Apparently carrot cake is a very popular dessert around Easter.  I’m not totally sure why – I guess Easter makes us think of bunnies which make us think of carrots?  Whatever the reason, it’s a lovely spring dessert.  I have been wanting to try this recipe for tropical carrot cake since long before I owned The Pastry Queen cookbook.  I hosted a low key Easter-inspired meal this weekend for the in-laws and served this as the sweet finale.  It was a big hit with everyone, and I heard several refrains of “best carrot cake ever” as we were enjoying it.

This carrot cake earns its tropical label by the addition of macadamia nuts, diced pineapple, shredded coconut, and coconut cream.  All these tasty mix-ins gave the cake multiple layers of delicious flavor and great texture.  However, it also seemed to cause the layers to sink in the center during baking and after cooling.  The combination of such a moist cake and so many mix-ins produced a cake that was not the most structurally sound, but it came together alright nonetheless.  My only gripe was with the frosting because the original recipe simply didn’t make enough to cover the cake well.  Yes, it was enough to cover it very thinly, but lots of crumbs were showing and there was none left over for detailing.  I hate when I’m forced to go back and make extra frosting, so I have altered the version below to yield enough frosting to adequately fill and cover the cake.  I threw these little fondant carrots on top for decoration and they added a cute finishing touch.  This makes a reeeeally big cake, but somehow I don’t think guests will mind taking home a leftover piece or two ;)


For the cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups canola or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup cream of coconut
  • 1½ cups peeled, shredded carrots
  • 1½ cups diced pineapple (fresh or canned)
  • 1½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted

For the frosting:

  • 4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 5½ tbsp. heavy cream
  • 5½ tbsp. cream of coconut
  • ¾ tsp. salt


  • 01

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and grease and flour the sides, tapping out the excess.

  • 02

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk together to blend.  In another mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, oil, and cream of coconut.  Whisk well to combine.  Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.  Add in the shredded carrots, diced pineapple, flaked coconut and macadamia nuts.  Fold in gently with a spatula until evenly incorporated.

  • 03

    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the cakes 180 degrees and from top to bottom racks (and vice versa) halfway through baking.  The cakes are finished baking when golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cakes 5-10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  • 04

    To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add in the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated.  Beat 1 minute more, until smooth and fluffy.  Mix in the heavy cream, cream of coconut and salt until smooth.

  • 05

    To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake stand or platter.  Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over the top.  Top with another cake layer, and more frosting on top of that.  Place the final cake layer on top.  Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the assembled cake, reserving up to 1 cup for detailing if desired.

  • Carrot cake is delicious and yours looks wonderful and very much like Easter!

  • Macaire Merkel

    Did yuo buy the fondant carrots pre-made or did you make them yourself? They look amazing!

  • Kat

    so cute…and prob tastes great!!

  • the pineapple in this reminds me of hummingbird cake, which is also one of my spring favorites! glad u ended up making extra frosting because the best thing about carrot cake has to be the cream cheese frosting!!

  • Annie

    I made them myself. It’s easy, just like play-doh!

  • That looks yummy! I might have to give it a try sometime. Do you make your own fondant or do you get the pre-made kind? Just wondering :) Happy Wednesday!

  • Looks yummy!! I love the Pastry Queen, it is such a good book!!

  • Liz

    What a beautiful cake! Do you think the amount of batter could convert this recipe into a sheet cake? Just curious.

  • Susan A

    Hi Annie-
    LOVE YOUR BLOG!! I found you through Tastespotting and have tagged you as one of my favorites. I make a tropical carrot cake that is from Bon Apetit magazine. At first I thought it was the same recipe. They are very similar. I think the crystalized ginger in this recipe makes it extra fabulous.

    BTW this recipe makes too much frosting!

    ps Made the Lemon Yogurt cake THREE times since you highlighted it recently. Everyone LOVES it!!

  • Teresa

    Carrot cake has to be my all time favorite cake. With all the extra add in’s in your cake, this sounds even yummier than the normal version. Can’t wait to try it!!

