Pistachio Carrot Cake

I don’t make carrot cake as much as I should. I never really think of it, because I’m too obsessed with chocolate. Also, to be completely honest, grating things is my absolute least favourite kitchen activity, and I’m lazy. I hate grating carrots. You don’t have to grate chocolate for chocolate cake. It’s a shame, though, because carrot cake is great, particularly for spring. This pistachio carrot cake is simple, robust, and delicious.


It’s also surprisingly light. There’s no point pretending that because this cake’s got fruit and vegetables in it that it’s healthy, but it’s definitely not as heavy as the chocolate-fudge-caramel-frosting confections I usually pedal on here. It keeps very well because of the high moisture content of the carrot and pineapple. And everyone loves a good carrot cake.



Adapted from and inspired by this recipe.


I have never put pineapple in carrot cake before, even though I have seen it in plenty of recipes. I always thought it was unnecessary. But this time I thought I’d give it a go, and I actually loved it. You can skip it if you like and it won’t ruin the cake, but I’d urge you to try it if you haven’t done so before.

This list of ingredients looks long, but it’s because it’s got a few spices and cupboard staples in it that you likely have knocking around.


240g all-purpose flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
350g light brown softsugar
130g coconut oil (or any flavourless oil like vegetable or corn)
130g buttermilk (or natural yoghurt)
2 tsp vanilla extract
180g freshly grated carrot
200g tinned or frozen pineapple
70g dessicated coconut
100g chopped pistachios

cream cheese icing

450g cream cheese
120g butter, room temperature
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

handful of chopped pistachios


  1. Get the butter for your icing out of the fridge first. Thank me later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease and line two matching cake tins (around 20cm in diameter). Put your flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger in any bowl and give them a mix. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or by hand), beat the eggs and sugar together until combined. Beat in the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Mix in your dry ingredients until just combined, then fold in your grated carrot, pineapple, coconut, and pistachios.
  3. Divide your cake mix evenly between the two cake tins. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until golden and set in the centre. Let the cakes cool completely before you try to ice them.
  4. For the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together until evenly combined. Beat in the icing sugar and vanilla – don’t overbeat because if you overmix cream cheese frosting it just goes runny. Put half the icing on one cake, top it with the other and finish with the rest of the icing. Sprinkle with your reserved pistachios.


The Taste Test: Cream Cheese

I think cream cheese is a bit of an unsung kitchen hero. I always have a tub of it lurking in my fridge. You can use it in savoury dishes – spread on toast or or a bagel or as the base for building a wrap, of course, but also to thicken sauces and soups, or to enrich bread dough and pastry. You can use it in desserts – cheesecake is the obvious answer, but it’s also great in buttercream that benefits from a savoury edge (not just cream cheese icing but in peanut butter and caramel frostings too) and is a fantastic filling for all sorts of stuff, complemented particularly well by fruit.

Yes, you can buy lots of fancy varieties of cream cheese these days, spiked with herbs and garlic or rippled with chilli. But I like the plain and simple stuff: it’s versatile, cheap, and lasts for ages. And, really, there are few things I like more than a freshly toasted bagel covered liberally in cream cheese with a mound of smoked salmon.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of cream cheese or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which who had made product A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Cream Cheese


Cream Cheese

A – Philadelphia- 7/10

  • Looked smooth in comparison to some of the others. Tasted rich and creamy and mild, with a little welcome acidity but not too much. Nothing surprising but a good base all-rounder.

B – Aldi- 7/10

  • Immediately less smooth and more craggy than A, visually, and it came through on the taste, but it was still enjoyable. More of a savoury, cheese-y taste than the first sample. Not bad at all, but a very different thing to A.

C – Waitrose- 5/10

  • Smooth. Much firmer and chalkier than the first two samples. Less flavour than A or B. Dissolves away in your mouth. Fine but undistinguished.

D – Tesco- 3/10

  • Looks and tastes less smooth than the other samples. Quite flavourless and very obviously grainy in the mouth.

E – Sainsbury’s – 6/10

  • Creamy and smooth. Similar to sample A in that it was creamy rather than cheese-y. Pleasant enough but unremarkable.


I was surprised that there was a visual difference between the samples. Some looked obviously creamier, some were crumblier. This carried through on the taste: I wondered if I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them, but actually I could, easily.

There were two camps here: creamy and cheese-y. Philadelphia was the winner, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the creamy camp, although Sainsbury’s a close second. These mild samples would both be great for use in desserts particularly. Aldi, though, was the winner for the cheese-y side – this tasted far more like soft cheese than like cream. It has a lot of flavour, and would be great for savoury things like sauces and soups.

This will be the last in my Taste Test series for a little while, as my real job is sucking up a lot of my time. But I am planning the next round! So if you have anything you would like me to put to the test, please comment and leave your ideas below…