Baked cardamom carrot cake donuts with nutty brown butter icing are the perfect spring treat! Not only are they perfectly soft and fluffy, but the flavor combo is completely next-level.
We’ve talked about how I was a weird kid, right? How my favorite dessert was crème brûlée and I had a slight aversion to marshmallows. Well, just to follow that trend, my two favorite cakes were carrot and coconut. Yeah, like the two cakes that usually disappoint kids when they’re skimming the dessert menu at a restaurant.
Well, as they say, people don’t really change and I will still choose carrot cake any day of the damn week. As long as there’s no raisins in there, cause tbh, that’s a childhood loathing I just can’t move past. But! These carrot cake donuts are adorned with cardamom and pecans and brown butter and pretty much everything I love sans a splash of bourbon or coffee.
While it’s true that I am willing to adapt recipes to appeal to the masses, I must admit that these donuts were created entirely based on what I was craving in the moment. I would say sorry, but I’m actually not, because these donuts are the crème de la crème of the baked donut world and they’re perfect for the spring weather we’re experiencing. TRUST.
Some ingredients you’ll need
- Baking basics – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, white and brown sugar, neutral oil, vanilla, and an egg!
- Spices – cardamom (our main squeeze), plus cinnamon and nutmeg for a little warmth.
- Carrots – freshly grated please! Pre-grated are a little too chunky and will still be crunchy even when the donuts are baked.
- Nuts – I like pecans but walnuts are also good! If you’re not a fan of nuts, you can also replace with raisins.
- Glaze – unsalted butter, powdered sugar, and whole milk or cream.
Let’s make some donuts
These cardamom carrot cake donuts basically only require one bowl and come together in minutes. Here’s what you’ll do!
- Mix – combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Then, whisk together the brown sugar, sugar, buttermilk, canola oil, vanilla, egg, grated carrots, and chopped nuts until smooth.
- Combine – add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients just until mixed. Don’t overmix or the donuts will be too dense!
- Pipe – using a piping bag or a plastic zipper bag with the tip cut off, pipe the batter into the donut mold. If you don’t have a donut pan, you can use a cupcake tin, or you can get one here!
- Bake – bake the donuts at 375°F (for high-altitude) or 350°F (for sea-level) for 8-9 minutes, just until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you move the donuts to a rack to cool completely.
Make the brown butter icing
While the donuts are cooling, we’ll make the brown butter icing!
- Brown – melt the unsalted butter in a small saucepan. Let simmer, swirling frequently to prevent burning, until the butter turns golden, smells nutty, and has little brown bits at the bottom of the pan.
- Combine – whisk the brown butter with the powdered sugar, milk/cream, and a pinch each of cardamom and salt until smooth.
- Glaze – dip each cooled donut halfway into the glaze, letting the excess drip off. Sprinkle with nuts, if desired. Place on a cooling rack and let the glaze set, at least 20 minutes. Then, eat and enjoy!
How to pipe frosting carrots
Decorating frosting carrots is a nice little added touch to cardamom carrot cake donuts. You can also skip the carrots and just sprinkle the donuts with pecans, cardamom, or sprinkles. But, if you’re feeling meta, here’s how I piped these little frosting carrots.
- Mix – mix a little bit of white frosting with orange food coloring, and a little bit with green food coloring. I just mix until I like the colors! Also, as much as I love a good homemade buttercream, I honestly just used store-bought for these donuts to make things easy.
- Pipe – use a larger round tip for the carrots (I used Ateco tip #12) and a very small round tip for the greenery (I used Ateco tip #1). On a piece of parchment paper, pipe short, straight lines with the orange frosting, tapering off at the end to create a point. Then, use the smaller tip to pipe 2-3 green “shoots” off the top of the carrots.
- Freeze – let the frosting carrots freeze until they are hard enough to handle, about 30-60 minutes. Then, use a butter knife to carefully remove the carrots from the parchment paper, and very gently place them on the donuts. Let the carrots “defrost” until they stick to the donut glaze.
If you’re more of a visual type like me, I created a very unfussy little video for you to watch!
Storage & Freezing
If you have leftovers, just store them in an airtight container in an even layer for up to 3 days. I have learned from experience that stacking these donuts on top of each other is a bad idea! The donuts not only stick together, but the icing gets mushy as well.
You can also freeze cardamom carrot cake donuts! Just place the donuts in an airtight container for up to a month. Let defrost uncovered at room temperature for at least an hour before enjoying. Try to avoid placing them in the microwave, or the icing will melt everywhere.
Tips & Tricks
- Carrots – avoid using the bagged pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store. They’re a bit too thick, and with such a short bake time, they will not cook all the way through. Just shred 2-3 carrots with a cheese grater instead!
- Icing – you want the glaze to be thick enough to coat the donuts without it all dripping off, but not so thick that it won’t coat the donuts. The glaze should be the consistency of honey.
- Bake time – these carrot cake donuts are a bit denser than cake, but we still want to avoid over-baking! Test the donuts around 8 minutes with a toothpick, and bake another 1-2 minutes if necessary.
- Brown butter – it’s pretty easy to burn brown butter. To prevent burning, take it low and slow, and stir if necessary. The butter will start to brown once the foam dies down after initial melting.
- Glazing – the donuts are easiest to glaze when they are at room temp, about 20 total minutes of cooling time. If they’re too warm, the glaze will run off, and if they’re too cool, the glaze will not stick.
More donut recipes to try
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Cardamom Carrot Cake Donuts with Brown Butter Glaze
- Donut pan or cupcake tin
Cardamom Carrot Cake Donuts
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (high-altitude)*, 1 tsp. for sea-level
- 1/4 tsp baking soda (high-altitude)**, 1/2 tsp. for sea-level
- 3/4 tsp cardamom, ground
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 c brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 c sugar
- 3/4 c buttermilk***
- 1/3 c canola oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 c. shredded carrots, about 2 large carrots
- 1/2 c pecans, chopped (optional)
Brown Butter Glaze
- 4 Tbs unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of cardamom
- 1/4 c whole milk or cream, plus more to thin
Cardamom Carrot Cake Donuts
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (for high-altitude) or 350°F (for sea-level). Grease a donut pan or cupcake tin. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, sugar, buttermilk, canola oil, vanilla, and egg until smooth. Add the shredded carrots and chopped nuts until combined. Then, stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.
- Spoon the batter into a large piping bag (or a plastic bag with the tip cut off). Pipe the batter into the donut pan cavities about 1/2 way full (don’t go more than halfway, or the batter will rise too much and you won’t get a hole in the center). Bake for about 8-9 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the donuts cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then let them cool completely on a rack.
Brown Butter Glaze
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. The butter will get foamy and bubbly. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the butter starts to turn golden and smell nutty. Stir or swirl the pan frequently to prevent the butter from burning. Keep a close eye, because the butter will brown very quickly!
- After about 5-7 minutes, you should see some brown bits resting on the bottom of the pan and the butter will smell caramelized. Immediately pour the butter in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl to prevent the butter from burning.
- Add the powdered sugar, salt, cardamom, and milk or cream. Stir until smooth, adding more milk or cream 1 Tablespoon at a time until the glaze is the consistency of honey.
- Dip each cooled donut halfway into the glaze, letting the excess glaze drip off. Decorate as desired, and let the glaze set completely, about 20 minutes. Store extras in an air-tight container for up to three days.
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Windowpane by Mild High Club