaller holes of a box grater. This shape is too small to yield the perfect texture, and also a real pain in the butt to achieve.
  2. You can use chopped walnuts or pecans, but I almost always choose walnuts for their slightly softer and sweeter vibe. When you buy them pre-chopped, the fineness varies by brand, but this cake does well regardless. If the ones you buy are coarser than you prefer, you can always run a chef's knife through them, pop them into the food processor for a few pulses, or place them in a zip-top bag and hit them a few times with the flat side of a meat mallet or a hammer.
  3. The coconut called for here is good old sweetened, flaked coconut in the blue bag (or its equivalent) that you'll find on grocery store shelves. It's very finely shredded and has added sugar.
  4. For the pineapple, buy crushed pineapple in a can and drain off the excess liquid before using.
  5. Safflower oil is my neutral-tasting vegetable oil of choice, but you can use your favorite (vegetable oil blend, canola, peanut, sunflower, etc.)
  6. Double the frosting recipe for a layer cake.
  7. You may notice that the mixing process for this frosting is different from what you've seen before. Coating the sugar with the butterfat before adding the cream cheese helps to prevent the frosting from being too loose.
  8. Use good-quality, full-fat, block cream cheese.
  9. For the butter, you can do as you like, but I really like to use a cultured, salted butter like Kerrygold for its nuanced flavors.
  10. I tend to use good old powdered sugar from the grocery store and give it a sift. (You'll only use half the amount pictured for one batch of this frosting.) However, if you like, you can use organic powdered sugar. It tends to be processed with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch and have a smoother, more powerful thickening capacity.
  11. Since the cake is made with oil and contains plenty of moisture, you can bake the layers up to a day or two before you need them (or up to three months in advance if you want to freeze them). For storage at room temperature or in the fridge, cool completely and then wrap each layer gently but thoroughly in plastic wrap. For freezer storage, once cool, wrap in plastic wrap, followed by foil, followed by a zip-top freezer bag.
  12. I like to assemble and frost the cake on the day of serving. Assembled cake, and any leftovers, can be stored in an airtight container (like this one) in the fridge for a week. 
I first published this recipe here in 2012. I've since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.

Nutrition

Calories: 561kcal, Carbohydrates: 54.8g, Protein: 5.1g, Fat: 37g, Fiber: 2.5g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Cakes
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.75 from 56 votes (56 ratings without comment)

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33 Comments

  1. I didn’t have any pineapples so I used some old apples to make applesauce and then used that and it turned out absolutely amazing!! The recipe is perfect I love it!! My mom who doesn’t even like carrot cake tried it when I made it the first time and she was super impressed:)!!

  2. Hello! Am wondering if I can make this into a carrot loaf instead? Would you recommend adjusting the baking time, if so? additionally, crushed pineapples may be hard to find in my country – pineapple chunks in syrup, however, is readily available. say i want to use this as substitute (of course by just crushing the chunks), i assume i would need to reduce the sugar – would you say 250g from 350g will drastically change the texture?

    thanks!

    1. Hi, Nina! I haven’t tried this as loaves, but the batter is pretty cooperative, so I think it would be okay. For the full recipe, you’d need two 8-cup loaf pans (this is the largest standard size in the U.S. at least) or more depending on the size you’re working with, so you might consider halving the recipe. I’d keep the oven temp at 350°F and expect 45+ minutes baking time for those large loaves, or a little less if your pans are smaller.

      It should be fine to crush up the pineapple chunks in syrup, using just enough of the syrup to replicate the texture you see above in the ingredients photo and the video. That sugar will still contribute to the cake’s soft crumb, so I think your sugar reduction should be about right.

      If you make it this way, please report back — I’d love to know your results.