Pecan Carrot Cake Recipe

Carrot Cake

There will be a special place in my baker’s heart for the first project I undertook post-baby, and I take it as a fine omen that it is also an exceptionally good cake, one I have already baked again twice since then.

Our son (it still feels surreal typing these words) is now six weeks old, he is thriving, and although the first weeks were challenging in ways I had been told about but couldn’t truly penetrate until I experienced them firsthand, our little family is finding its rhythm and every day brings new reasons to feel lucky that we landed this particular charming baby.

We have had friends and family come over to meet Milan, and it is on one of these occasions that, feeling uncannily energetic after a night during which the little guy only woke us up every three hours — consider our drastically lowered sleep standards — I decided to bake a cake for our guests.

The recipe is drawn (and marginally adapted*) from a fun new book by Julie Andrieu, a French cook, food writer, and television personality who gathered dessert recipes that use vegetables.

Her carrot cake is among the more classic items in this collection, but it is the one I was drawn to the most: one, because I have to steer clear of dairy for breastfeeding reasons, and this cake uses oil as the source of fat; two, the ingredients list and process were simple enough for my circumstances and I only needed to buy the carrots; and three, I adore carrot cakes but had yet to adopt a particular recipe as a standard in my repertoire.

On the eve of baking day I measured out the ingredients and grated the carrots, and on the day of I assembled the batter and plopped the cake into the oven, all with the baby sleeping against me in his wrap — an absolute godsend if you’re the kind of person who likes to use both of your hands every once in a while.

It was a truly wonderful cake: moist and flavorsome and lightly nubby from the use of cornmeal, with a thin crust on top and the meaty crunch of pecans punctuating every bite, we ate it with an enthusiasm that nearly matched that with which we discussed the important matter of whose eyes and whose nose and whose mouth the baby seems to have taken (the consensus, respectively: mine, Maxence’s, as yet undetermined).

* Here are the elements I modified from the original version: I lowered the amount of sugar a bit, and the amount of spices as well (I prefer a gently spiced carrot cake); I doubled the amount of cornmeal and added salt; I skipped the diced candied orange rind; I used pecans in place of walnuts ; I changed the order in which the ingredients are combined to follow the simple rule of wet ingredients vs. dry ingredients.

Pecan Carrot Cake

– 175 grams (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) unrefined cane sugar
– 3 large eggs
– 120 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil or other oil
– 500 grams (1 lb 2 oz) carrots, peeled and grated
– 130 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour (I used the French T65)
– 40 grams (1/3 cup) cornstarch
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 40 grams (1/4 cup) cornmeal
– 1 teaspoon warm spice mix (such as quatre-épices or pumpkin pie mix, containing cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger)
– 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
– 125 grams (1 1/4 cups) pecans or walnuts, toasted if possible, coarsely chopped

Grease a 9 x 5-inch / 23 x 12-cm loaf pan with oil and preheat the oven to 160°C / 320°F.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs for a minute. Whisk in the olive oil, and fold in the carrots.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cornmeal, spices, salt, and pecans until combined. Fold into the wet ingredients, taking care not to overwork the batter.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let rest on a rack for 30 minutes before turning out, and let cool completely before serving.

Adapted from Julie Andrieu’s Les Insolites de Julie (Les Editions Culinaires).

  • Hi Clotilde,

    I’m glad to hear your family is doing well and that you are back to baking and blogging. It is good to read your stories and recipes again. Wish you and your family all the best!


  • holy cow that looks incredible! i love the flavor combo — and pecans are delicious!

  • That looks delicious! I absolutely love carrot cake.
    I hope everything is going well with you and the new baby :)

  • Enjoy this amazing time in your life, the first months with your first child are magical. Congratulations!

  • What a great way to get back into baking and blogging! Looks wonderful. Enjoy Milan at this special time!

  • That looks really good – and of course you are extra-hungry just now and cake is always good….

  • Congrats and welcome back! Carrots and pecans, a perfect mix. The cookbook sounds really interesting — I’ll definitely check it out.

  • I’m intrigued by the use of corn meal to get the ‘lightly nubby'(great descriptive word, btw) texture. Although, for myself, I would up the spice. Congrats on the birth of your son!

  • Yum!!!

  • Belated congratulations on baby Milan. Cake looks great! mmm

  • christiana

    Great to see you back at your blog Clotilde and with such a deliciously vibrant looking carrot cake, Yum!!

  • Welcome back! Glad to hear you’re doing well and even finding time to do some baking. I already have a go-to carrot cake recipe (Rose Bakery’s) but you had me at cornmeal (one of my ‘siren ingredients’, especially in a cake) – might make this for tea at work next week!

  • Melanie

    Congratulations on your new son! Glad you’re back to blogging, the cake looks great! Take care and enjoy your new little one :-)

  • welcome back! the recipe looks good, with plenty of carrots. I’d love to see more of the vegetable containing recipes, I hope you post more of them.
    Can you please recommend a place to buy quatre-épices in Paris? I would love to try some french spice mixtures. I will be staying in the 20th. Thanks

    • It’s a very classic spice mix so you will find it at any grocery store, or such specialized spice stores as Izraël, Le Comptoir Colonial or l’Epicerie de Bruno.

  • Wendy Hutton

    Maxim is so lucky to have such a talented, relaxed mother! Thanks for the recipe — I will just have to break my current low-sugar/no carb regime tomorrow by baking this carrot cake recipe.

  • I’m so glad to read a new post! I have missed it. This looks so great–I’m excited to try out the recipe sometime soon :)

  • Sws

    Congratulations, Clotilde! I just read Bringing Up Bebe and saw you quoted a few times, which reminded me to revisit your blog. How lovely to hear about your baby boy! I too had to cut dairy while nursing my baby, who is now 10 months old. Carrot cake sounds perfect right now!

    While I know this is still far away for you, I’d love to know more about how solid foods are introduced to babies in France, and whether you have any thoughts on how you’d like to do things with Milan. My son is now 10 months old, can tolerate yogurt, and I am wondering what to offer for his first cheese! (Meanwhile, I still am nursing and avoiding dairy myself).

    Best wishes to you all!

    • I’ll certainly consider it when the time comes! I hope your son is thriving, and that he loves cheese when he tries it.

      • Sws

        Very kind of you to reply! My son is enormous despite having been tiny at birth…here’s to healthy appetites! Hope Milan is thriving as well. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that baby boys have more digestive/gas-related issues than baby girls. It has certainly been true for my son. I hope you’re able to enjoy all your favorite foods soon.

  • Madonna

    First, congratulations to you and Maxence, and welcome to Milan.

    Second, I must try that recipe. My husband loves carrot cake, and I’ve been looking for a version that’s healthier than the American standard of multiple layers piled high with cream cheese frosting. This looks very delicious.

  • Jennifer

    Welcome back, Clotilde! And congrats!! I made this carrot cake today (well, a gluten-free version so my mum could enjoy it with me) and it was incredible! Yes, the cornmeal was great and I would never have thought to use pecans. Thanks for the post! :)

    • Wonderful! Would you share your gluten-free version?

      • Jennifer

        Ooh – I just saw this comment. :/
        For a gluten-free version, I didn’t need to change much except to use a gluten-free all-purpose flour plus the requisite amount of Xanthan gum (there’s usually a ratio chart on the flour package) to get the right consistency.

  • CareBearNJ

    Congrats Clotilde! I’m so impressed at your post-baby baking energy! I myself have a 5 week old boy and completely understand the miracle of a night where sleep stretched to 3-hour blocks!

    You’ve inspired me to gather the energy to bake again, especially since we just ran out of the muffins I baked and froze in those pre-baby weeks!

