Carrot Cake with Pecan Coconut Frosting

October 13, 2010 · 35 comments

filed in: Bakery,Desserts,Vegetarian/Vegetarian Option

Carrot Cake with Pecan Coconut Frosting

Do readers ever wonder how food bloggers develop the recipes they publish? In my case, new recipe ideas sometimes come in a flash of inspiration and work out exactly as envisioned on the first try or after a couple rounds of experimentation. And sometimes they don’t work out at all. At other times, my method, such as it is, involves rummaging through the contents of my overloaded fridge and considering what the heck I can do with the ingredients already on hand there.

When it comes to dessert recipes, though, I frequently bounce ideas around with an expert: my mom. At 86 years old and 86 pounds — virtually all of which is sweet tooth, as far as I can tell — my mother is always full of enthusiasm and ideas for the subject of dessert. For example, here’s a conversation yours truly (YT) and mom (M) had just the other day:

YT:  I’m thinking about a fall cake. Any ideas?
M:   German chocolate cake!
YT:  I love its frosting, but I’m feeling ho-hum about chocolate.
M:   What about carrot cake?
YT:  I love the cake but wouldn’t want to use the usual lemon and cream cheese icing. [pause] What about carrot cake with a German chocolate cake frosting?  Why is that scrumptious toasted pecan and coconut frosting always reserved exclusively for chocolate cakes anyway? I don’t get it.
M:  Even better, and save half for me!

Recipe development is simple, no?


For the cake:

2 1/4 cups unbleached flour (measured before sifting)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups finely grated raw carrots
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups canola or other light-tasting vegetable oil

For the frosting:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) canned evaporated (not sweetened condensed!) milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped, toasted pecans (or sliced almonds, if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Oil the interiors of three 8-inch (or two 9-inch) diameter round cake pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper, cut to fit.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the white sugar, brown sugar, and four eggs together for approximately four minutes until light and fluffy. While continuing to beat the mixture, gradually drizzle in the oil and beat for an additional minute or two. Alternately add one-half of the flour mixture and one-half of the grated carrots, stirring until just incorporated. Repeat.
  2. Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pans, distributing it equally among them. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, depending on the pan size used, or until a straw inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their baking pans for approximately 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto cake racks, remove the parchment paper, and allow them to cool to room temperature.

  1. Prepare the frosting while the cakes are cooling. Combine 1 cup sugar, the softened butter, and 3 egg yolks in a medium-sized saucepan (off the burner) and whisk together until very well blended and smooth. Gradually whisk in the evaporated milk. Place the saucepan on a medium-low heat burner and whisk continuously until until the mixture is hot and has thickened, approximately five minutes. Remove the saucepan from the burner and set aside until the filling reaches room temperature. Stir in the nuts, flaked coconut, and vanilla.
  2. Spread the frosting between the cake layers and on its top, as shown in the photo above. Serves 10 – 12.

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Leave a Comment

{ 34 them below or add one }

Carleigh March 15, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Hello! My husband loves this cake and has requested I make it every year for his birthday. The problem is, more often than not, I cannot get the frosting to thicken. I’m not sure if I’m adding the milk too quickly or my saucepan is too small…? Anyway, any advice would help. I’ve made the cake today and it’s still his favorite–runny frosting and all!


Barbara March 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I’d suggest one of the following solutions if the frosting isn’t thickening properly for you: (1) add slightly less evaporated milk (say, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons evap. in all) and/or (2) add slightly more shredded coconut (perhaps 1 2/3 cup in all). You might also try simmering the frosting on low for a minute or so longer to ensure the egg yolks set fully.


marci July 9, 2012 at 2:39 am

the pecan coconut frosting was definitely an interesting, tasty alternative to the traditional cream cheese frosting. i used my own carrot cake recipe and only tried the frosting (but reduced the pecans to 1-1/2 cups and the shredded coconut to 1 cup), but the cake and frosting went relatively well together. the frosting slightly overpowered the cake, but it was still pretty good. thank you for the recipe!!!


Trish February 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm

This is a delightful recipe! It took me three days, and two attempts at the filling, but it came together perfectly. Despite my own challenges, this was a huge hit and I would make it again for any occasion. I really enjoyed the challenge, and love your site. Thank you so much for sharing!


Christine December 14, 2010 at 4:38 pm

FINALLY. A genius idea to revolutionize carrot cake. I hope everyone, everywhere reads this recipe and puts it to good use! Now see here, I love a good carrot cake, and I’ve had every kind, from the dry, shriveled Weight Watchers individual packs to the home-sweet-home just-baked-in-a-diner…but something has always been irking me about them! If I thought like a baker, which I do not, something like you have here probably would have come to mind. Coconut would just smoooooooth out that lovely carrot concoction. I’m going to have to try this, um, IMMEDIATELY. But I might make it without eggs.


srithasan December 4, 2010 at 8:08 am

Wonderful Carrot Cake with Pecan Coconut Frosting. Nice to Eat.


