Kid-friendly Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes

Recipe: Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes

Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Mirra/
prep time
15 minutes
cook time
18 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes

Something about carrot cake just really shouts Spring, don’t you think? Just how old is the recipe for carrot cake, exactly? Tracing back, we found that Carrot Cake evolved from a medieval recipe from the Middle Ages for Carrot Pudding. Of course, throughout the (hundreds of) years, cakes and baked things became sweeter and sweeter as sugar became more readily available (and cheaper!). We wonder: if people living in the Middle Ages could taste a slice of today’s carrot cake, what would they say about the sweetness?! The modern day recipe we enjoy today was further evolved from retro recipes of the 60s and 70s, when canned fruits, nuts, and raisins were added to almost everything. We wanted to keep both the tradition of the original recipe and the modern-day retro feel alive by adding canned pineapple and applesauce instead of tons of added sugar to our doughnut holes. The accent of the Cream-Cheesy Drizzle adds plenty of sweetness and just the right tang to counteract the doughnut holes’ fruit flavor. 

If your doughnut holes come out more cupcake or muffin-shaped, don’t worry, ours did too. This is where we get to use our imagination and ask our young chefs to do the same. We love when we get to dive a little deeper into history, time travel, connect to different cultures, and learn new fun facts with each weekly recipe. Food traditions and all art, really, connect us to our ancestors and earlier times in history when life for many humans was very different. Kids envelop this curiosity and compassion when it comes to the lives of others, and what better way to expose them to such a time as the Middle Ages than to bake up a delicious, sweet recipe like this one?

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • blend :

    to stir together two or more ingredients until just combined; blending is a gentler process than mixing.

  • fold :

    to gently and slowly mix a light ingredient into a heavier ingredient so as not to lose air and to keep the mixture tender, such as incorporating whipped egg whites into a cake batter or folding blueberries into pancake batter; folding is a gentler action than mixing or whisking.

  • grate :

    to reduce food, like a carrot, to very small shreds or pieces of the same size by rubbing it on a tool with an outside surface that has holes with cutting edges (a grater).

  • zest :

    to scrape off the outer colored part of a citrus fruit's rind (skin or peel) using a metal tool with small sharp blades, such as a zester, microplane, or the small holes of a grater (avoid the "pith," the white, spongy lining of the rind that can be bitter).

Equipment Checklist

  • Oven
  • Muffin pan
  • Large mixing bowls (2)
  • Grater or food processor
  • Zester (or grater with small zesting plate/side)
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Whisk
  • Liquid measuring cup


Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes

  • 2 to 3 large orange carrots
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 C all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free flour)**
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or ground cinnamon, sub nutmeg)
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 C butter, melted **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub vegetable oil)**
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple, from 8 oz can, divided (strain out 2 tsp juice for pineapple drizzle if using) (sub extra 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Food Allergen Substitutions

Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes

  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour.
  • DAIRY: Substitute vegetable oil for melted butter.


Springtime Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes

preheat + grate + zest

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Wash and grate 2 to 3 large carrots using a box grater or a food processor. Zest 1 lemon.

measure + combine + whisk

To a large mixing bowl, measure and combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. Whisk together! To a separate mixing bowl, measure and combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup applesauce, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup pineapple, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Whisk together!

fold + oil + bake

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add 1 1/2 cups grated carrots and the lemon zest and gently fold them into the batter. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to each well of your muffin pan. Then drop rounded tablespoons of batter into each well. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until doughnut holes are baked through.

drizzle + sprinkle

Drizzle cooled doughnut holes with Cream-Cheesy Drizzle (see recipe) and sprinkle with extra grated carrots (Carrot Confetti!)

Surprise Ingredient: Carrots!

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Photo by Kindel Media

Hi! I'm Carrot!

“I'm at the root of this recipe! Get it? Root? Carrots are root vegetables! We grow up in dark and cozy soil. Our leaves get plenty of sunshine, though. If you grow us, it's so satisfying to pull us out of our underground home and know you'll be tasting our crunchy sweetness very soon. But you may want to wash us first! You can eat carrots raw or cook them first. Either way, you'll enjoy our flavor, texture, and color in salads, savory dishes, and desserts, like carrot cake!"


