green and orange food coloring - optional carrot decoration
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
Using a stand mixer or a medium-sized mixing bowl and a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter for 1 to 1½ minutes.
Add the granulated and brown sugars to the butter and continue to mix on medium-high for 1 more minute.
Lower the mixer speed to low, add the vanilla and 1 egg at a time, mixing well after each egg.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, spices, and baking soda.
Keeping the mixer speed on low, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated.
Keeping the mixer speed on low, add the finely shredded carrots and chopped pecans to the batter. Only mix until the carrots and pecans are well incorporated.
Using a 1½-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Allow the cookies to completely cool.
Using either a stand mixer, or a medium-sized mixing bowl and a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, cream together the cream cheese and butter for 1 to 1½ minutes.
Lower the mixer speed to low. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Keep the mixer speed on low, until the powdered sugar is incorporated.
Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue mixing for another 1 to 1½ minutes, until the cream cheese frosting is smooth.
Using a small offset spatula or a silicone spatula, frost the tops of the cookies, smoothing as you go. Be sure to frost to the edges of the cookies.
Sprinkle the finely chopped pecans onto a plate. Gently roll the edges of the cookies in the chopped pecans.
If you would like to decorate your cookies with piped carrot decorations, reserve two ½-cup portions of frosting in 2 separate small mixing bowls. In the first bowl, add green food coloring adjusted to however light or dark green you wish for the carrot tops. In the second bowl, add orange food coloring to however light or dark orange you wish for the carrot body.
Spoon each color into 2 separate quart-size Ziploc bags with a small snip in one corner, or in 2 decorator bags with a small decorator’s tip. Use even light pressure, and a zig-zag pattern to form the body of the carrot using the orange icing. Use even light pressure, form the top of the carrot using the green icing. Repeat for each cookie.
When softening the butter, only soften slightly or the cookies will spread out too much.
To grate the carrots quickly, use your food processor with the shredding blade attachment. You can also shred them with a box grater.
If you don’t have a cookie scoop, you can use either a measuring spoon or an ice cream scoop, keeping in mind that standard ice cream scoops tend to be about 3 tablespoons per scoop.
Pull the cookies out of the oven when the centers are slightly underdone. This will give you a chewier cookie.
Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature so that you don’t have any lumps in your frosting.
To easily chop the pecans, place them in a bowl and using a handheld pastry cutter, gently press down on the nuts to break them into smaller pieces.
If you want, you could sandwich the cookies with the icing in the middle like carrot cake sandwich cookies. Frost the outer edges as well and then roll in the pecans.