  • I’m always looking for new carrot cake recipes and this looks fantastic.

  • risa

    This is a beautiful cake, nice eye candy!

  • elma

    beautiful….love carrot cakes….the fondant carrot looks so real!

  • Annie

    Normally I make my own but this time I used premade because it was a last minute addition.

  • Annie

    Yes, definitely.

  • Alice

    I absolutely love Rebecca Rather! We were married in Fredericksburg and never miss a visit (or two) to Rather Sweet when we visit. All of her recipes I’ve tried have been amazing so far – I especially recommend her egg kolaches.

  • Jelli

    The cake is lovely, but I especially giggled at your logic about why carrot cake is so popular this time of year. Good job!

  • HB

    Love this — think I’ll be making it as cupcakes for Easter! Thanks!

  • I’m ready to try this without the macadamia nuts….I wonder if the nuts help add strength to the cake though…I’ll let you know, if I follow through.

  • This looks so pretty! I love carrot cake anytime but I think I may be the only one in the house that really appreciates it.

  • This sounds and looks amazing!
    Yes, carrot = bunnies = Easter Bunny :)

  • What a wonderful take on a classic! Sounds delicious!

  • Those fondant carrots are perhaps the cutest cake garnish I’ve ever seen. This version of carrot cake sounds so interesting! I’m glad it was a big hit…I’ll have to add it to my to-try carrot cake recipe list.

  • WOWIE…your Tropical Carrot Cake is absolutely beautiful! I’ve made this same recipe as well, and loved it! The fondant carrots truly stick out to me, eye-catching and perfect!!! Just beautiful!

  • that cake is adorable!

  • Hi Annie, lovely cake! As to why Carrot Cake is popular around Easter, I think it might have something to do with its alternative name of Passion Cake? The Passion being, of course, the Christian Holy week, or Passiontide. I haven’t been able to track down a definitive answer, however, so I could be wrong……………….

  • Lindsay

    Hi Annie,
    This has to be the cutest carrot cake I have ever seen. I would like to make this cake but I do not have any decorating tips at home. If I were to buy one for this what one do I need to purchase? Or do you have a reference on your blog you could refer me to? Thanks for your help, Annie. I do appreciate it. Happy Easter to you and your family!

  • Annie

    You can use any tip you want to make whatever design you want.

  • Kathie

    Hey Annie-
    Going to make this for Easter…
    Do you think the recipe is too heavy to make into cupcakes?? If not, what do you suggest as a baking time?

  • Annie

    Hi Kathie,
    I think they would be fine as cupcakes. Or for a more simple version, you could make these that I previously posted. I know they work as cupcakes, obviously. But either version should work.

  • Dora

    Hi Annie….your carrot cake looks devine! I think carrot and coconut are my all time favorite cakes. I want to try your recipe but was wondering if you found it at all too sweet with the 3 cups of sugar in the cake and then the icing on top. Thanks so much! I always enjoy your blog!

  • Annie

    Hi Dora,
    If I don’t like a recipe, I don’t post it so anything that makes the blog is good to me. Everyone has different thresholds for “too sweet” though, and I am not sure I’ve ever used that phrase. I guess you just have to try it and decide for yourself.

  • A

    This cake sounds divine. Please tell me where to find the cream of coconut. I’ve never heard of it before.

  • Annie

    You can ask a store employee if you don’t know where to find something. In my store, it’s in the aisle with the mixed drink supplies.

  • Lisa Blanchard

    This is an awesome blog! I work full time, have two teenagers and am taking classes so I can apply for nursing school. I cannot fathom adding a blog to that schedule….you are my hero. :)

  • Hey, I made this yesterday however the frosting was WAY runny. I couldn’t use a pastry bag even if I wanted too. Is is possible that the recipe calls for 2 lbs powdered sugar v. the 2 cups listed?

  • Annie

    No, the quantities are all correct. Plus, 2 lbs. of powdered sugar would make it more like cement than frosting. Did you use coconut milk instead of coconut cream? I have no idea why it would be runny.