    • Happy to hear it, and congratulations on the new baby! It’s a crazy, crazy time, no? :)

  • Yea! I am so glad that you’re back! This cake sounds delicious.

  • Wow, this cake looks fantastic! Love the addition of pecans to your cake, gives it a nice crunch and a change from the more typical use of walnuts!

  • Emi

    Congratulations and thanks for the lovely recipe! I have a 14 week old boy, and we are also avoiding diary, so this was perfect. I don’t think I would have had the energy to make it though, if you had not explained how easy it was to make it ahead and then bake right before you needed it. Wonderful! :)
    Enjoy those close snuggles, they grow up so fast.

  • delicious combination lovely site
    congratulation on your little on

  • Tina

    Delightful! My seven year old, who loves to mix spices, and I made this together and had lots of fun. The cake was scrumptious- even though I put in baking soda instead of powder by mistake. We also used whole wheat pastry flour and walnuts. The carmelized crust, the abundance of carrots, and the nutty goodness of it all- well, we’ll be making it again soon. Thank you for the recipe, the story, and the inspiration. So happy that you and Milan are enjoying these early days, and already baking together.

    • Delighted to hear it, Tina, thanks for reporting back, and for your kind words!

  • Lynda

    I’m so excited for you! Oh little boys are such loves to their mommies! Congratulations and God bless! I have to tell you I was w concerned when I did not hear from you last month – then when to website and saw the little baby sox and knew you were busy with more important matters.

    I’m glad for this recipe as I have looked for years for a Carrot Bread textured Carrot Cake for breakfast .. Instead of traditional with cream cheese frosting ! Thanks – I’m going to make it after my Sunday nap! Ciao

  • Barbara

    Congratulations on your new baby boy!

    I’m often looking for treats to make for new parents and this seems like the perfect recipe.

    As a longtime reader with my own young son (who just turned 2), I look forward to reading about how your cooking evolves as your baby grows into a little boy. (My motto: A little ketchup is a small price to pay for a pleasant family meal.)

  • Vidya

    Congrats Clotilde! And I must thank you for making this recipe, and the book, public. I’m now keen on purchasing the latter; as for the former, I don’t have a go-to carrot cake recipe either, and most I’ve tried just have way too much oil and end up heavy and almost greasy crumbed. But a half cup is more than reasonable.

  • Florence

    Hi Clotilde,

    Congratulations on the new baby. I have breastfed both of my babies until 2 + years of age, and have never envisioned the possibility of excluding an entire food group from my diet. Breastmilk coming from a varied, wholesome diet is the one and only food an infant should consume until at least 6 months of age.

    Good luck and enjoy, they grow fast,


    • Of course. If all goes smoothly, no need to avoid dairy. But if the baby has symptoms of digestive discomfort / is colicky, sometimes it can help — it does for us.

      • Congrats!
        If avoiding dairy helps with fussiness, the effect is most likely due to the whey protein in cow’s milk. Fortunately, butter has almost none, so you may be able to use it. Hard cheeses also have very little to none, and the effect is usually dose-dependent. Fortunately, most babies with this sensitivity outgrow it by about a year old and can go on to enjoy dairy foods when they are older.

  • Maureen

    Here is my favorite high-energy-density post-baby recipe for oat cakes. They’re simple to make and delicious and easy to eat while breastfeeding. The recipe calls for half coconut oil / half butter, but you can replace with all coco oil if you’re avoiding dairy.

    3 cups rolled oats
    2 cups spelt flour
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp sea salt (might cut this back to 1.5 next time)
    1/4 cup flax seeds
    3/4 cup chopped & toasted walnuts
    1/3 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
    1/3 cup butter
    3/4 cup maple syrup
    1/2 cup cane sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
    2 eggs

    Preheat oven to 325˚F. Butter or spray a 12-cup muffin tin. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Heat coconut oil, butter, maple syrup, and sugar together until just melted but not hot (I did this step in the microwave in 30 second increments). Add to dry ingredients and stir, then add the eggs and stir again. Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full – these don’t rise much, but they’re dense so you don’t want them to be too big. Bake 25-30 minutes.

