A New Take on Carrot Cake

If you’re like me, baking inspiration can come from pretty ordinary places. You see a recipe, a friend mentions a craving, or, you know, there’s that half a bag of carrots staring at you every time you open the fridge.

An image of shredded carrots on a white bowl.

This particular bag of carrots had gotten quite a lot of use already — six went into the homemade chicken soup I made in my first days here, then another handful were peeled and chopped for snacks for the drive up to Chicago for Mom’s birthday — now, almost a month into my new address in East Nashville, it seemed an obvious choice to put most of the remainder into a cake.

A measuring cup filled with pecan nuts.

Blame my economical nature (or, ahem, what my family terms cheap) if you like, but I’m kind of partial to ingredients like these, the ones that are versatile enough to be part of entrees, easy road snacks, and then still key players in weekday desserts — if only all good foods had so many uses. I’ve made (and loved) other tried-and-tested versions of carrot cakes before this one, but just like with cookies, it’s still always fun to try something new.

This version adds pecans and buttermilk, and it looks crazy gorgeous atop a white cake stand (there’s something I forgot to bring!).

An image of two bowls sided by side, one filled with shredded carrots and the other with cake batter.

I would have loved to have also topped it with cream cheese frosting, but, in the name of using up what I already had, even on its own, this cake — dark and moist, fragrant and chocked full of bright orange ribbons — is a beautiful way to eat your vegetables.

An image of a carrot cake with slivers of carrots showing.

So consider this your obvious inspiration: next time you find yourself with some carrots to use up (and honestly, they’re so cheap, why wouldn’t you?), this is what you need to do.

Carrot Cake
Makes one nine-inch cake.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces)
1 cup flour (I used whole-grain spelt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar (I used Sucanat)
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter one 9-inch cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Then butter and flour the parchment and sides of the pan. Make the cake: Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for a few minutes, until fragrant (I used a toaster oven, which is one of those kitchen things I literally use every day).

Cool and finely chop the pecans. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together.

In a small bowl, whisk the coconut oil, buttermilk, and vanilla with a hot spoon to help soften the coconut oil. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes.

Beat in the liquid ingredients. Beat in the dry ingredients until moistened.

Stir in the carrots and pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until springy and golden.

Let the cake cool for a few minutes before inverting it onto a plate; then let it cool completely.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

16 thoughts on “A New Take on Carrot Cake

  1. I just got the official word that I only have to avoid wheat now, instead of all gluten grains. YAY! I’ll be trying this in a couple weeks – with gusto! 🙂

  2. I just made your other carrot cake recently! And HOLY CRAP that was amazingly good. I still have 1/2 a bag of carrots too though. Did you buy the huge bag at WF that was so cheap? Probably. I might have to try this one too.

  3. Well, it looks like you read my mind again. I just made a red lentil soup with lemon, and it left me with half a bag of carrots—obviously, a cake is where they’ll have to go!

  4. Carrot cake is the best! Also, I really like your very final photo with this series. Completely book worthy.

    One thing that I find infinitely funny is that here in Belgium, carrot cake is the MOST exotic thing. Belgians cannot wrap their mind around the idea of putting carrots into something sweet. And then when you add the idea of cream cheese frosting, it simply blows their mind. I get the biggest kick out of introducing my friends to carrot cake and I think I might have to make a few more introductions this weekend after this post!

  5. Carrie, Excellent! Hope you enjoy it!

    Tim, : )

    Ginger, Thanks!

    Jenny, That’s great! I’d love to hear how spelt goes for you!

    Zo, I did turn it upside down and peel off the parchment–because it bakes in a nine-inch round, the bottom really looks that flat!

    Alicia, Believe it or not, I’ve had neverending carrots just from a normal two-pound bag at the grocery! It’s harder to use up for just one person.

    Maddie, Perfect! I love meant-to-be moments like those!

    Allison, That sounds great!

    Emily, Well thank you! And how interesting about Belgium. Hope you can wow your friends with this one!

  6. I kind of love how there isn’t any frosting on your cake. Pure, straight up carrot goodness. My recipe doesn’t contain buttermilk, but I’m a big fan of buttermilk in cakes, so I’m going to try yours. Thanks, Shanalee!

  7. Have you been peaking in my refrigerator at the piles of carrots I have laying around? I always buy them, assuming I’m going to make a carrot soup or something more ambitious, and I forget I buy them and get more the next trip the store. I think a carrot cake is in my near future.

  8. I very much love a great carrot cake — and you’ve done it justice here. My latest obsession is using parsnips instead of the carrots (a trick I learned quite recently from a baking friend). Makes for a delicious cake, especially when paired with chopped hazelnuts and a bit of orange rind… YUM.

  9. Gosh, I love any sort of carrot cake. I’m sure this says terrible things about me, but I especially love it with little bits of pineapple within. Very casino buffet, I know… (But I always scrape off the little piped icing carrots.)

  10. Thanks, Lo. And parsnips sound really interesting, especially with chopped hazelnuts (one of my favorite flavors ever)!

    Maria, Ha! I’ve never even heard of carrot cake with pineapples! I would def try it, casino buffet or not. : )

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