Baking with Kids: Pineapple Carrot Cake

Baking with Kids: Pineapple Carrot Cake

Today is my birthday and like a lot of moms out there, I have to make my own  birthday cake. Luckily, I really enjoy baking. Sometimes I enjoy it a lot more by myself, but with two little girls eager to be Just Like Mom that isn’t always an option.

A woman leans over a small child in a kitchen, showing the child how to place the dough for pie crust in a pan. Behind them, another child watches.

Rather than try to distract my daughters or keep them out of the kitchen, I’ve decided to embrace their enthusiasm. Kids are natural little helpers and it’s a wonderful way to introduce them to some responsibilities around the house and the concept of giving back to their family.

This morning I introduced them to one of my favorite – and easiest – cake recipes. It went pretty well, albeit messily!

Two small children wearing chef's hats are throwing flour into the air. In front of them is a table full of materials for baking.

I did most of the work, but of course they felt like they’d accomplished a herculean feat and I wouldn’t want to rob them of that great feeling. They’re really looking forward to telling Dad about their adventure in cooking.

A small girl with red hair and a denim jacket excitedly presents a tiered cake to the viewer. The cake has candles on it spelling out "happy birthday."


  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each cloves, ginger, and nutmeg
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 and 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large carrots, grated
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease pan.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and other spices together in a large bowl. In my experience, I’ve found that adding all those “bits” in the cake (grated carrot, pineapple, nuts, etc) works best when added to the dry ingredients. They get lightly coated with flour and then don’t end up sinking to the bottom of the cake during cooking. Add the nuts first, combine well, then follow with the carrots and finally the pineapple.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  4. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Multiple small pans for a tiered cake will cook faster than one big pan.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.

A slice of multi-layered carrot cake with cream cheese frosting between the layers. A stick if cinnamon sits in the foreground.

My favorite way to have this cake is with fresh homemade cream cheese frosting. It’s super simple, too. I use one 8oz package of cream cheese, a stick of salted butter, three cups confectioner’s sugar, and a splash (maybe a teaspoon?) of vanilla extract. Start with room temperature cream cheese and softened butter, then cream everything else together. Voilà! Even my three-year-old can do it, with the assistance of the Kitchen-Aid.