Hawaiian Carrot Cake with Coconut Icing

Hawaiian Carrot Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Thursday!

I hope you’re having a great week, and for some of you, today is actually Friday, since tomorrow is Good Friday, which likely makes your week even better. It’s definitely a crazy time around our house, with my working feverishly on some wedding projects, Reese’s 4th birthday coming up on Monday, my typical baking adventures, and, well, just life as a mom of 2 small kids leading into a busy family-packed Easter weekend.

I’ve been baking like crazy, and was really looking forward to making a really delicious carrot cake for Easter . . . I love carrot cake! I really appreciate a lovely traditional version, but I thought it would be fun to try something a little different. I’ve also been sort of enchanted with open layer cakes lately, and I love simplicity of this one when I saw it on the LCBO website as a sneak peek from their fabulous magazine: Food & Drink, Spring 2011 issue. Although I typically love to switch things up and rework recipes, etc. I didn’t want to mess too much with this one because it was gorgeous just the way I found it, so I left it almost exactly as it was shown in the magazine.

Hawaiian Carrot Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake is a tropical version, including silky coconut cream cheese icing sandwiched between layers of pineapple-infused carrot cake. There are no nuts in the recipe, which was kind of refreshing, but it’s still packed with the wonderful things that make carrot cake so delightful: fresh-grated carrots, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, to name a few. The coconut icing is a play on the traditional cream cheese icing, but with the addition of butter, sour cream, and coconut, it brings it to a whole new level.

Hawaiian Carrot Cake via Sweetapolita

These tropical flavours paired so well with the traditional carrot cake qualities, and I really love the thin layers — I feel like that quick slicing of the two layers into four adds a beautiful element to it, and why not? To me, creating extra layers in a cake, followed by extra icing layers, is one of the simplest ways to make even the simplest cake a show-stopper.

The yummiest!

Hawaiian Carrot Cake with Coconut Icing

Yield: One 4-layer, 9-inch round cake

Super-moist, autumn-spice pineapple-carrot cake filled and frosted with sweet and rich coconut cream cheese icing.


  • 1 cup (240 ml) chopped canned pineapple
  • 4 cups (1 L) grated carrot
  • 2-1/2 cups (315 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (14 g) baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon (10 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 g) cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) nutmeg
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) golden brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • For the Icing:
  • 2 pkgs (250 g each) regular cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) sour cream or natural yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups (315 g) icing sugar
  • 1 cup (75 g) sweetened flaked coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray or oil two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Finely chop drained pineapple, place in a sieve and press with a spoon to remove as much juice as possible. Grate carrots using a food processor. Measure out 4 cups and set aside.
  3. Place flour in a large bowl. Sprinkle with baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until blended.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, then beat on medium for about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, then vanilla.
  5. Beating on low speed, add about a third of flour mixture and beat just until mixed, followed by half the milk. Repeat additions, ending with flour. Batter will be very thick. Gradually mix in pineapple and carrots.
  6. Divide between prepared pans and smooth with a small offset spatula. To remove air pockets, bang pans on counter 5 to 6 times. Bake until centers seem set when lightly tapped, about 40 to 45 minutes. Place on a baking rack to cool. After about 15 minutes, turn cakes out of pans and cool completely on racks. It’s best to bake cakes a day ahead of icing and leave at room temperature overnight.
  7. For the Icing:
  8. Cut cream cheese into chunks. Place butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and beat in cream cheese, piece by piece. Beating too much will cause thinning. Add about a third of the icing sugar and beat on low until just mixed in. Scrape sides of bowl and beaters occasionally.
  9. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating just until smooth. If too thick or thin, work in a little sour cream or sugar. Remove about a quarter of the icing to be used on top cake layer and set aside. Stir coconut into the remaining icing.
  10. Assembly of the Hawaiian Carrot Cake:
  11. Slice cakes horizontally in half. Place top of 1 cake, dome-side down, on a platter. Spread with a third of the coconut icing leaving a narrow border of cake around edge.
  12. Lay the bottom of that cake, cut-side down, on top. Spread with half the remaining coconut icing, leaving a narrow cake border. Top with the bottom half of the second cake, cut-side down. Spread with the remaining coconut icing, leaving a cake border.
  13. Top with the final layer, cut-side down. Spread with plain icing right to the edges. Garnish with toasted, fresh coconut. Best to refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • You may also find this previous post helpful: 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes
  • If you find the coconut icing too runny, add small amounts of icing sugar until desired consistency is achieved.
  • For a quick and easy topping, you can toast flaked (sweetened or unsweetened) coconut on a baking sheet at 350° F for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown, and sprinkle on top of cake.
  • This cake cuts best with a very sharp, serrated knife.

