There are a few types of carrot cake lovers. Some like their carrot cakes dense, filled with nuts, and/or lots of fruits. Then there are others who prefer their carrot cakes light and fluffy. Here, a happy medium with a tropical twist is frosted with a rich, delicious and smooth mascarpone frosting.

I’m not a fan of traditional carrot cake. There’s something about all those large pieces of nuts, raisins and shredded coconut inside the cake that doesn’t sit well with me. I prefer every bite into a slice of cake to be smooth, without interruption from a crunchy nut. However, this cake wasn’t about me or what I like. I made it for my husband. It was his birthday recently and carrot cake is his favorite. When I asked him about what texture of carrot cake he’d prefer, he had no requests and said I could experiment and surprise him with a totally new carrot cake. Ahh, a challenge!

Petit World Citizen

Inspired by my recent trip to Australia and Hawaii, my version of carrot cake here is tropical—made with ground macadamia nuts, crushed pineapples, and garnished with toasted coconut flakes. For an added twist in flavor I added a bit of cardamom. Moist, light, fruity and a little nutty, it worked and I was happy with the result. More importantly, so was my husband. He loved his tropical birthday carrot cake. I hope you like it too.

The decadent and smooth frosting made with Italian mascarpone cheese is adapted from a recipe by British chef and restaurateur, Jamie Oliver. The cake was such a hit I brought it to share at Angie’s virtual Fiesta Friday Party.

Petit World Citizen

Tropical Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup whole milk yogurt, plain
¼ cup avocado oil
¾ cup melted brown butter (or more oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
2 cups carrots, peeled and finely grated and very loosely packed (see notes below)
8 ounces crushed pineapple (from a can with its own juice) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cakes pans, dust with flour and tap out any excess. Line bottom of both pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine flour, macadamia nuts, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, whisk together eggs, sugars, yogurt, oil and melted butter. Add vanilla and ginger. Blend in flour mixture, then add carrots and crushed pineapple.

Divide batter equally between pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. About 40-55 minutes. Remove pans from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; let stand until completely cool.

Petit World Citizen

Lime Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Frosting
1½ cups powdered sugar
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
2 small limes, zest and juice
Macadamia nuts, roasted and chopped coarsely
Coconut flakes, slightly toasted

To garnish the cake, toast about ½ cup of macadamias in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, allow to cool then chop coarsely. Toast coconut flakes for 3 to 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together mascarpone and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar, lime zest and juice. Spread mixture over top of cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped nuts and coconut flakes. Cut cake and serve.

Martine’s Notes: For the cake, I wanted a small cake so I used two 6-inch round cake pans and another pan for the excess batter. I toasted the macadamias in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, then ground them with my VitaMix. You could also use a nut grinder or food processor. I ground them to the consistency of fine to coarse flour, but if you prefer a little more texture you can chop them coarsely to your preference.

To grate the carrots, use the smallest holes (about ¼-inch in diameter or less) of a box grater. You could use the fine grater of a food processor, but I recommend using a box grater so you don’t get the added liquid which will affect the consistency and texture of the cake. When measuring your carrots, do not pack them in measuring cup. If you do, you will need more flour.

I did not add raisins to this cake. If you’d like, you can add about ½ cup of raisins to the mixture of wet ingredients. Also, I did not add too much sugar to my cake. I didn’t want it to be too sweet as I knew the frosting would be decadent and rich. I think the balance I came up with worked well. For a sweeter cake you can add another ½-1 cup of sugar.

My cake was a double layer. Next time I might make three layers as I like my cakes small but tall. If you are making layers, please note since mascarpone and cream cheese are very soft, the frosting is quite soft. In my recipe I added 1/2 cup more of powdered sugar than the original recipe to help thicken it. Since the recipe calls for 8 ounces of cream cheese and 4 ounces of mascarpone, I knew it could handle the additional 1/2 cup more of powdered sugar without compromising flavor. If you make layers, I’d recommend spreading a relatively thin layer of frosting in between the cake layers so your cake layers don’t slide too much. Also, I’d refrigerate the frosting for several minutes before spreading, to make it a little more firm.