  • TM

    I made this recipe yesterday for Easter – it was fantastic! Consistency of cake and frosting was perfect! Thanks for another great recipe:)

  • Kristy

    I made this cake for Easter and it was such a hit! I made the cake Friday night and decorated it Saturday. My husband has already requested this as his Birthday cake for September. The frosting came out so good although Cream of Coconut was more difficult to find that I thought. I checked the internet for suggestions on where to find it before I left and it was with the drink mixes at our store.

  • Just made this today to take to a picnic, and it was delicious! I didn’t run into any trouble with the frosting, and thought it balanced out the sweetness of the cake really well. I only have 8″ cake pans, so it ended up being a *four* layer cake, which is apparently too tall for my cake keeper (read: colossal tower of cake)! But made for a very impressive presentation :) Thanks for sharing, I’ll definitely make it again!

  • Hey Annie-

    I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to get back to me with my cupcake question.

    When I realized this was a 3 tier cake (my favorite) I ditched the cupcake idea. The cake was FANTASTIC! I decorated the sides with some crushed macadamia nuts….such a show stopper.

    As always thanks for sharing!

  • omg, this looks amazing.
    did you ice the cake yourself?
    what tips did you use?
    this looks so damn good!!!
    love it

  • Annie

    Hi Nisha,
    Yes, I decorated the cake myself. The carrots are made of fondant. I just used a star tip (unlabeled) for the rest of the detailing.

  • Kim

    Hi Annie….Just stumbled onto your blog and made the Strawberry Margarita Pie. Can’t wait to try it tomorrow. I bookmarked you for future reference!! Now I’m just “browsing”….this ckae looks beautiful…and delicious! Cook’s Country had a Tropical Carrot Cake recipe a few years ago with a pineapple cream cheese frosting. Oh. My. Goodness. The frosting was amazing! Totally amazing. Here’s the link if anyone is interetsed:

  • Mae

    I’m making this cake for a party this weekend, but it’ll be a small group and I’m afraid much of it will go to waste. Is there any way to make it on a smaller scale? I’ll take any and all suggestions. Thank you!

  • Annie

    Sure, reduce the quantities of all the ingredients and make less layers or smaller layers.

  • Arpy

    Hi! I was wondering if this recipe could be made into a cupcake or would it not hold well since you said the center would sink in?? Thanks!

  • Annie

    Theoretically it can but I haven’t tried it so the only way to know is try it and see.

  • arpy

    they came out great and delicious!!

  • Doreen Strauss

    i made this cake for my mom’s sunset party last night. We both live near Key West and it was my uncle’s Bday so the tropical theme was perfect, So about 25 people I got many many compliments so thanks. I stumbled on your site looking for cupcake recipes and my hat is off to you on a busy life and a beautiful site!!

  • Curious Cook

    Hi Annie, I love carrot cake but I am really in the mood for a different root vegetable. Do you think it would work as well with parsnips? They’re the same basic shape, just a different color so I think it would be okay…thanks Annie!

  • Annie

    No idea, see the FAQ page for more substitution info.

  • Katie

    This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it. I have a question about the frosting: it looks firm, like it held up to that piping really well! My cream cheese frosting always seems.. soft. I am hoping to frost my dd’s birthday cake with the ruffle piping I saw on your baby shower (AMAZING!) and use a cream cheese frosting. What’s the secret to having it firm up like that for piping?

  • Annie

    Keep it cold, add additional powdered sugar if needed. Also, one very weird thing I have found is that using clear (imitation) vanilla extract rather than pure keeps the frosting stiffer and it holds shape better. I don’t know why that is but now I always use imitation vanilla for cream cheese frosting because it really seems to make a difference.

  • Erin

    Hi Annie!

    I made this recipe first into cupcake and then into a cake. Unfortunately, neither turned out quite right… :(
    Both the cupcakes and cake ended up sinking a bit in the middle and were very sticky. This also happened when I attempted the Spiked Egg Nog cupcakes over the holidays. Any idea where I am messing up?

