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 ;)
Yield: about 16 servings
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.