I don’t know if it’s the upcoming Spring Equinox (March 20) or the fact that Target already set up the Easter display, but Spring is definitely on my mind. While the bigger egg-centric holidays are a ways off, all I ever crave at the start of spring is carrot cake. Blame it on the traditional rabbit imagery, but carrot cake just works. The still-chilly weather makes us cling to comforting carbs, while the signs of spring make us crave something earthy and fresh. We’re still bundled up in layers so a little extra sugar won’t show, but bare-leg season is just around the corner, so carrots seem like a healthy compromise.
Carrot cake is a dessert full of compromise. You can eat your vegetables and have your cake too. In this case, you can also have your donuts. These miniature Carrot Cake Donuts use a bit of sugar, but mostly rely on the natural sweetness of the shredded carrots (you could even remove the sugar entirely and use a bit of honey instead). Topped with a cream cheese and ginger icing (bonus: there’s protein in cream cheese), and packed with rich spices like cardamom and cloves, this tastes like your grandma’s indulgent Carrot Cake, but is probably good enough to pass Peter Cottontail’s standards.
Carrot Cake Donuts
makes 3 dozen mini donuts
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 packed cup shredded carrots (3-4 medium carrots)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini-donut pan with cooking spray (I prefer coconut oil spray).
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, brown sugar, spices and salt. Add the carrots, stirring to thoroughly disperse and combine.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla.
4. Make a well in the flour mixture in the bigger bowl and pour in the milk mixture. Stir a few times with a wooden spoon. Add the melted butter, continuing to stir until just combined. Fill the greased donut molds with batter (about 2/3 full), tapping the pan to remove any trapped air bubbles. Transfer the pan to oven and bake until the tops of the donuts spring back to your touch and are cooked through. Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely before icing.
Ginger-Cream Cheese Icing
1 package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 cup milk
crystallized ginger, diced (optional)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, ginger, and vanilla. Gradually add the milk until the mixture is smooth and runs like ribbons off the whisk.
2. Dip a donut halfway into the icing, shaking to remove the excess, and place onto wire rack. Continue with remaining donuts. Top each with a sprinkling of crystallized ginger.