Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins + Healthy Baby Snack Ideas

Having healthy snacks on hand is a must when you have a little one.  These Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are a great freezer-friendly option to have on hand at a moment’s notice, plus I’m sharing some of my other favorite healthy baby foods for snacking!

A tall stack of Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins leaning against a carafe of milk.

If you’re always on the lookout for simple, healthy snacks for your little ones, these Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are for you! In fact, they’re not just for your little ones, they’re also great for YOU. Healthy baby food that mamas and papas can also enjoy? Sign me up! These are sure to please even the pickiest eaters and, since they’re only sweetened with applesauce and made with whole grains, you don’t have to worry when your kids keep on going back for more.

As I mentioned in this Healthy Carrot Cake Pancake Recipe post, we opted to do baby-led weaning with our little one and she has shown no sensitivities to eggs, other dairy, gluten, etc. If your little one HAS shown sensitivities to any of these, obviously use your best judgment. Again, mother always knows best!

Freshly baked Pumpkin Carrot Muffins in a muffin tin.

These Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are exactly what they say: super easy! I mean, if you know how to stir a spoon and you know how to operate an oven, you’re in good shape here. Just the kind of healthy snack we need when we have our hands full with young babes, am I right?

These muffins also happen to freeze well, so if you have a minute to bake some up this weekend, you’ll have the perfect healthy snack for your whole family for the next week (if you’re lucky.)

A Pumpkin Carrot Muffin broken in half, served next to a warm drink.

While we’re on the topic of healthy baby food, I thought it might be helpful if I share some more of my favorite make-ahead snacks that family members of all ages will enjoy.

Multigrain crackers with peanut butter

Quick tip: Make your own! Sometimes those pre-made ones you can buy at the store are full of random ingredients. Also, when buying peanut butter, always be sure to check the ingredients list and make sure that peanuts are the only ingredient. (This goes for all nut butters.)

String Cheese with sliced grapes

This is a great mix of protein and healthy carbs, and almost always a hit with the little ones.

veggie- and fruit-packed popsicles

I mean, what baby or kid turns down a popsicle?? Check out some fun baby-friendly popsicle recipes in my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers.

Now, your turn to tell me: What are your favorite healthy baby foods?

And read on for my Healthy Pumpkin Carrot Muffin recipe!

Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins (Baby- and Kid-Friendly!)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins

An easy-to-make muffin loaded with pumpkin puree and shredded carrots. Naturally sweetened with applesauce, these muffins are perfect for kids, babies and adults. A great on-the-go snack!

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Keyword: after-school, baby-friendly, breakfast, carrot, freezer-friendly, kid-friendly, muffin, naturally sweetened, pumpkin, snack
Servings: 12 muffins
Calories: 100 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup milk of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 cup spiralized or grated carrot
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tins or line with paper liners and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. 

  3. Add eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, milk and orange zest and stir until combined. Stir in carrot.

  4. Scoop batter evenly into prepared muffin tins and bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

  5. Cool in muffin tins for 5-10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack. 

Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting

Carrot cake gets a modern update with a coconut-pecan coating in lieu of the standard cream cheese frosting. The perfect cake for spring!

Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting |

I have the best of both worlds for you today! That’s right, I’ve combined my favorite carrot cake recipe with a not-so-traditional coconut pecan frosting, reminiscent of what you’d find on a German chocolate cake and, let me tell you, I wish I had thought of Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting years ago!

Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some classic decadent cream cheese frosting, but I also looooove the combination of carrot, coconut and pecans. It’s like the ultimate spring ingredient combo. Plus, doesn’t it feel great to have so many superfoods in a super-delicious dessert? I mean, there are plenty of indulgent ingredients in the recipes for both the carrot cake and the frosting, but having those other healthy ingredients in there to counteract everything else is EXACTLY how I roll. We’re all about that balance, right?

Quick backstory on my love for carrot cake, and specifically this recipe: I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my parents met and got married in Hawaii, where my dad grew up and my mom worked as a pediatric nurse. During my parents’ courtship, my mom was given this carrot cake recipe by a dear Hawaiian “tutu” named Mrs. Kealoha. And on the back of the recipe, she wrote a note: “Make this for Ken, and he will never leave you.” Well, I’m proud to say that truly was the case (my parents are still together 40 years later!), and now I ask my mom to make this cake for me without fail every year on either my birthday or Easter. It is, after all, the perfect spring-like dessert to bust out in March or April, as the days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer.

Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting |

Mrs. Kealoha’s recipe calls for the classic cream cheese frosting, which includes pounds of both butter and cream cheese. As delicious as that is (and I will never turn my nose up at it,) I do often find that I can’t quite finish alllll of the frosting that comes along with my slice, it’s just a leeetle too rich. So naturally I started thinking about other ways to frost my favorite carrot cake, and when my mind wandered to the caramel-y, pudding-like coconut- and pecan-laced frosting that traditionally graces the top of German chocolate cake, I knew it would be the perfect fit.

I had never made coconut-pecan frosting from scratch, but I soon learned it’s much like a pudding, where you have to combine the likes of evaporated milk and egg yolks with staples like sugar and butter to get that creamy consistency. Since this was my first time making it, I followed this recipe from MyRecipes to a tee and didn’t stray at all. We’ll save the improvisations for the next time around! I am happy to report, though, that this recipe did not disappoint. I have to admit that I was doubtful for a minute – Did I cook the egg yolks enough? Would the frosting just look yellow?  But after making sure I let everything cook and sit for the designated amount of time, I was left with a perfectly normal looking coconut pecan frosting that spread onto the three layers of cake like a dream.

Speaking of the layers of this cake, there is one disclaimer I have to make: I doubled Mrs. Kealoha’s recipe to make a four-layer cake, because I wanted it to be really grand and fun to photograph. BUT unfortunately one of my layers didn’t turn out of the pan properly, so I was stuck with just three, which turned out to be plenty. The layers of Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting are quite thick, and I still haven’t been able to bring myself to eat a serving of all three layers (usually I skim just one or two layers off and save the rest for another day…hehe!) So, use your judgment and scale this recipe down if you don’t want such huge servings. OR, you could do what I did and use any extra cake layers to make into yummy chocolate-coated carrot cake balls, which turned out to be really easy (I’ve included the basic recipe below in the recipe notes.)

Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting |

You should have plenty of frosting to cover all four layers should you decide to go that route, especially if you go for the “naked” cake look like I did here (that also helps with the cake-to-frosting ratio I was speaking of earlier.)

Other than the quantity, the only thing I changed from Mrs. Kealoha’s original carrot cake recipe is that I used pecans instead of walnuts in the batter. I figured if I was using pecans in the frosting I might as well use them in the cake as well!

Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting |

So that’s the long and short of it: Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting has been born and it’s here to stay. Do you have any fun family baking recipes you’ve adapted to make your own? Let me know in the comments below!

Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins

Carrot cake gets a modern update with a coconut-pecan coating in lieu of the standard cream cheese frosting. The perfect cake for spring!

Course: Dessert
Servings: 4 8-inch round cake layers
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the cake:
  • 2 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 cups flour plus 1/2 cup for coating carrots
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups chopped toasted pecans
For the frosting:
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the oil, eggs and sugar until creamy. Toss the carrots with ½ cup of flour and then add them to this mixture along with the pecans. Next, add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mace and salt. Mix until well combined.

  3. Unless you have four 8-inch round cake pans (I only have two), you will need to work in two batches to bake up all of the cake layers. Spray however many pans you have with nonstick cooking spray, then one-fourth of the batter into each one. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

  4. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan onto a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat baking process however often is necessary until all of your batter has been used up.

To make the frosting:
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and egg yolks and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes or until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cook, stirring constantly, 12-14 minutes more or until mixture is a light caramel color and is bubbling and pudding-like. 

  2. Remove from heat and stir in pecans, coconut and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and let cool, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until it is of a spreadable frosting consistency.

  1. Place the first cake layer on your serving plate and, using a long, serrated knife, even out the top. This will help all of the layers stay put on top of each other rather than sliding off once you add the frosting in between the layers. 

  2. Slather a hefty helping of the coconut-pecan frosting over the top of this first layer, being sure to get all the way out to the edges. Repeat the process with however many more layers you are using. You do not need to even out the top layer as you don’t have to worry about another layer sliding off of it.

  3. Keep cake in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

*Coconut pecan frosting recipe from MyRecipes.

To make the cake balls:

Combine any extra cake with 1 cup of frosting of your choice (preferably one without anything chunky, I used a whipped cream cheese frosting) in a food processor. Pulse until a dough forms. 

Use a cookie scoop to ball up the cake dough. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Melt at least one bag (maybe even two) of chocolate chips of your choice (I did some white chocolate and some semisweet) in a heatproof bowl with one to two tablespoons of coconut oil.

Dip balls in melted chocolate and place back on parchment covered cookie sheet. Cover with sprinkles of your choice and refrigerate balls until hardened. I also recommend storing them in the refrigerator so they hold their shape.

Carrot Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting |

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