Carrot cake lovers will love these carrot cake donuts! Baked, not fried, they start with a perfectly spiced carrot cake batter and are topped with cream cheese icing and candied pecans. They are perfect for Easter brunch, breakfast, and beyond!
Carrot cake donuts are perfect for Easter brunch, but honestly, you can make them any time of year for any occasion!
why you'll love these carrot cake donuts
- Cake donuts: These donuts are made with simple ingredients and are baked in the oven in a donut pan, which gives them a soft and cakey texture.
- Warmly spiced: These donuts feature all of the same warm spices as a classic carrot cake including chopped pecans and cream cheese icing!
- Perfect for any occasion: Share these donuts for any occasion but especially for anyone who loves carrot cake!
ingredient notes & substitutions
Freshly grated carrots: Do not use bagged shredded carrots! They are dry, thick, and just sad. Use the fine holes on a cheese grater, the big holes are too big and will leave the carrots feeling crunchy.
Buttermilk: Do not try and make homemade buttermilk, it does not have the same fat content which is necessary for moist donuts!
Pecans: You can leave out the pecans from the batter or replace them in equal parts with chopped walnuts.
Sour cream: Full-fat sour cream is recommended, but can also be substituted with full-fat plain Greek yogurt.
Butter: If you want to substitute salted butter, decrease the salt by ¼ teaspoon.
Find the full ingredient measurements and instructions in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Whisk the wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, dark brown sugar, egg, grated carrots, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract (image 1 below).
Step 2: Whisk in the dry ingredients. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, clove, and pecans until just combined (image 2 below).
Step 3: Fill a piping bag with the donut batter. Use a spatula to transfer the batter to a piping or ziplock bag and cut the tip (image 3 above).
Step 4: Bake! Spray a nonstick donut pan with nonstick spray or butter. Then fill the molds about ¾ full, almost to the top. You will have enough batter for 10 large donuts (image 4 above).
Bake on the middle rack at 350 F/180 C for 10-11 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched. Let cool completely before decorating.
Step 5: Decorate! Make the cream cheese icing, then dunk the tops of all of the cooled donuts in the glaze (image 5 above).
Feel free to decorate them however you'd like! For mine, I did half sprinkled with candied pecans, and the other half decorated with carrots. I have recipes for both in the recipe card below!
expert baking tips
- Use a kitchen scale. Baking with a scale is much more accurate than cup measurements. To convert this recipe, click the "metric" button next to the ingredients title on the recipe card. If you do not have a scale, use a spoon to fluff the flour first, then spoon it into your measuring cup.
- Use room temperature ingredients: Using room temperature ingredients creates a smooth, fully blended batter that will result in a uniform texture and even baking.
- Don't use bagged shredded carrots. These carrots are not as finely shredded and are also super dry!
- Use a ziplock bag or piping bag. Spooning the batter into the pan is quite difficult and also super messy!
- Grease the pan. Although the pan is nonstick, from time to time a donut will stick to the pan.
- Cool before frosting. There's nothing worse than icing melting off the donuts because they were too warm!
I haven't tried it myself, but I have heard many readers have had success using a muffin pan!
As you may know, donuts in any form are best eaten the day they are made! However, if you have some leftovers, keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days.
These donuts can be frozen without the glaze, in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to one month.
Yes! Feel free to leave them out or replace them with chopped walnuts in equal parts.
You will need to bake in batches! Once the first batch is baked and slightly cooled, remove them, then wash the pan before reusing.
more breakfast recipes to try!
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Carrot Cake Donuts
Carrot Cake Batter
- ¾ cup buttermilk room temperature
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg room temperature
- ¾ cup finely grated carrots
- 3 tablespoon sour cream room temperature
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ⅔ cup all-purpose flour *spoon measured*
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ + ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon clove
- ¼ cup finely chopped pecans
- ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup pecan halves
- 1 tablespoon + 2 tsp granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon water
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Glaze
- 2 oz cream cheese softened
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon clear vanilla extract
- 4-5 tablespoon whole milk
For the Donut Batter
- Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Lightly butter or spray two donut pans and set them aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, brown sugar, egg, finely grated carrots, sour cream, olive oil, and vanilla extract until combined.¾ cup buttermilk, 4 tablespoon unsalted butter, ½ cup dark brown sugar, 1 large egg, ¾ cup finely grated carrots, 3 tablespoon sour cream, 2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Then mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and finely chopped pecans until just combined.1 ⅔ cup all-purpose flour, ¾ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ + ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt, 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon clove, ¼ cup finely chopped pecans
- Fill a piping bag or ziplock bag with the carrot cake batter and cut the tip.
- Pipe the batter into the greased donut pan about ¾ full. You will have enough batter to make 10 donuts.
- Bake the donuts in the preheated oven for 10-11 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched.
- Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove them from the pan.
- Make sure they are completely cool before frosting! You can decorate them with cream cheese carrots, candied pecans, or half and half like I did!
For the Candied Pecan Topping
- In a saucepan, melt the butter with the pecans, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes until toasted.½ tablespoon unsalted butter, ½ cup pecan halves
- Stir in the sugar and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Stir in the cinnamon, water, and salt, cooking until the water has evaporated, 2 minutes.½ teaspoon cinnamon, 2 teaspoon water
- Stir in the vanilla.¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Spread the nuts in an even layer on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 F/180 C for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and lightly crisped.
- Set aside to cool, then chop into pieces.
For the Cream Cheese Icing
- Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth and combined.2 oz cream cheese, 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Then mix in the powdered sugar.1 cup powdered sugar
- Whisk in the vanilla and heavy cream, then set aside 2 tablespoon of the icing in a small bowl for the green carrot top, and 3-4 tablespoon for the orange carrot.½ teaspoon clear vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- Whisk the milk into the rest of the glaze until it is thick, but still runs smoothly off the whisk.4-5 tablespoon whole milk
- Dip the tops of the donuts in the glaze, then place them back on the wire rack.
- Sprinkle half of the donuts with the chopped candied pecans.
- For the piped carrots: Chill the donuts in the fridge for 20 minutes, or until the tops feel set but still tacky.Mix the 3-4 tablespoons of reserved buttercream with a tiny bit of orange food coloring, then do the same for the other bowl but color it with green food coloring.
- Pipe the orange in a triangle for the carrot, then pipe one green line for the top of the carrot.
- The icing on these donuts is really creamy and delicious but doesn't completely set. They will be tacky straight from the fridge and get softer as they sit at room temperature.
- *Measure your flour properly. This is my #1 baking tip! Do not ever scoop a measuring cup into your flour as this always leads to using too much flour. Instead, use the spoon-level method. This means fluffing the flour first, then spooning it into your measuring cup/spoon. For the BEST results, use a kitchen scale!*
- Freshly grated carrots: Do not use bagged shredded carrots! They are dry, thick, and just sad. Use the fine holes on a cheese grater, the big holes are too big and will leave the carrots feeling crunchy.
The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.