This single layer simple carrot cake with pineapple is moist, light and perfectly suited for snacking. A flavorful vanilla and citrus spiked mascarpone icing crowns this carrot cake for a delicious and creamy finish! This recipe is vegetarian with a dairy free option.
A Classic with Many Variations
How do you like your carrot cake? Multiple or single layer(s), with or without pineapple, with or without raisins, extra moist, dense, tons of carrots, pecans or walnuts, with or without coconut… the list goes on!
I love any kind of carrot cake as long as it’s moist with a hit of cinnamon. One thing we can all agree on is carrot cake is a classic loved by many. and for good reason!
With a super moist crumb, sweet carrots and a creamy and sweet icing, what’s not to love?
A Simple Carrot Cake
This single layer carrot cake is easy to pull together since it’s made with a bowl and spoon, and there’s no cake layers to ice. The following ingredients are what you’ll find in this carrot cake with pineapple recipe (see recipe card for full details):
- Unbleached All Purpose Flour – for a tender crumb.
- Corn Starch – I include a tablespoon to lighten the cake’s texture.
- Cinnamon & Nutmeg – offers a hint of spice and ties all the flavors together.
- Vegetable Oil – use melted coconut oil, or canola oil (as seen in this post), or other neutral vegetable oil.
- Brown Sugar – for an extra moist carrot cake and maple edge, it complements the carrots and pineapple beautifully.
- Eggs – large, pastured, organic if possible.
- Carrots – shred on the fine grater setting of a food processor or the small grating side of a box grater.
- Nuts – toasted walnuts or pecans can be included, chopped fine.
- Pineapple – canned, crushed, and throughly drained. Save the juice for drinking or in smoothies. Pineapple helps make a super moist carrot cake!
The Easiest Mascarpone Icing
Mascarpone is a creamy, soft cheese perfectly suited for icing this simple carrot cake recipe. It has a silkier and softer texture than cream cheese with a little bit less tang. Because it’s so soft, I mix it in a bowl with a spatula, add vanilla beans, powdered sugar and orange zest. Talk about easy! This lightly sweetened icing is a creamy contrast to the carrot cake and it’s super simple to pull together.
Slather the mascarpone icing over the top of the cake, or dollop it on individual pieces just before serving.
How to Make this Simple Carrot Cake
Fresh ingredients and just a little prep will ensure perfect carrot cake every time. In summary, here’s how to make this moist carrot cake with pineapple (see recipe card for details):
- First, prep your 9″ round cake pan by greasing the bottom and sides. Then, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Arrange the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat your oven to 350F.
- Second, while the oven is preheating, toast the nuts.
- Third, shred the carrots.
- Fourth, chop the nuts.
- Fifth, in a medium bowl, whisk the flour and other dry ingredients together.
- Sixth, in a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, pineapple and vanilla together, then mix in the flour mixture.
- Next, fold in the nuts and carrots.
- Last, transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and bake.
The cake is ready when a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, it slightly springs back under gentle pressure at center, and the edges of the cake are just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. It will be golden and slightly domed.
A Few Recipe Notes
- Pan Equivalent: Although I’ve not tried it, my baking books tell me that an 8×8 square pan may be used instead of a 9″ round for this recipe. Bake for about 30-40 minutes testing for doneness starting at 30 minutes.
- Dairy Free? While this single layer carrot cake is dairy free as written, the icing is not. The cake can be served with a dusting of powder sugar or Marly’s dairy free cream cheese icing.
- The Oil: If using solid coconut oil as opposed to canola, make sure it’s melted and warm to the touch just before mixing the ingredients. You’ll notice the batter will stiffen as all the ingredients are mixed. As the coconut oil cools, it solidifies, so the batter becomes stiff and heavy. Simply transfer the batter to the pan and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly, pressing the batter into the pan. Canola is liquid at room temperature so produces a looser batter (it’s pictured in this post). Either can be used in this recipe!
- Freezer Friendly? This moist carrot cake freezes beautifully, iced or uniced. Simply allow the cake to cool completely, freeze the cake or individual pieces on a sheet pan and once frozen wrap snugly in plastic wrap or lidded storage container. Store in freezer then thaw at room temperature for about 2 hours before enjoying. If iced, take the plastic wrap off before thawing so the icing doesn’t stick.
