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A slice of moist carrot cake with crushed pineapple, on a white plate with a fork cutting into the cake.

Moist Carrot Cake (with pineapple and pecans)

This moist carrot cake recipe is made with crushed pineapple and toasted pecans which delivers incredible moisture and flavor. Between each cake layer is a toasted pecan cream cheese buttercream. We make this delicious buttercream by making a pecan paste and then mixing it into the frosting. It's heavenly and really brings out the toasty pecan flavor!
Course Dessert
Cuisine French, Swiss
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 40 minutes
Assembly Time 40 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 1311kcal


Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup canned crushed pineapple lightly drained
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 6 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups freshly shredded carrots lightly packed
  • 1 cup toasted pecans chopped

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 2 cups unsalted butter slightly softened
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 8+ cups powdered sugar sifted
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 oz pecans toasted, about 1 cup of toasted pecan halves


Carrot Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Toast the pecans (you can also toast the ones you’ll need for the buttercream at the same time). Spread the pecans evenly over a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 3-7 minutes, or until they smell nutty and have slightly browned. Be sure to keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn! Set aside to cool.
  • Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans by spraying with nonstick spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Spray on top of the parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the vegetable oil, crushed pineapple, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix until just combined. Fold in the shredded carrots and chopped pecans.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the three 8-inch pans and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple crumbs stuck to it.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn cakes out of pans onto a cooling rack until they’ve cooled completely. 
  • Level cake layers, if needed.
  • If making the layers in advance, wrap completely with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 1-2 days, or the freezer for 2-3 weeks.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and salt until it’s smooth and light in texture and color.
  • Add the vanilla and powdered sugar, a couple cups at a time, mixing well before each addition. Add a tablespoon of heavy cream as needed to keep the frosting smooth and not too stiff. Repeat until all the powdered sugar and cream are added. If the frosting is too soft when it’s cold, add more powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments to thicken it.
  • Set aside 2 cups of the prepared buttercream.
  • To a food processor, add 4 oz of toasted pecans and process until a paste forms. Scrape the sides of the food processor as needed.
  • Add the toasted pecan paste to the 2 cups of prepared cream cheese buttercream and mix well.
  • Store the pecan buttercream and the plain cream cheese buttercream in the fridge. About 40 minutes before decorating the cake, remove the buttercream from the fridge. Once the buttercream has slightly softened, use a stand mixer and beat it on medium speed to make it smooth and spreadable.


  • Put a small dollop of buttercream on a cake board and place the first layer of cake on the board.
  • Spread half of the pecan cream cheese buttercream over the top of the first cake layer. Place the next cake layer on top of the pecan buttercream and spread the rest of the pecan buttercream on top.
  • Lay the third cake layer, flat side up, on top of the cake and apply a thin layer (crumb coat) of cream cheese buttercream to the entire cake and freeze for about 15-20 minutes, until the buttercream is firm.
  • Once the buttercream is firm, add the final layer of frosting around the cake, decorating as desired. We gently pressed chopped, toasted pecans around the bottom of the cake using an offset spatula.


  • Getting the correct doneness when baking the cake layers is so important. If they’re underbaked, they’ll be too soft in the middle and sink. If they get overbaked, the cake will turn out dry. Watch the cakes closely when they’re approaching the end of the baking time to ensure they’re baked just right.
  • Cream cheese buttercream is softer than other buttercreams, so the fridge and freezer will be your best friends as you’re decorating this cake. If the buttercream is getting too soft and not holding its shape, refrigerate for about 20 minutes so it can get a little more firm again. If the frosting between the cake layers is starting to bulge on the sides, put the cake in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to help it firm up and stop bulging.
See Recipe Tips in the blog post for additional tips and storing/freezing directions.


Calories: 1311kcal | Carbohydrates: 148g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 78g | Saturated Fat: 32g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 17g | Monounsaturated Fat: 24g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 219mg | Sodium: 456mg | Potassium: 357mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 117g | Vitamin A: 1644IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 146mg | Iron: 3mg