Ever wonder why so many carrot cake recipes include pineapple in the mix? Turns out it's solving a problem common with many carrot cakes. Check it out.

The problem

Carrot cakes are too often just a dry, drab slab of a very orange vegetable, disguised as dessert. No one wants that.

The solution: Pineapple

Yes, pineapple. When I first saw this in recipes and reviews, I assumed it was just another version of substituting applesauce for oil in muffins — one of those "let's be healthy" things that just happen to work.

But after looking into it a bit, there's a whole lot more going on. See, it's not a substitution thing. You add the pineapple to the recipe.

side view of a cake with frosting between two layers and on top, garnished with pecan halves and chopped pecans
Credit: sarah

What does pineapple do?

What baking secrets are harbored within a simple pineapple? Food science has a few ideas:

  • It's a tenderizer. Pineapple is a fruit that actually tenderizes. Enzymes found in pineapple (and kiwis and papayas, too) actually break down proteins, which in the case of carrot cake, results in a more moist cake.
  • Sugar. Yes, it's a cake. With carrots. Carrots are sweet, but not cake-sweet. The extra sugar from pineapple (especially the canned pineapple normally called for) just adds that extra sweetness you want in a dessert.
  • Less oil. I know, I said this wasn't the main reason to use pineapple. But it's still kinda true. Replacing a little bit of the oil with the (usually crushed) pineapple does make it a skosh healthier. Or at least that's what I tell myself as I make the cream cheese frosting.

Check out our collection of Carrot Cake Recipes.