SHF23 "Surprise Inside" Spice Cupcakes

So you think that veggie lovers don't some times long to make pretty little cupcakes? We do, we do!

For this month's Sugar High Friday (the Surprise Inside edition, hosted by yours truly) I soooo wanted to try XX cupcakes with XX ice cream, recipes I've had my eyes on for a few months, awaiting the perfect occasion.

THE CUPCAKES The surprise XX ingredient is ... parsnips! (No surprise that it's a vegetable, of course!) These cupcakes were really easy to make. If you don't have a mixer, this is perfect because no mixer is required, just a whisk and a wooden spoon. Taste-wise, they're great! The raw, grated parsnips fade into the background (like zucchini in zucchini cake) but the spice combination and proportions are magnificent, nothing shy, perfectly balanced. In fact, another time I wouldn't hesitate to try the cupcakes withOUT the parsnips.

THE ICING Was good, maybe even very good with fresh ginger (another surprise?) stirred into an otherwise standard cream cheese icing. But I find a standard cream cheese icing cloyingly sweet and would love to try other options ... does anyone have an alternative to suggest?

THE ICE CREAM The surprise ingredient is ... more parsnips, this time cooked in milk and sugar, then pureed and processed! And the verdict is ... frankly, the ice cream was a big disappointment. Call it "experimental food" but to my taste, it was way too parsnip-y, more like cold and clammy parsnips with sugar. The recipe comes from the much-vaunted Vegetable Love and is hyped by the Splendid Table so it must suit some palates ... here it went in the rubbish bin after one very small spoonful. [Update: instead it accidentally sat on the counter for a few hours. When I opened up the container, it looked ... interesting, good interesting. I stuck my spoon into the now-warm but still-dense stuff. It was good! I think it'd be a really good layer in a chocolate cake, for example, like lemon curd in sponge cake. Only parsnips. But you get the idea!]

WHAT I LEARNED A sweet is a sweet is a sweet, calorie-wise, even if it contains vegetables and "doesn't look that bad" otherwise. Just look at the nutrition analysis, below. If you struggle with weight, it really pays to do nutrition analysis on what you cook and eat. It's not hard, it takes a few minutes once you get the hang of it. And it'll open your eyes, I promise. (How do you do nutrition analysis on your own recipes? I use this product called Accuchef.)

FROM THE ARCHIVES ... For other sweets and desserts made with vegetables, many for prior editions of Sugar High Friday, see here in the Recipe Box.

Hands-on time: 30 minutes for cupcakes, 10 minutes for icing
Time to table: 2 - 3 hours
Makes 12 cupcakes or a 9x13 cake pan

1/2 cup pecans (or walnuts)

Turn oven to 350F. Place the nuts in a single layer on a small baking sheet or cake pan. Insert into the oven, even though it's not heated. Toast the nuts until fragrant and beginning to brown. (In my oven, this was the 10 minutes to preheat plus a couple of minutes; set a timer so you don't forget they're toasting!)

2 cups grated parsnips (from 3 - 4 large, peeled and trimmed parsnips)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt

3 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture. With a wooden spoon, gently combine until barely mixed. Stir in the nuts and parsnips until barely mixed. (Over-mixing will cause holes in the cupcakes. They'll still taste delicious but the texture will be off.) Place paper muffin wrappers in muffin pans. With two spoons, one to scoop and one to scrape, fill the wrappers. (It was okay to fill nearly all the way. These are dense, spicy cupcakes and don't rise a ton.) Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Let cool before icing. (The inspiring recipe made a 9x13 cake with 25 minutes to bake.)

(double the quantities for a 9x13)
2 ounces reduced fat cream cheese (neufchatel)
1 tablespoon softened butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (or to taste)

Stir together the cream cheese and butter til smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt, then the powdered sugar, blend til smooth. Add the ginger, adjust quantity to taste. Ice the cooled cupcakes. If you like, garnish tops with fresh lemon peel.

12 cupcakes, no icing, per cupcake: 283 Cal (45% from Fat, 6% from Protein, 49% from Carb); 5 g Protein; 14 g Tot Fat; 2 g Sat Fat; 35 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 73 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 258 mg Sodium; 63 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 6 points

12 cupcakes with icing, per cupcake: 362 Cal (40% from Fat, 5% from Protein, 55% from Carb); 5 g Protein; 16 g Tot Fat; 3 g Sat Fat; 50 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 78 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 296 mg Sodium; 68 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 8 points

9x13 with double icing, cut into 24 pieces, per piece: 220 Cal (36% from Fat, 5% from Protein, 59% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 9 g Tot Fat; 2 g Sat Fat; 33 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 42 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 155 mg Sodium; 37 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 4 points

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2006


(c) Copyright 2006 Kitchen Parade
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Parsnip cupcakes??? I am definitely going to try these!

  2. You've just reminded me of my failed attempt to make parsnip cake for Sugar Low Friday few months ago. I'm pleased to hear that your cupcakes were a success!

  3. Hilarious! Sorry about the ice cream (it might have been great!) but at least you have the cupcakes. Carrot cake, zuchinni bread, and banana bread have long been my favs so I see that I may have to add parsnip to the list too!

  4. FUN! I love this idea. I have to try this. It reminds me of my beetroot/chocolate brownies! Lovely lovely. Thanks for hosting!

  5. Thank you for hosting, AK! I love this idea, as I'm pretty partial to cupcakes, myself...

    I wonder how turnips would fare in this recipe?

  6. This sounds too cool Alanna - great recipe!

  7. Lydia ~ Be careful, see what Pille says!

    Pille ~ I'd forgotten!

    Vanessa ~ You never know til you try, right? And I always figure that just because something's not to "my" taste doesn't mean it's bad. And I was so surprised when it was better unfrozen!

    Bea ~ I've done beet/chocolate too, cake though, in fact much to my dismay it's probably the #1 recipe (hits wise) among all the wonderful healthful veggies here! ;-)

    JBD ~ Turnips. Hmm. If you try, let me know!

    Joe ~ It's that icing you like, right? Your baked stuff always looks so pretty, I think I'll dedicate those little slivers of lemon rind to you and Jeff!

  8. Love your spicy cupcakes! I have eaten parsnips only once I think (I know, I know), but I can see how they would taste great in baked stuff. You certainly manage to sneak those veggies in :)

  9. Wow, parsnips! And ginger in the icing -- I love that idea. The ice cream reminds me of Iron Chef; you know, they're always making ice cream with the secret ingredient, which is usually something like octopus or horseradish.

    Anyway -- nice job, and thanks for inviting me to take part. It was sort of fun to try to bake. :) Here is my link:

  10. here's my contribution to SHF!

  11. I am laughing out loud at your ice cream description - LOL! Too funny.

  12. Alanna,

    The cupcakes sound great! I love spice cakes. Looking forward to seeing the roundup for SHF23...

  13. Alanna,

    I love the parsnip cupcakes! Wonderful idea. I'm sorry about the ice cream but I still think you did a great job!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna