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Eat Your Veggies: A Mischievous Carrot Cake Challenge

Carrot Cake Challenge
Lately, we've been thinking about carrot cake. Really, when you think about it, it's a bit of a strange beast: a culinary crossroads where cake meets vegetable and yields a beautiful result. How did that combination come about, we wondered? Well, turns out carrot cake (along with other veggie-rich baked goods like zucchini and squash breads) came into popularity during World War II, when butter, eggs and sugar were in short demand. During this time, many baked were made using oil instead of butter, which yielded a dense, pound-cake like texture--and vegetables gained popularity because the water they release during baking yields a tender crumb, and they added a bit of natural sweetness.

However, in this day and age there's no lack of sugar in the Cakespy kitchen, and so we wondered--why not give a try to some of the other fantastic vegetables out there? Surely we could sweetify any veggies out there to see if they might be cake-worthy; yes indeed, it was time to make some mischief in the kitchen.
Not Just Carrot CakeMixing in the Veggies


How'd we do it? We took this basic carrot cake recipe (we left out the nuts) and separated it into small batches, subbing different veggies for the carrots into the cake batter and mixing them into individual cupcakes (we did make one carrot cupcake--you know, as consolation if none of them tasted good). All of the creations were topped with cream cheese frosting, and for added cuteness and discernibility, each one was crowned with a veggie garnish.

As for how it all tasted...

BroccoliBroccoli Cupcake 

Broccoli Cake: What can we say about this cake? Overall, the taste was vaguely...healthy; while it might help the taster feel more virtuous while eating it, it does not make for an ultimately satisfying cake experience. With the bitter and sweet flavors vying for dominance, there was a little too much going on with this cake--all things considered, we think we'll leave our broccoli for the more savory fare.  

Snap PeasSnap Pea Cupcake 
Snap Pea Cake: We had a good feeling about this one--like carrots, snap peas have an inherent sweetness; it translated nicely into cake form. The sweet and slightly crunchy bits of snap pea added a nice texture and sweetness; the tangy cream cheese complemented it perfectly. We'd definitely make this again!


RadishesRadish Cupcake
Radish Cake: This one was a pleasant surprise; it had savory, spicy flavor that crept up on the palate, ultimately blossoming into a complex, unusual flavor--one that perhaps might not be for everyone, but it certainly kept us coming back for more. Overall though, if served this cake not knowing it was radish, we might not have been able to identify the flavor.

ParsnipsParsnip Cupcake
Parsnip Cake: Once baked, the taste of this one was so similar to that of carrot cake that if it were a blind tasting, we'll admit we might have been fooled. In fact, it was only the aftertaste, slightly spicy, which gave away the vegetable's identity as the carrot's albino cousin. If you've got extra parsnips (not sure how often that happens), give it a try!

Brussels SproutsBrussels Sprout Cupcake
Brussels Sprouts Cake: Brussels sprouts are one of those foods that has a bad rep. And well, it's not hard to see why: they taste bitter. They're pungent. They give you gas. But you know what? We adore these ugly little sprouts. But in cake? Alas, no pleasant surprises here: while we still think brussels sprouts make a wonderful side dish, upon tasting the cake it became instantly evident that these two worlds were clearly not meant to collide.

And so, having done it, how are we feeling? Well, as with many of our experiments, there is so much to consider. Clearly, carrot cake has been kicking so long for a reason: it's a wonderful combination of flavors. While some of our experiments (snap pea cake, parsnip cake) were pleasant surprises, it's hard to say if we liked them quite as much as carrot cake--or if it was more the aspect of novelty appealed. All things considered, we think that carrot cake's status of the veggie cake of choice is not in peril--while certain variations were quite 
toothsome, we realize that the learning curve and marketing involved in making these cakes appeal to the greater public would need to be quite intense. Of course, when it does catch on after some celebrity chef says that Parsnip Cake is the next big thing--just remember where you spied it first.


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Reader Comments (87)

Awesome, awesome, awesome blog! I love it! You've so inspired me to make cupcakes :o) I'm definitely linking to you...

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterDoodleyboo

I can see the starchy pea working. Kind of like the Asian desserts with beans.I have used mashed potoato and loved it. Surprised about the radish , and may give it a try if it appears in my Veggie Box.Im sure this was fun to do.

April 13 | Unregistered Commenterglamah16

Don't forget zucchini cupcakes! Closer to carrot cake than zucchini bread, I made some recently and I think they'd rank higher than carrot cake on my list. ;-) Love the experiment!

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterRosa

Fascinating! I would have never thought to do this...and the I love the simplicity and elegance of the veggies on the cakes. Looks great1

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

i just have to say i LOVE the picture at the bottom. Hilarious!

April 13 | Unregistered Commenterradioactivegan

Very interesting concept, Cakespy. But, I think I'll stick to plain ole carrot cake! hahahah

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterCupcakeLady

This is sooo funny! But it 's great that you tried the experiment. Love the picture at the bottom.