  • Before carrots were orange, they were purple, red, white, and yellow. In the 16th century (after the Middle Ages), Dutch carrot growers invented the orange carrot in honor of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family (for Kings and Queens). They did this by crossbreeding pale yellow carrots with red carrots. 
  • Carrots soon caught on in England as both a food and a fashion accessory. For example, it's said that ladies in the 1600s would decorate their hats with carrot tops instead of feathers! 
  • The carrots we eat today were domesticated from a wild carrot native to Europe and southwestern Asia.
  • No one knows exactly how old carrots are, but history traces them back about 5,000 years. They were mistaken for parsnips before the carrot was identified as a distinct vegetable. Carrots and parsnips are related but from different families. Parsnips are white and look a lot like carrots. They're also root vegetables!
  • When carrots were first grown many hundreds of years ago, farmers prized them for their aromatic leaves and seeds—not just the roots! 
  • According to some sources, carrots are the second most popular vegetable in the world, behind just one other. Can you guess what's number one? Potatoes!
  • The longest carrot ever recorded was over 20 feet long! (The measurement included the taproot's long, skinny end.) The heaviest carrot recorded weighed over 22 pounds!
  • You may think rabbits love carrots naturally, and this is largely because of the popularity of the wise-cracking and charming cartoon rabbit character named Bugs Bunny. We see Bugs Bunny munching on a carrot in most scenes. In reality, if a rabbit ate a whole carrot, it would be like you or me eating 20 carrots in one sitting! Way too much! Here's another fun fact: The voice of Bugs Bunny, Mel Blanc, reportedly did not like carrots at all.

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family, named for their resemblance to an umbrella when their leafy green stems are attached. This family includes celery, parsnip, fennel, dill, and coriander.
  • Carrots are root vegetables, meaning they grow underneath the ground. Their feathery leaves grow above the ground. Can you think of other root vegetables? A few of them are beets, onions, turnips, potatoes, radishes, parsnips, fennel, garlic, and jicama.
  • You can eat every part of the carrot. Typically we eat the root part of the plant, but the stems and leaves are edible, too! A carrot's root can grow anywhere from 2 to 20 inches long before it's picked!
  • Carrots like to grow in cooler climates, not tropical, hot places. For this reason, they are usually grown in the autumn, winter, and spring months.
  • Baby carrots sold in grocery stores started as long carrots that were sliced and tumbled into smaller pieces to make them "baby-sized."
  • Carrot seeds are tiny. Find a teaspoon. How many carrot seeds do you think will fit inside? About 2,000!
  • A carrot plant will live for two years, meaning new crops need to be planted from seed every two years.
  • There are two main classes of carrots: Western and Eastern. The Western class includes four types, classified by their root shape: Chantenay, Danvers, Imperator, and Nantes. Several cultivars (varieties created by selective breeding) exist under each type. Many varieties have different colors than the typical orange. How many colors have you seen? The next time you're in the grocery store, look for these diverse carrots.
  • The English word "carrot" comes from the Greek word "karoton."

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • One large carrot or a handful of baby carrots counts as one vegetable serving. Aim for three servings of veggies a day for kids and five servings for adults.
  • Carrots can be eaten raw, roasted, juiced, boiled, mashed, or steamed. However, they are most nutrient-dense when cooked and eaten with fat like butter or oil.
  • When you eat a carrot, how does it taste? Modern carrots have been bred to be sweet, which is why we often use them in baked goods like carrot cake! On the other hand, ancient carrots were bitter, not sweet.
  • Look for firm, brightly colored carrots with smooth, firm skin. Carrots that are limp or black near the top are not fresh.
  • Thicker carrots may be older and tougher to eat, whereas thinner carrots are typically younger, fresher, and sweeter.
  • Store carrots in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, where they will keep for a few weeks!
  • One of the tastiest, easiest ways to cook carrots is to toss them with melted butter, salt, honey, and garlic, then roast them at 425 F for 20 minutes.
  • You can grate raw carrots and add them to salads or chop them to add to soups or stews. If you boil or steam carrots, you then puree them to add to breads, cookies, cakes, or even tomato sauce to sweeten it. Carrots add natural sweetness to whatever recipe they're in (and a pretty orange color, too!).


  • Eyes! The color of a fruit or vegetable tells us what nutrient it contains (nature is amazing!). Orange vegetables and fruits have a particular nutrient called beta carotene. Beta carotene was named for the carrot itself! This nutrient converts to vitamin A inside the body, which is good for our eyes! Studies have shown that only three percent of beta carotene is released from the raw vegetable when we digest it. But this percentage can be improved when we juice or puree raw carrots or cook them with fat like butter or oil. Carrots have the most beta carotene of any vegetable!
  • Teeth! The crunchiness of carrots helps clean the plaque off your teeth and gums, just like your toothbrush! Of course, this doesn't mean eating a carrot at the end of the day can substitute for brushing your teeth! Carrots also have minerals that protect the teeth. 
  • Purple carrots include anthocyanin, an antioxidant, just like purple eggplants, blueberries, and other colorful fruits. 
  • As with all vegetables, eating carrots helps protect us from getting sick! 


