Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

If you’re looking for a fabulous carrot cake recipe, look no more. This is the best carrot cake I’ve ever tasted.  It’s sweet but not too sweet; moist but not too dense or heavy. The frosting was a perfect match for the cake – light and creamy.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to make carrot cake since Bethie, You Know What You Oughta Do, posted Cook’s Illustrated’s Simple Carrot cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. A recent family get together/birthday party was the perfect excuse.

I decided I wanted to bake with Earth Balance Coconut Spread again, which lead me to adapt Cook’s recipe in to a Tropical Carrot Cake loaded with shredded coconut, crushed pineapple and macadamia nuts, topped with a Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting. I also reduced the spices so the tropical flavors would shine through.

The result was fantastic. Everyone loved the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake, but they raved about and came back for seconds of the carrot cake. (Have you noticed that when you serve two cakes almost everyone wants a little slice of each. I know I always do.)

The method for mixing the cake is a little unusual. You use the food processor to emulsify the oil with the sugar and the eggs before incorporating the rest of the ingredients.

I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the cakes after they came out of the oven. They baked up beautifully. I loved the gorgeous color. I wish I’d gotten a better picture of the cut cake, but I was lucky to get a picture before it was gone.

You can make this cake in a 13 x 9-inch pan and I think it would make a great bundt cake too. Just make the frosting a little thinner so you can drizzle it over the bundt and then sprinkle with toasted coconut. Now that I think about it, I hope I have a good excuse to bake a bundt cake soon.

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour**
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder *
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups peeled, shredded carrots, (6 to 7 medium)
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar*
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup melted Earth Balance Coconut Spread or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance Coconut Spread, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted


Preheat oven to 350º. Spray 13 x 9-inch baking pan or 2 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

Shred carrots in food processor fitted with large shredding disk; transfer carrots to bowl and set aside. Wipe out food processor bowl and fit with metal blade. Process granulated and brown sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With machine running, add oil through feed tube in steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer.

Pour mixture into large bowl. Stir in carrots, coconut, nuts, and pineapple. Mix in dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.

Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours. For 9-inch rounds Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.

*I reduced the amount of baking powder and sugar for high altitude baking. Original recipe calls for 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1 1/2 cups sugar.

**How to Measure Flour

Note: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves for 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting:

When cake is cool, beat together cream cheese, coconut spread, sour cream, and vanilla until combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth.

Frost cake and sprinkle toasted coconut on top. Store in the fridge.

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    Leave a Comment:

  1. chris says


    I just wanted to let you know that I made the cake for the annual tennis tournament (two 9 by 13 layers stacked). It was an enormous hit. I used fresh pineapple puree (6 ounce strained plus 1/4 cup juice) per cake and ground toasted pecans in lieu of macadamia nuts (since the bulk raw macadamia nuts are not big sellers and tend to be stale ). I also used a blender to create the emulsion (I do not have a big food processor). I have a pic to send you, but I can’t seem to figure out how to post it here in the comments. Oh, well, it was lovely with a tennis net, cake topper tennis players (Big Bird versus Kool Aid Man), and nuts all around the sides.
    Thanks again. Your blog is wonderful. Your responses to my questions were helpful. Still loving the USA Pan.

  2. Chris says

    Hi Barbara,

    I plan to make this cake for a large gathering. My plan is to make two 13 by 9 inch cakes and stack them. Do you foresee any problems with cracking as I transfer one cake on top of the other? Some cakes are very fragile and do not tolerate transfer very well. One other question I have is whether you used salted and roasted macadamia nuts or raw nuts. And still one more question is whether the coconut is a pronounced texture in the cake. My husband does not care for the texture of coconut, for example, in a Mounds Bar. My prediction is that the coconut will be no more of a texture element than the carrots, but I’d love to hear your views. Thanks for your blog. It’s wonderful.

    PS: I did buy the USA sheet pan that you recommended in the comments section of a different post. Thanks for that recommendation. Wonderful pan with straight sides.

    • says

      Hi Chris – so glad you’re enjoying the pan and my blog! Yes, I think this cake is sturdy enough to stack two 13 x 9 inch cakes. Yes, the macadamia nuts are raw nuts. No the coconut in the cake is not pronounced. You could even roughly chop your coconut so it hides in the cake even more. I hope your crowd enjoys the cake as much as we did.