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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
Makes one nine-inch cake.
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
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.
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.