History of Carrot Cake!

Photo by Olya Kobruseva
  • Sources lead us to believe that carrot cake evolved from a medieval carrot pudding eaten in Europe in the Middle Ages. There are tons of recipes for carrot pudding in historic cookbooks—this was 'the' dessert of banquets in Europe and many other places around the world. Bakers used carrots to sweeten recipes because sugar was too costly. 
  • The earliest recipe for carrot cake may have been in a French cookbook from 1827. However, food historians claim that George Washington was served a carrot tea cake at a tavern in New York City in 1783. 
  • Carrot Cake caught fire in the United States in the 1970s when it was touted as a “health food,” likely because, in addition to carrots, recipes most often contained the addition of nuts and raisins. 
  • Carrot cake is the most popular flavor for children’s birthday cakes in Switzerland.
  • Frosting cakes with cream cheese became popular in the United States in the 1960s; cream cheese frosted cakes can be traced back to Eastern Europe.

Let's learn about England!

Photo by Tomsickova Tatyana/
  • England is ruled by a Monarch, a Prime Minister, and a Parliament. Windsor Castle is the oldest royal castle in the world that is still being used by the royal family.
  • England is on the island of Great Britain, along with Wales and Scotland. It is also part of the United Kingdom, which consists of those three countries and Northern Ireland. 
  • Did you know that there's no place in the UK that is more than 70 miles from the sea?! 
  • Stonehenge is a construction of immense stones that the early inhabitants of what's now Wiltshire, England, began building around 3100 BCE. The final sections were completed around 1600 BCE. Scientists are still not sure how or why they built it. One theory for its purpose is an astronomical observatory. It is very popular with tourists.
  • Other popular tourist spots in England include the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament (Palace of Westminster), the Roman Baths and the city of Bath, and the Lake District.  
  • London, the capital city, wasn't always called that. In the past, its name was Londonium.
  • England took part in the briefest war in history. They fought Zanzibar in 1896, and Zanzibar surrendered after just 38 minutes!
  • There have been several influential English authors, but perhaps the most well-known is William Shakespeare, who wrote classics such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet.
  • English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the World Wide Web.
  • The British really like their sandwiches—they eat almost 11.5 billion a year!

What's It Like to Be a Kid in England?

  • Most schools in England require students to wear a school uniform. 
  • Sports kids play include football (soccer), cricket, rugby, tennis, netball (similar to basketball), and rounders (similar to baseball). They also play video games, watch the telly, and ride bikes or skateboards.
  • Boxing Day is a unique holiday kids celebrate in England the day after Christmas, December 26. The official public holiday is the first weekday after Christmas if Boxing Day falls on a weekend. When the English created the holiday, it was the day to share the contents of alms boxes with the poor. Today, it is mostly a day off from school and work, although some small gifts may be given out to family and employees, or collected to give to the poor.
  • English kids may have different names for everyday items also found in the United States. For example, a kid will call his mom "mum." Their backyard is a "garden." A big truck is called a "lorry," and the trunk of a car is a "boot." Biscuits in the US are closest to the British "scones," and cookies in England are "biscuits." A TV is usually called a "telly." Bags of chips are referred to as bags of "crisps." French fries, like those from a fast-food hamburger place, might be called "fries," but if they are thicker, like the ones typically served with batter-fried fish, they're called "chips" (fish and chips). Finally, kids call the fish sticks they might have for lunch "fish fingers.

The Yolk's On You

Did you hear about the carrot detective? 

He got to the root of every case.

Lettuce Joke Around

"Knock, knock." 

"Who’s there?"


"Carrot who?" 

"Don’t you carrot all about me? Let me in!"

The Yolk's On You

What did the carrot say to the rabbit? 

"Do you want to grab a bite?"

Lettuce Joke Around

What vegetable are all others afraid of? 

A Scarrot!

That's Berry Funny

What’s a vegetable’s favorite martial art? 

Carrotee! (Karate)

The Yolk's On You

How do you know carrots are good for your eyes? 

Well, have you ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses?

The Yolk's On You

When is an apple not an apple? 

When it’s a pineapple!

THYME for a Laugh

What did the rabbit say to the carrot? 

"It’s been nice gnawing you!"

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