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterVeron

Okay, look at that cupcake with that tiny fresh pea pod!! Cutest thing ever. (well,maybe not ever, maybe just since I saw your baby wearing cuppie this morning...)


But seriously...your veggie cuppies look adorable.

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Love this post! I say we do a little experiment with ravioli. Marshmallow ravioli? Fruit loops ravioli? Lemon Curd ravioli? What do you think? Something strange is bound to work... as you discovered with the cupcakes :)

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterRecipeGirl

Wow - great experiment!

Another common veggie in cake: zucchini! My mom used to put it in all kinds of sweet stuff as a way of getting some veggies into us.

Duh! Sorry. I didn't read your post carefully enough at the beginning. I see you did mention the Z-veg.

ooohh Jess. You are a brave soul to try this out! I shudder at the thought of the brussel sprout cake. I love them in dinners and salads, but with sugar and cream cheese frosting?! ugh, I might start gagging. But the radish one sounds interesting. Kind of like beet chocolate cake.

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Did you forget to see your therapist this week??? or perhaps you have even missed several sessions???? This is all blasphemy I tell you, blasphemy.

(DAMN, why didn't I think of this!!)

You are a total nut! Now, I hate vegetables. Always have. I was told I would grow out of it, I did not. Carrot cake was iffy with me for a long time. I finally gave in because its one of hubs favs. Some of these may be a great way to get my kids to eat some vegg's though. Very clever test. Love it!

April 13 | Unregistered Commenterslush

Doodleyboo: Thanks! Send us pictures of what you make!

Glamah: Yeah, the pea was actually tasty! I have tried sweet potato too and that was good. They have a nice Sweet Potato with Marshmallow frosting at Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle. Yum.

Rosa: Wow, high praise!! Yes, I love zucchini cake too--wonder what type of frosting it's best with though??? Hmm, another experiment?

Karen: Thanks! It was a lot of fun to do :-)

Radioactivegan: Thanks! Glad you like that pic, it's one of my favorite themes!

Cupcakelady: With or without raisins, though!?

Veron: Thanks! It was a fun experiment, and I hope Cuppie will be OK...

Stephanie: I know, they're strangely gross but cute, huh? That one was my favorite!

Wandering Coyote: Yes, and I think it adds some nice moisture.

Obsessive Foodie: Dammit, knew I missed something! Usually the therapist keeps these urges in check. Oh well, you had a fun ride with me! :-)

Amanda: Yes!! I have had beet cakes and it's one of those things that if you think about it too hard you get grossed out, but it is actually really good when you suspend that mental block. The brussels sprout one...while not inedible..was not what I would call good. :-)

Slush: I don't know though...kids KNOW. I don't know how, but they do.

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I love the idea of the pea and parsnip varieties, and even the radish sounds good! I love playing with veggies in baked goods.

Don't know if you already saw my posts on (hope this html works!) http://dietdessertndogs.wordpress.com/2008/02/04/vegan-molten-chocolate-cakes/" REL="nofollow"> chocolate cupcakes with spinach and zucchini or http://dietdessertndogs.wordpress.com/2008/02/14/and-chocolate-peanut-butter-makes-three/" REL="nofollow"> PB and chocolate cookies with eggplant --in those, you don't taste the veggies (due to the chocolate mask), but still enjoy the nutritional benefits!

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

LOL - I love your experiment, even if the outcomes were mixed. Perhaps I'll try the parsnip cake, but I think I'll give the others a wide bearth.

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw

more of the excellent science we've come to depend on :)

April 13 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

At least you guys tried! Us vegetarians are used to weird flavors though, so maybe I'll try the broccoli version myself sometime.

oh boy, now my hubby wants me to make snap pea cake... haha, thanks!

April 13 | Unregistered Commentershannie cakes

When I read about the radish cupcake... I said out loud to the computer screen 'that would be good! I get that! I want to try that!'

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterKrysta

I don't know if somebody has already meantioned this or not but just incase...you really really need to try out chocolate beetroot cake. Oh man, so moist, so yummy and unless you have actually tried it you can't even begin to imagine how wonderful it actually does work. *drool*

By the way, the thought of brussel sprout cupcakes almost made me gag...you are one brave lady!

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterJade Is Green!

you are the most creative and insane person I know! I love you so, Jessie.

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterCeline

what a fabulous experiment! carrot cake is one of my top-five desserts (although i suspect that may be due to the copious cream cheese icing i use), so this may be something i have to replicate (as an excuse to eat more icing, if nothing else...)!

cakespy, you rock!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Wow, great post! Right now my husband and I are enjoying my latest creation: carrot oatmeal. I was inspired to make a hybrid of Indian gajar halwa and carrot cake so I added ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, raisins, nutmeg, and grated carrot to oatmeal, then topped with toasted walnuts and tangy yogurt. Breakfast for dinner and dessert for breakfast!

April 14 | Unregistered Commenterpumpkinpie
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