Good luck & enjoy!


Share the Sweetness!


  1. says


    You are killing me softly with this one, my dear. As if carrot cake isn’t dreamy enough all on its own, you throw in pineapple. And an insane frosting. Plus a gorgeous cake plate and THEN illegally adorable pictures of your kids. Just stop already. I can’t go on.

    Love Always,


  2. Ela says

    Rosie! Its beautiful and sounds delicious!! Am I the only one not seeing the ingredient list for the frosting? I apologize if I somehow missed it, but I cannot find it.


      • Ela says

        Thank you! I have a question and I hope it’s ok to post here. My father’s birthday is coming up and his favorite cake is a Coffee Walnut cake that he used to eat a lot when he was growing up in Europe. I wanted to make him one for his birthday and I was wondering if you had any suggestions? Thanks Rosie!! I’m learning so much from you :)


  3. says

    Very similar to my recipe, but my carrot cake actually has coconut IN the cake, and instead of pineapple (which the original recipe called for) I use a secret ingredient. If you email me, I’ll share it with you.

  4. Mellybrown says

    I am so jealous of the 4 day CDN Easter weekend! I forgot about it and dashed across the border to visit some friends who just had a baby …. only to get stuck in a major lineup on the way home. Boo. I’m making carrot cake this Easter. I have to share the link http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Tropical-Carrot-Cake-with-Coconut-Cream-Cheese-Frosting-107949 it is truly the best (and probably most expensive!) carrot cake I have ever had! I’m going to try doing it rectangular style like your raspberry/choco. cake. Have a great weekend!

    • Bianca says

      Should I make you even more jealous and say Australia has a 5 day Easter weekend this year? ANZAC day (a day to commemorate our troops) is on Monday, which means they’ve had to give us Tuesday off to make up for the 2 public holidays on 1 day thing.

  5. says

    Such a beautiful looking cake. I love the idea of using a coconut cream frosting to sandwich the cake together, it really is the icing on the cake! I am visiting Australia, and it is a 5-day long weekend because of Easter and the fact that ANZAC Day falls on Easter Monday, so Tuesday is a holiday too.

  6. Bianca says

    I have to ask, who eats all your cakes? I know you said Grant doesn’t particularly like sweet things, so is it all down to you and your girls? There’s only 2 of us in my house and I always feel greedy when I bake up a huge cake just for us, I still eat it though :)

  7. says

    My mom and I were just discussing making a carrot cake for Easter, but the men in the family aren’t big fans. Maybe we should make it anyways! ;)

  8. Elizabeth says

    The cake looks fantastic! But…i think those cookies are gorgeous! Could you post directions for them too please?

  9. says

    I’m not a big fan of carrot cake normally, but your gorgeous photos and recipe may have just made me change my mind! Oh, and I love all the kiddie pics!

  10. Patrícia says

    Rosie, what a beautiful blog you have!
    I started to read a few days ago and I’m in love!
    A lot of beautiful pictures and details, just like a good blog should be!

