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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)

HAT'S OFF to you guys!! Yes, even if they say nothing's better than brocolli in cake (CRINGE!!...brocolli in cake made me cringe), you sure spied it first! WAY TO GO!!!

This HAS to be the coolest cupcake challenge/experiment I have EVER seen; and you KNOW that you've made VeggieGirl proud/swoon!! :0D

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

How fun!!! Are you "drinking" when you come up with these ideas? I'm just curious so that I can get in on one of these "brainstorming" sessions. ;) LOVED IT! Too clever.

xoxox Amy

April 14 | Unregistered Commenterfamiliabencomo

REally good.I love that u did it with different veggies and thenkx for the info about the origin of the cake

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterHappy cook

I forgot to mention how much Asians love to incorporate corn into desserts, such as McDonald's deep-fried sweet corn pie here in Hong Kong, and in Thailand's delicious coconut sago pudding with corn.

April 14 | Unregistered Commenterpumpkinpie

A great post and I love your experiment!! Carrot cake is one of my favs & just think of all those veggie combos that could be used now :)

Rosie x

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

The fact that you even attempted to make a "Brussel Sprout Cake" Is why you will always have my heart!! That is perfect... You are all masterminds and my idols!! <3

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Sins

Ha! You do have your fingers on the pulse of your public - I've been thinking about this for some time! I love that snap pea cake - It has such a Jolly Green Giant look to it!

oh you are just too darn cupcake crazy funny! But now you've totally sent me off on a veggie sidetrack... hmmmmmm.
And in response to your comment on my blog~ YES, you can come live with me. Airfare is on you but I've got a spare bedroom. Just a warning tho. We don't own a Wii. On the flip side, we have wireless, HDTV and last night I made spicy chicken tamales. ;-)

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterTempered Woman

Cakespy, Cakespy, Cakespy - you make me chuckle and your about the only person who can make a sprout cake look remotly delicious!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterJules

You took a bold step into 'cakery', I enjoyed your post, but I must confess the radish is my least favorite veggie :) Love the pics !

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterOhioMom

Great experiment! When I first saw the photo I thought "NO Way" Broccoli Radish and Brussels Sprouts. It was very interesting to read how they turned out. Excellent!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

Recipegirl: You don't even KNOW how much I love that idea.

Ricki: Thank you for those links--LOVE the spinach and chocolate idea. You don't taste them at all!? Go sugar. :-) Actually it is kind of funny because I personally LOVE the taste of veggies--I can actually just eat a plain bowl of brussels sprouts. So it's always fun to see how they work with my other passion, sweets!

Cakelaw: Ha! A wide berth might be called for :-)

Moonrat: now, as an Editorial Assistant, can you advise if it would be smart to add a thoughtful-looking black and white photo of our crew looking pensive at the bottom of these posts--you know, book jacket style? :-)

GT: Give it a try! let us know what you think!

Shannie Cakes: Do it! It's quite good!

Krysta: Definitely an acquired taste, but worth a try I think!

Jade: Yup--we want to entertain, but also to make you throw up, just a little, in your mouth. That beet cake sounds fantastic!

Celine: Xoxoxo right on back to you and your too-delicious-to-be-real recipes!!

Grace: What are the other four?

Pumpkinpie: Oh lordy that sounds amazing! I want some of that carrot oatmeal goodness. Sounds spicy and ridiculously yummy! And how funny about the corn addition. I wonder why? Maybe there's just a lot of it? or is it a flavor thing?

Passionate Baker: Ha! Yes, we can be trailblazers, huh? :-)

Veggiegirl: Should have know this would be up your alley! The best thing is that they're EXCEEDINGLY easy to veganize--I might even be so bold as to say that when I've had vegan carrot cake I've preferred it to the dairy version!

Amy: We do like a good cocktail now and again--and now we can say it's brainstorming, not "a problem". Ha! Kidding! Ideas come from the strangest places is all I'll say!

Happy Cook: No problem! Always happy to share. :-)

Rosie: Yup, it's like a to-do list! :-)

Sweet Sins: Yup, we tried to make it work! But alas...it wasn't fantastic. ;-)

TW: We're kindred spirits, it's clear! And visually that one was my personal favorite. Tasty too!

Tempered Woman: I'm fine without the Wii, and man! HDTV! We have rabbit ears on our tv (what can I say, we're cheap bastards!) so this would be the ultimate luxury. And Those tamales sound fantastic!

Jules: HA! Now that is high praise! On to the resume it goes: Able to make a sprout cake look vaguely delicious!

Ohio Mom: OK, next time we'll try with a veggie you like. Kale perhaps? :-)

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

You are just too much!! I would have never thought of attempting such an experiment! Although, now I do want to try out that sugar snap pea one...

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

So fun! Your kitchen is like a science lab of goodness.

I had to laugh about the brussel sprouts. clearly not meant to collide.

I applaud your efforts, too cool. I will have to try the radish as I do not like too sweet. Great idea!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I just love love Cakespy kitchen mischiefs! Brussels sprouts and broccoli cupcakes too much! the painting at the bottom with veggies cornering the cupcake is awesome!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

Pretty sure I will never ever make broccoli cupcakes, but I'm so glad you did! I think I'll stick with carrots....

Another genius post! I bet no one else in the blogging space is doing that! Pioneers... I have to admit that a brussel sprout cupcake doesn' sound very appealing although I love them cooked with a little onion and serrano ham. I'm surprised about the radish one turning out tasty. I should give that a try and I will definitely try the parsnips!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterAran

You are a genius...I have to say it! I enjoyed every minute of this post.

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterAnticiPlate

What a cool idea! Those little veggie cakes are so cute! Too bad about the brussels sprouts--they're my favorite.

You're so creative, this is such a great idea! I've been playing around with the idea of "unconventional" veggies in baked goods too, so it's good to know that there's hope in this field!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

LOL... That's awesome!

Ha! THat was the best post on veggies I've ever seen! You can't fool me with parsnip cake! No way even though I adore carrot cake. And brussel sprout cake just makes me shudder! I love your experiment days! Can't wait for the next time!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterEllo

Wow! What a great post! I love all of the experimentation.

I've done http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2007/08/tomato-cupcakes-prize-winner.html" REL="nofollow">tomato cupcakes and http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2008/03/corned-beef-and-cabbage-cupcakes-savory.html" REL="nofollow">cupcakes with cabbage frosting , but I love all of these together with your reviews and cartoons! You've got a great blog!

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterStef
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