  • Annie

    Bummer! See the FAQ page for “What went wrong?”

  • Janete B.

    I had the same problem with Erin…the middle sunk and it wasnt cooked eventhough I cooked it longer than the amount of time (it still moves) I changed oven so I do not know if it contributed to it. But, I saved the cooked part and it was very delicious! I normally dont like carrot cake (dunno why) but this one is a keeper. I am making it tonight again for a friend’s bday & hoping it will cook right this time. Keeping my fingers crossed!

  • Nidya

    Hi Annie, I made this cake yerterday for my sister’s husband. I was soooooo yummy. Everybody loved it. Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe.

  • Silverlily

    I’ve been nosing around for a carrot cake recipe to try, and I finally decided on this one. It is incredible! I was able to make 38 cupcakes, which is quite a few (hello, friends and family!). The texture is so moist and delicate, and I very much like how the vanilla flavour shines through. A few of my cupcakes sank a little in the middle (an issue noted in the post and by commenters), but for the most part they were flat. I went rogue in that I used crushed pineapple instead of diced, & didn’t bother to drain the pineapple. What a fabulous recipe!

  • Oharabakes

    Had to pin this wonderful recipe! It’s simply divine. Re Sinking in the center:
    Over mixed batter
    Too much sugar/fat [in this particular recipe I use 2 1/2 C sugar and 1 C canola oil personal preference]
    Not enough liquid, not an issue here, I actually add 1/2 C of pineapple juice due to oil adjustment.
    Oven temp too low. Easy to calibrate and most likely to be the problem.

  • Wendy Benoit

    I made this recipe for Easter and had the same problem as Erin and Janete B. The cake sank in the middle and did not cook evenly, the middle was wet while the edges were deep brown (I cooked for 40 minutes). I wasn’t sure what the color of the cake was supposed to be (no picture of inside of cake) but there is no brown sugar in this recipe, so I just took it out of the over for fear it would burn. I think in my case, the problem was that the pineapples were not finely diced, I used pre cut pineapples. I also think my macademia nuts could have been chopped further, the weight of these two ingredients may have contributed to my cake collapsing in the middle. I used half the frosting recipe and only frosted between tiers and on the top. I thought the cake tasted delicious even though it did not look so good hahaha. I’m thinking maybe next time I’ll also dry the pineapples with paper towels so the cake is not so wet/sticky. Thanks again for posting, I have made several of your recipes and never had any problems until now, even the cookies and cream cupcakes recipe that everyone has problems with I have managed to master ;-)

  • annieseats

    Yeah, it sounds like it probably just needed to bake a bit longer. It’s always a good idea to test the center of the cake with a toothpick or skewer for doneness. I agree that the pineapples might have contributed to the moisture issue as well, and carrot cake is usually pretty moist anyway. Glad it still tasted good!

  • annieseats

    Lene, thank you! You are so kind. I am thrilled to hear you have had so many successes from the blog. That is awesome! I so appreciate you taking the time to let me know :)

  • Andrea Leicht Elliott

    I made this for a dinner party last night and it got rave reviews. There were only eight of us and I saw no need to make a three layer cake (nine inch ones at that)! I cut everything in half and used two eight inch rounds and baked in two increments of fifteen mins to do the rotation. I still have about half of the cake left, so it was perfect. I drained the pineapple very well and hit it with the immersion blender to mash it up to hope to avoid the sinking after baking. It still sunk slightly while cooling, but it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a little extra icing. Speaking of icing, boy was this recipe runny–delicious–but runny and loose. I don’t normally make cream cheese icing so perhaps this is the norm. I added a bit more sugar to it but was afraid to add too much because I didn’t want it to become too sweet; it was absolutely delicious as it was. I left the cake un-iced overnight and refrigerated the icing to hopefully firm it up. In the morning I said screw it and just went ahead and iced it. It was a stickier icing than I’m used to working with but it still came out great. I left the cake in the fridge until the party because I was afraid the cake would slide if I didn’t. Set your worries aside, it all worked out! Yum!