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.
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 substituing applesauce for oil in muffins—one of those "let's be healthy" things that just happens 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.
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 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.
- Baking is easier. Ever had carrot cake muffins? They're sweet and delicious and always moist, because they cook quicker and lose less moisture. Pineapple adds that tender moisture to a full-size cake, making it easier to bake without going dry. It's like delicious baking insurance.
As a matter of fact, just thinking about Carrot Cake Muffins with pineapple in them. If you'll excuse, me, I've got to go make these right now:
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