Jane Bonacci - The Heritage Cook December 2, 2010 at 4:38 am

Barbara, you and your mom are brilliant! My husband loves carrot cake but hates the typical cream cheese frosting. He also loves German chocolate cake, but likes a darker chocolate flavored cake. Now, thanks to your ingenuity I have the perfect dessert to make for him. THANK YOU!!!


Michelle November 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Love that your cake is not frosted on the sides…much prettier and shows the texture of the cake!


Katrina November 7, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Funny, my husband always says the only cake his grandma evey made was German chocolate cake. I LOVE the idea of carrot cake with that great coconutty frosting!


Barbara November 23, 2010 at 7:16 am

I’m weird, I suppose, but I always prefer a fruit or veggie cake. I’m going to try this approach next with zucchini cake, which I think would work well too.


Susan: My Food Obsession November 1, 2010 at 9:24 am

This cake looks unreal! Carrot, pecan, coconut…… yummo!


fooddreamer October 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm

An excellent way to develop your recipes, I concur! I often like taking a piece of one recipe and combining it with another, getting the best of both (or however many you combine) worlds. Great pictures!


Robyn October 28, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Brilliant. Love this recipe and can’t wait to try it. I’m thinking it will be perfect for Thanksgiving.


Heather Davis October 26, 2010 at 4:09 pm

86 pounds at 86. Now there’s something to look forward to. And all the carrot cake with pecan coconut frosting you desire. This looks divine. Well done mum!


Barbara October 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Mom was always very slim, kind, healthy, and happy. And as far as I can recall, she has mainly subsisted on cake, pie, and greens since I was a child. Perhaps there’s a lesson there about sweets, sweetness, slimness, and longevity? Or is that wishful thinking?


Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog October 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Cakes like that can inspire everybody! Your Mom has an excellent sweet tooth.
Cheers, Gera


the urban baker October 18, 2010 at 9:52 am

we are a house filled with carrot cake lovers! the frosting is such a nice diversion! it looks divine!


Jenny (VintageSugarcube) October 17, 2010 at 3:40 am

Great pic of that cake.. And the recipe looks divine, great job as always.


A Canadian Foodie October 16, 2010 at 10:55 am

Is this deadly or what? I love your top down photos. The step by step and added visuals are so imporant to me. Thank you – Valerie


marla {family fresh cooking} October 16, 2010 at 8:02 am

Looks like you and your mom have a great partnership! This fusion cake sounds ideal & you were very nice to save a piece for someone else. Very hard to do. xo


Megan October 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm

A masterpiece! I would love a slice of this with a tall glass of ice cold milk.


Cookin' Canuck October 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

What a fantastic idea! I can imagine how good this fall-like frosting would taste in carrot cake.


Lisa October 14, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I’ve never thought to combine those two, but it sounds like a delicious combination.


Amanda October 14, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Wow, I would have never thought to combine the cake and frosting—but why not? It’s the perfect match! I enjoyed hearing this recipe’s origin as well. No flashbulb moment or long hours thinking… just a little compromise.


angie October 13, 2010 at 9:58 pm

That sounds so good and makes just as much or more sense than German chocolate, very smart.


Lana @ Never Enough Thyme October 13, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Great idea, Barbara, using the pecan-coconut topping with a carrot layer. I can just imagine the taste of this with a cup of hot, milky coffee. Yum.


Suzanne October 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm

You and your mom are geniuses! I love this idea. Now I must decide. For Thanksgiving or Christmas? Hmmmm . . . . I think it may have to be Thanksgiving! Then another at Christmas. My MM is gonna LOVE this!


Barbara Bakes October 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm

What a gorgeous picture of your fabulous cake. Great idea. It sounds like my mother and yours are a lot alike. Mine’s 81 and all sweet tooth too.


Joyti October 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I am salivating over your cake. It looks and sounds just divine. What a great idea…to use German chocolate cake’s frosting on carrot cake.


Mags October 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Looks positively delicious!


Faith October 13, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Carrot cake with pecan coconut frosting.. Yum yum… you know, you’re making me very hungry for desert althoguh I just had one! what a beautiful cake!


blackbookkitchendiaries October 13, 2010 at 6:21 pm

what a beautiful cake. thank you for sharing this recipe. you are truly talented.


Amanda October 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm

What a gorgeous cake Barbara. My mother in law loves carrot cake and is a sucker for coconut. I may just have to make this for her on her next visit!


Arnold October 13, 2010 at 1:19 pm

This looks simply delicious. I tried my hand at a carrot cake about a week ago but it did not look half as good as yours. I love the frosting you have added.


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