32 thoughts on “Tropical Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Gorgeous. What a great recipe. Your cake turned out beautifully! I also don’t love raisins in the cake and think a frosting that’s too sweet can ruin the whole thing. Well done!

    1. Thanks for your kind words Amanda. Glad you like it. It really was fun for me to come up with the recipe and put it all together. The tart lime in the frosting helps to balance out the sugar. The addition of mascarpone…well, it’s Italian…and just delicious and so smooth! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Looks like we all agree…no raisins in the cake. 🙂 Your toasted coconut shavings are so beautiful on your cake. And the extra macadamia nuts add a very nice touch. Looks gorgeous and sounds like a delicious recipe.

  3. Hi, Martine. I love to coconut, cardamom, lime and macadamia nuts in your cake and frosting. What a beautiful photo, as well – you are a skilled cake artist. In your icing recipe, it calls for cream, but in the preparation portion it calls for cream cheese. Which is it? I would love to try your recipe for our next event. Well done.

    1. Hi Shanna, many thanks! I’m glad you like the eclectic mix of flavors and photo! I meant to type cream cheese. Thanks for pointing out the omission. I’ve updated the post to correct it. I’m so honored to know that you’d like to try this recipe. I would love your thoughts after you make it. If it can be improved, I’d love to know. Enjoy!

  4. What a beauty, Martine! I think this was meant to be for me to stop by your page. I have been searching far and wide for a carrot cake recipe and though I thought I’d found it, my husband asked for it to include coconut and pineapple which sent me back to researching. This combines all those flavors he seeks! The cardamom is a lovely surprise in the ingredient list and I like how you said you made a smaller cake. I was planning to make a 4.5 inch triple layer cake, so I think this will work out well for me! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. That’s awesome! I’m so glad you stopped by and found what you were looking for! Your plan to make a 4.5 inch triple layer cake sounds fantastic! Round or square? I love small and tall cakes. I made this cake as a double layer. I didn’t make it higher because the frosting is a fairly creamy consistency and I was afraid the layers might slide. In my frosting recipe I added 1/2 cup more of powdered sugar than the original frosting recipe to make the frosting a bit thicker. I only mention this as a heads up. You might want to spread the frosting in a relatively thin layer, in between your cake layers, so the cake layers don’t slide too much. Also, after you make the frosting, I’d recommend putting it in the refrigerator for a bit so so it can be a little more firm. Thanks for stopping by and all the best with your cake. Please let me know your thoughts about this cake after you make it. If the recipe can be improved, I’d love to have your feedback! Thanks again!

      1. Wow, this is great to know—thank you for your reply with all this information! I plan on making a round cake (square sounds so fun though!). Thank you for the bit about the frosting and spreading it thinly in the cake layers so the layers won’t slide. I have made buttercream frosting before and thought this consistency might be more like that, but I think the addition of mascarpone and lime juice must thin it out a little, and I like your suggestion regarding adding more powdered sugar to thicken it. Thank you, and I will definitely let you know how it turns out. I am planning to make this for Mother’s Day in a few weeks, but need to do a trial run first!

    2. Round is cute too. I need to find 4.5-inch round pans; I love that size! Both cream cheese and mascarpone are very soft so the frosting is very soft. You could also add a little less lime juice if you’d like, perhaps that might help a little. Good luck with your trial run and for Mother’s Day! I wish you the best and feel free to let me know if you have any more questions!

  5. I love cookbooks that aren’t “main stream” or usual. I look forward to trying the carrot cake recipe as soon as possible. Looks so good!

    1. Hi Janette, thanks for your comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the carrot cake if you try it! It’s a new recipe so I’d love any type of feedback. Also, because you made a comment about liking cooking books that are not main stream, consider entering to win the giveaway for the “Ancient Grains” cookbook by commenting at the end of my most recent post about it.

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