    • They sound so good and nutritious, I’ll try them for sure!

  • There’s nothing better than a wonderful carrot cake and this recipe looks superb. My favorite recipe from Bon Appetit includes about a tablespoon of fresh ginger, and it takes the cake great to amazing. My husband raves about it every time.

    Thanks for the recipe and gorgeous pictures. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

    • Fresh ginger is a wonderful idea, I’ll try that next time!

  • Madonna

    I tried the cake. It was delicious. My husband said he didn’t even miss the cream cheese frosting. We have a monthly cookout for our employees when the weather permits, and I’m planning to make this cake again for our next one. The only thing that could have possibly made it better would have been carrots from my own garden. Unfortunately, we’re in the midst of a horrible heatwave, along with a drought, and the carrots didn’t fare too well this year.

    • I’m so glad, thanks for reporting back!

  • Larraine

    Congratulations on your new baby. I can empathize with you about carrying a baby and being able to use two hands. I carried my son around in a Snuggli for several months. He slept a lot better close to my heart! This cake sounds delicious. I’m glad to see you cut back the sugar. I have been doing that for years when I make a cake – even chocolate. People rave about the taste. When I tell them that I have cut back on the sugar, they are amazed. We lived in Germany for 7 yrs. For the most part, we found European sweets to be a lot less cloying than American or British although the Brits do make wonderful scones!

  • I didn’t realize that carrot cakes are more appetizing than triple chocolate cakes until I tried your recipe. Keep it up!

  • Great to hear your little family is doing so well. Don’t you just love it when you finally have enough time and energy to start baking/cooking again? I still remember how I made cardamom cake as the first post-baby dessert. But now in his fifth month he’s having trouble sleeping so I have less time to bake.

    I’d also be interested in how you plan to introduce solid foods to your son when he’s a bit older.

    I’ll try this cake as soon as I find the time because I love carrots.

  • You just managed to put two of my favourite things, carrot cake and pecan nuts, together and make it look better then just regular carrot cake! Adding pecan nuts to carrot cake, something I’ve never thought about! Yums <3

  • Me again. :) Happy to report that this case was a major success even though I used almonds instead of pecans. Everyone loved it.

    • Lovely to hear, Brigita, thanks for reporting back!

  • Vidya

    I’ve been meaning to try this cake since you posted it but I just kept forgetting to pick up one ingredient or the other. I realised I finally had everything on hand and threw it together, and it’s incredible, just as I expected. I used walnuts and a chai spice mix usually thrown into a pot of tea. The cornmeal is a really great touch.

    • So happy to hear it, Vidya, thanks for reporting back!

  • Mara

    This cake looks amazing and I’ve been meaning to make it for a while. Does the recipe call for really fine cornmeal or will coarse cornmeal do as well? Thanks so much!

    • I used medium-to-fine cornmeal (there’s only one size available here) but you can definitely use coarse, as long as you think you’ll enjoy the slight grit in the finished product — I know I totally would. :)

  • My favorite cake. I have a slightly different recipe, but I will bake this one, too. Thank You for this fantastic recipe!

  • Kim W

    So usually I like to travel in the summer (a year ago today, I was in Paris, as it turns out), but this summer I started a new job in June and my wings are a bit clipped. So I’m focusing on trying to make my own home a bit more genteel.

    And part of that will involve a) doing more baking, that b) also happens to incorporate some of the bounty from my CSA. And as luck would have it….I have a lot of carrots. So this will be perfect; my quick breads are being used more for breakfasts and for lunches too, so I’m trying to be a bit healthy about it all. Just finished the one with zucchini and lemon, and I needed a new one!

    …I also have Swiss Chard and will be attempting a tourte aux blettes tonight, scaled to serve one…(wish me luck.)

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