More Cake Recipes to Love
- Almond Orange Mini Tea Cakes
- The Easiest Sweet Cherry Almond Cake
- Blueberry Cinnamon Yogurt Coffee Cake
- Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
- Strawberry Shortcake with Sourdough Biscuits
Carrot Cake with Pineapple and Vanilla Mascarpone Icing
For the Cake:
- 1 C (127g) Shelled, Whole Pecans or Walnuts divided
- 1 1/4 C (175g) Unbleached All Purpose Flour
- 1 Tbs Corn Starch
- 1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1/3 C (65g) Dark Brown Sugar packed
- 1/3 C (75g) Granulated Cane Sugar
- 3/4 C (150g) Canola Oil or melted Coconut Oil, warm to the touch
- 2 Large Eggs room temperature*
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 C (130g) Drained Crushed Pineapple press through a stainer to drain throughly
- 1 1/4 C (160g) Packed Finely Shredded Carrots from about 2 large carrots
For the Icing:
- 16 oz (450g) Mascarpone Cheese 2, 8 oz tubs
- 1/4 C + 2 Tbs (45g) Powdered Sugar
- Vanilla Beans Scraped from One Vanilla Bean Pod
- Orange Zest from one large orange, two if you have it.
For the Cake:
- Grease a 9" x 2" (22 x 5 cm) round cake pan thoroughly on the sides and bottom. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the top of the parchment paper. Be sure to get the corners good! Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
- Place the nuts on a small sheet pan and put them in the oven while the oven is preheating. Toast the nuts for about 10-15 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant and starting to turn slightly darker. Chop fine when cool. Scoop out 1/4 C (25g) for sprinkling on the top of the finished cake. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, corn starch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the brown sugar and cane sugar, and whisk in the oil until ingredients are combined, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs and vanilla. Whisk until the ingredients are emulsified, about 20 seconds. Add the pineapple to the egg mixture and whisk until the pineapple is evenly distributed. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Using a silicone spatula, gently mix until no flour streaks remain. If using coconut oil, the batter will start to stiffen at this point because the coconut oil is cooling (solidifying). Working quickly, fold in the shredded carrots and nuts. If using canola oil, the batter should be thick but loose and almost pourable. For coconut oil, the batter should be stiff and thick.
- Transfer the cake batter to the cake pan and using an offset spatula, and smooth the batter into an even layer. If using coconut oil, spread the batter while pressing it into the pan. Tap the pan on the counter to disperse any air pockets.
- Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes. The cake is ready when it's golden, a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, the cake slightly springs back under gentle pressure at center, and the edges of the cake are just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a cooling wrack. Turn cake out on to a plate or cutting board to release. Give it a gentle tap if needed. If it doesn't budge, ease the edges with a pairing knife by running the knife around the sides of the cake. Then flip back over on to cooling rack, so that the top is showing. Cool completely before icing (about 2 hours).
For the Icing:
- While the cake is cooling, in a medium mixing bowl, add the mascarpone. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and add the vanilla beans and zest. Stir with a silicone spatula just to combine, do not whip. It should be soft and spreadable. Put a lid on the icing and store it in the fridge for at least 1 1/2 hours (up to two days), until you're ready to ice the cake. It will firm up a bit as it chills.
Ice the Cake:
- Because mascarpone needs to be refrigerated, consider how/when you'll share the cake before icing. An iced cake needs to be refrigerated within three hours. An uniced cake can set covered at room temperature for up to three days. Ice the Whole Cake: Once the cake is cool and just before serving, take the icing from the fridge and spread it over the cake. Finish the cake with a sprinkle of the remaining finely chopped pecans or walnuts if desired. Share within three hours. Individual Pieces: Once the cake is cool, slice the cake and share with a dollop or slather of chilled mascarpone. **See recipe notes for tips on cutting clean cake edges.
- Room Temperature: Store an iced cake at room temperature (70F or less) for up to three hours. Afterwards, store the cake in the fridge, covered for up to three days. Before serving, pull the cake from the fridge and rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes to allow the fats to soften. I have stored the cake at room temperature for over 24 hours and it was fine for us, but food safety says cheese should set out for no more than three hours. An uniced cake can be stored covered at room temperature for up to three days. To Freeze: This cake freezes beautifully, iced or uniced. Simply allow the cake to cool completely, ice the cake or not, then freeze individual pieces on a sheet pan. Once frozen wrap snugly in plastic wrap or or store in a lidded container. Store in freezer then thaw at room temperature for about two hours before enjoying. If iced, take the plastic wrap off before thawing so the icing doesn't stick. I've only tested freezing the iced cake for up to two days. Uniced will freeze well for up to two weeks. Unwrap and thaw at room temperature, covered with a cake dome.