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Carrot Cake Sticky Buns

Photo by Megan Horowitch

Photo by Megan Horowitch

This perfect Sunday morning sticky bun recipe featuring Imperfect carrots comes to us from Megan of the blog Short Girl Tall Order. Check out her blog for more!

Author's note: "The dough in these buns is really soft and chewy and also drenched in a creamy brown sugar syrup. To make these buns even better, I partnered with Imperfect Produce and used their carrots for a fun orange twist on the typical sticky bun. I knew I wanted to bake something creative with all the carrots I’ve received over the past few weeks rather than just roasting them with potatoes. Carrots added an additional challenge to bake with as they have a lot of moisture -- but it was a challenge I was more than happy to take on. The carrots added a surprising subtle sweetness and another flavor dimension I’ve never experienced in buns!"


Carrot Cake Dough

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour

  • 1 1/4 c white pastry flour

  • 1/2 c sugar

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 Tbsp butter, or vegan butter

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste

  • 1/2 c grated carrots*, about 1 medium carrot peeled and grated

  • 1 c almond milk or other nut milk

  • 1 packet dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp yeast)

Bun Filling

  • 1/4 c grated carrots* about 1/2 medium carrot peeled and grated

  • 3/4 c brown sugar

  • 2 Tbsp butter, or vegan butter, best if cold

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Sticky Syrup

  • 3/4 c brown sugar

  • 1/4 c coconut milk

  • 2 Tbsp butter, or vegan butter

  • 1/4 c honey

  • 1/2 c chopped pecans

    *Ingredient available to add to your Imperfect box 


Making the Dough

  1. Begin by warming your milk and butter and add to your mixing bowl. Add in your dry yeast packet and let sit about 10 minutes. You will know the yeast is working if the mixture begins to form bubbles.

  2. While waiting to see if the yeast is active, peel and grate your carrots and set aside.

  3. Next, add your sugar and vanilla bean paste/extract to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. Once mixed, add the whole wheat flour along with 1 cup of the white flour. Knead for 10 minutes.

  4. At the 10 minute mark, add in 1/2 cup of the grated carrot along with the 1/4 cup white flour not yet used. The carrot will add more moisture to the dough, so it is important to add the extra flour at this time. Kneed an additional 5 minutes or until the dough is elastic and stretchy.

  5. Lightly spray a large bowl with oil, form your dough into a ball, and add to the bowl. Cover and let rise 1-1.5 hours until the dough has doubled in size. You will know the dough is done when you can push your finger into the dough and have the dough not spring back.

Making the Sticky Syrup

  1. While the dough is rising, make the syrup by adding all ingredients to a pan and mixing on low heat until combined. Add the syrup and chopped pecans to the pan you plan to bake the buns in. We recommend a cake pan or 9x9 baking pan.

  2. Store the syrup-filled pan in the fridge until the buns are ready.

Rolling the buns

  1. Once your dough has doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. You will need to flour the rolling pin too or else the dough will stick. Roll the dough into a rectangle so that the dough is about 1/4 inch thick.

  2. In a small bowl mash together the bun filling ingredients. Spread the filling evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2 inch border without any filling.

  3. Beginning with a shorter side of the rectangle, tightly roll up the dough. Lightly flour the dough as you go to help if it gets a bit sticky. Make sure to seal the roll by pinching the edges together.

  4. Once the dough is rolled, trim the ends and discard. Cut the remaining dough into 8 evenly sized rolls. Remove the pan containing the syrup from the fridge and arrange all 8 rolls in the pan so the swirl is facing upwards. Cover the pan and leave in the fridge overnight for a final rise.

Baking the rolls

  1. In the morning, remove your rolls from the fridge and preheat your oven to 350F. Once the oven is preheated, add in the buns and bake for 30 minutes or until the dough in lightly browned on top. Remove the buns from the oven and immediately invert onto a serving platter. Let cool and serve!

Recipe Notes and Variations

A little butter goes a long way! Using too much butter can lead to mushy buns. Try to keep the butter for the filling cold and mash it with the brown sugar and spices instead of melting the butter. You should experiment with different spice combinations as well. It's a fun way to mix up the recipe so it's a little different each time. Two of our favorite "sleeper" spices are star anise and cardamom.