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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)

Oh fun! I first saw parsnip cake a few years back in cooking light. I think you'll really enjoy looking over the http://blog.khymos.org/" REL="nofollow">TGRWT events to find some additional crazy ideas. :)

April 14 | Unregistered Commenterchou

simply loved the mischief..very well done and well presented..quite innovative way to articulate the veggies in one's life.

all in the name of science, eh? your sample cakes look cute and yummy, and the parsnip cake really peaked my interest. well done!

it is so fabulous that you made radish cupcakes. i am just speechless.

you should submit these to quirky cupcake's cupcake hero challenge for april! the theme is Earth Day.

April 15 | Unregistered Commenterkate

I have to have these...they still look as good as any cupcakes...will have to try the snap peas...yummmmmmmmmmmm

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Evans

genius! now i really want a radish cake.

April 15 | Unregistered Commenterren

sometimes I just don't know about you guys. Broccolli cake? Maybe with a little bacon

April 15 | Unregistered Commenterfeathermar

You are great! What a fun experiment. I love it!

April 15 | Unregistered Commenterhandmade julz

i love parsnips and only recently have begun to cook with them. they have such a wonderfully sweet, almost candy-like flavor. i can imagine they would make a most scrumptious cupcake. what a wonderful idea!~ you are a most artistic baker.

Do you even know how cute this post is!?! I can't even imagine how you thought this one up... you are soooo creative!! Did you finish eating the broccoli and brussels cakes? Or was one bite enough?

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

I love it!!!! :)

We should do cupcakes/drinks/something together soon.

April 15 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

Excellent idea. I'd love to taste the broccoli ones although I wouldn't make them. It was simply the next step in cupcake evolution, and now you have a recipe for snap pea cupcakes, or snap peacakes maybe (although if you are simply saying that word, it may not be appealing).

- http://www.peanutbutterboy.com" REL="nofollow">The Peanut Butter Boy

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterNick

By the way, my cabinet IS awesome, I'll be posting a picture soon of my peanut butter collection =).

- http://www.peanutbutterboy.com" REL="nofollow">The Peanut Butter Boy

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterNick

How do you do.
I hope to see blog.
Please link to this site.

April 15 | Unregistered Commenternipsum

It takes a lot to try something from the regular flavour....I'm amazed..at brocolli, radish, parsnip :D..Very daring!

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

What can I say!
amazing! I love this blog!

April 16 | Unregistered Commenterciciuzza

Speechless I tell you, I'm speechless! Absolutely ingenious.

Gee, now I'm wondering; what if all those veggies were all in one cupcake batter?

April 16 | Unregistered Commenter~~Louise~~

Deborah: Do! It worked quite well! :-)

Southern Hostess: What a compliment! A lot of sweetness comes out of this tiny kitchen!

Lori: Shh, don't tell, but sometimes we don't like too sweet either. Def. an acquired taste, but worth a try!

Gigi: Glad you liked the painting--it speaks to so much of what goes on in our lives. :-)

Lydia: Yup, we did it so you NEVER have to! :-)

Aran: yes, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite foods! Mr. Cakespy hates them because they have such a strong smell. But I could eat them every day!

Anticiplate: Glad you enjoyed it! :-) You've had some super delicious recipes up lately too, I must say!

Vicarious Foodie: I love 'em too--but oh well, not in cake form.

Hannah: Yes! Can't wait to see what you come up with--there is indeed hope!

Marc: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed :-)

Ello: Ha! Yes, our goal was entertainment and making you throw up, just a little, in your mouth--looks like we succeeded!?

Stef: The tomato cupcakes sound fantastic! Thank you for your kind words!

Chou: That's awesome! The world needs more parsnip cake! Bring on the revolution!

Mevrouw: Well, maybe not *all* in the name of science...fun too!

Kate: Glad you liked them! And oh, I adore Ms. Quirky Cupcake--but I am not sure if we're worthy! :-)

Diana: Yum indeed!

Ren: I wish I had another one too now!

Feathermar: Touche, perhaps a bit of salty savoriness would even it out.

Handmade Julz: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed our journey into forbidden cake territory.

Vegan Noodle: One bite was definitely enough!

Octavine: How do you usually make your parsnips? Cake Gumshoe Phil just tried them and is looking for new recipes.

Rachel: Thanks! We love you!
Maybe next week?

Nick: Maybe, just maybe, we should do celery-peanut-butter ones in your honor?? And can't wait to see the pics of your cabinet--we're shameless voyeurs.

Nipsum: Did you even read it?

Rachel: Daring indeed! We were rewarded in some cases too!

Ciciuzza: Thanks! We appreciate your kind words!

Louise: Perhaps we could do that and market it as V-8 Cake!? ;-)

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

That was an incredibly great idea! Very fun to read and it had me hooked from the beginning.

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

What a fun experiment!

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Absolutely Fabulous!

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterEB

This is hilarious!

Such a healthy looking challenge!

April 16 | Unregistered Commentercakewardrobe

ugh I was totally pulling for the broccoli-cake!
i love broccoli - I guess I'll just keep that love on the savory side of the fence.

gorgeous photos!

xo lauren

Love this post so much! :) You guys are so creative.

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