  11. says

    A beautiful cake, perfect for Easter. You are now my go to source for cake recipes as everything I have tried from here has never failed. Beautiful :) Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

  12. Jen Lottman says

    Some of my best memories growing up included my Mom’s carrot cake which included pineapple. This kept the cake so moist and delicious and I couldn’t think of any way it could get any better………..until now!! Adding coconut, one of my favourite things in the world, just made this cake just about the best dessert I can think of!!!!! Yummy!!
    Rosie, you did it again, just when I thought you couldn’t make another thing that could outdo the last, you do!!!!!
    Love you and your yummies!!!!

  13. says

    Um, you’re “nothing fancy” cookies look pretty darn good to me! Cake looks delicious too…I love the cinnamon sticks on top. Have a wonderful Easter =)

  14. Jill says

    Hi Rosie,

    I am a friend of Mary’s and she let me try some of this cake that you sent home with her, it was AMAZING!!! Carrot cake is always delicious but the icing really made it to die for! I love checking out your blog and look forward to tasting some more treats at the wedding next weekend!!

  15. says

    This is a mouth watering cake! I can’t wait to try this one all by myself and eat all of myself! LOL. Coconut frosting is really new for me but it seems to be delicious.

  16. Michelle says

    Have you ever made this recipe with mini muffins? I need a good carrot cake for my son’s bday at school and this would be awesome.

  17. says

    lovely pictures, really very beautiful, the kid is an angel and the cake looks delicious. What a beautiful life! Congratulations!

  18. Aisha says

    I’ve already made this cake twice and its absolutely amazing! At least 4 people told me it was the best carrot cake they’d ever had. Some did miss the nuts, so the second time I made it I caramelized some chopped walnuts and sprinkled them on top, that was really yummy! Thank you for sharing such an awesome recipe.

  19. Dalia says

    Hi Rosie,

    I made this cake this past week-end but had to make a small adjustment. Since we follow a kosher diet and cannot mix meat and milk, I had to make the cake non-dairy for a family barbecue. I replaced the buttermilk with soya milk and vinegar producing my own homemade buttermilk and instead of using butter, I used 3/4 cup of olive oil. The cake came out amazing. I made a coconut buttercream icing (with shortening) though the icing was less tasty (can’t beat the taste of real buttercream) the cake in itself was absolutely delicious and the whole family really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Mariana says

    Hi, this looks like a really good recipe, but I´m from Chile and I don´t understand what means “ml” in the amounts of each thing, for example: 250 ml o 1 L…Could you help me to know what measures are those, please?. We use grammes and liters…
    Thanks, greetings!!

  21. Karoline Pratt says

    I am currently baking not one, but TWO of these cakes for a TWIN baby shower luau on Saturday that I’m hosting. OMG. The smell is HEAVEN!! It’s nearly 1am and I still have to wait on the second batch to bake and I don’t even mind because it smells SO darn good! Thank you for this lovely site and awesome recipes!

  22. Christina says

    Thank you for this great recipe. I just tried the first slice and it is amazing. I am a Canadian living in Holland and so it was such a pleasant surprise to come across your blog. Feels like I can bake a little piece of home/Canada right here in Europe!

  23. says

    Excellent website, beautiful family and gorgeous photos! I substituted 1 cup wheat flour, added 1 tsp each of nutmeg/ginger/allspice, and 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut to the cake, borrowed Jamie Oliver’s lime mascarpone frosting and then piped the whole thing w white chocolate… I would love to share my photo… My icing doesn’t have the density of your original frosting but the white chocolate piping gave the top layer more oomph. Let’s see what my guests have to say…

  24. Laura says

    Hi Rosie, your website seems to have become the go-to site for me when I want to try something new, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. Baked this cake for my birthday recently, and it was a hit. I’m not a big fan of cream cheese frosting, but I loved the cream cheese frosting with coconut. Can’t wait to try out more cakes from your website. Thanks a ton!

  25. Danielle says

    Thanks so much for another wonderful recipe, just wanted to ask a quick question! Can you substitute the pineapple for something else? like chopped walnuts/pecans! I wasnt overly fussed about pineapple being in a carrot cake! But it was lovely to eat regardless – will never turn a piece of cake down!

    Thanks again!!
    p.s can i just say the icing was bloody brilliant

  26. Tijana says

    Please can you write how many grams of cream cheese do i need,I live in Africa and don’t have the same cheese or package as you

  27. says

    thank you so much for this recipe. i used it to make a sheet cake for a baby shower. the mom didn’t like any other cake, besides carrot cake. so i needed a good recipe. her eyes practically rolled back in her head upon the first bite. this cake was moist and so yummy; paired with your frosting that i put in the middle….it was crazy good. my husband who isn’t a cake eater either went crazy over it. this is now my go to recipe whenever carrot cake is chosen. thanks again. :)

  28. Shannon says

    Hi Rosie,
    Firstly, I made this cake this weekend and it tasted amazing! So many happy birthday guests!
    However, I was wonderin, with the frosting between the cake layers.. how did you get it so neat and nice? Mine oozed and wasn’t that even!
    Thanks, Shannon :)

  29. Kris says

    Hi Rosie,

    I’ve made this cake once and it was a sure hit! I was wondering though if i can make cupcakes using the same batter?



  30. kaylie says

    Hi Rosie!

    I just re-read your comment that this cake should be best refrigerated a couple hours before consuming and to use a sharp serrated knife to cut the cake. I just made this and assembled it the same way and when i tried cutting it, the cream cheese started squeezing out of the layers and the layers moved back and forth because I was doing the back and forth sawing motion. I think the knife I was given by the restaurateur was a steak knife too. I’m contemplating sticking some wooden skewers through the layers next time. Will that work? But yours is of course, beautiful!

  31. Jenn says

    Hi Rosie! I made this cake a few months ago and it was AHMAZING! Just wondering how you think it would hold up as a bundt cake? Thanks!

  32. Summer says

    Beautiful cake! I made your chocolate cake and it was really delicious. But turns out I am not good with sugar. Do you think I can replace the powdered sugar in the frosting with stevia and potato starch? Should I just do this to taste? Thanks!

  33. Lorette says

    An absolutely mouth watering cake. Thanks for your recipe. My husband and kids keep smiling whenever they open the fridge and see the cake.

  34. Jess says

    We made this last night and it was wonderful. We only made a few tiny changes- we omitted the coconut because our birthday celebrant is not a fan and we used Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.
    We ate the whole cake – there was clamoring for seconds.
    The pineapple was absolutely perfect and kept the cake super moist.
    You have 10 new huge fans on Michigan’s beautiful western shore.

  35. Jennifer says

    Thank you for this recipe. I made it for Easter to share with family and it was a huge hit. It was incredibly moist and full of flavor. It’s a definite winner.

  36. Justine says

    Hi Rosie. I’m making this delicious sounding cake but I’ve just turned mine out of their tins and they are really thin. I don’t think I can split them into layers because they are only about 1in thick each. I’m a very regular baker so I think I have all the basic tips down to ensure my cakes rise, any ideas what I could have done wrong with this recipe? I’m just going to layer these two cakes up with the filling and it will still be yummy, I just want to know how I could improve :)

  37. Louise says

    Hi Rosie – I have made this recipe before and it is divine. I am planning to use it again as the bottom tier to a two tier cake for my nan’s 90th birthday (she requested it!). I will be using an 11 inch cake tin for the bottom tier – are you able to give me a ballpark idea about how to adjust quantities in this recipe to account for the bigger tin? Thanks so much. Louise xx

  38. Alyson says

    Hello! I can’t wait to try this cake out but I was wondering if I could swap out the flour for a gluten free flour?? I’ve done simple switches before, but never on one of your cakes. Let me know and thank you!!!

  39. Samantha M says

    I absolutely love dense, rich carrot cakes like this one. This recipe is almost exactly like my mom’s carrot cake, except that she adds pecans (if you like nuts in your dessert.) Made this cake just a few weeks ago with a Swiss meringue cream cheese buttercream from korenainthekitchen.com- was divine! :-)


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