Seasonal Sweets: How to Bake With Winter Vegetables

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[Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

Around this time of year (i.e. past the holidays but still the dead of winter), it's easy to start getting antsy for all the produce that is still months away. But instead of pine over blueberries, strawberries, and all their juicy cousins, I like to turn to what is available. And right now, that means apples, pears, citrus and...vegetables.

Many winter vegetables have a natural sweetness that makes them perfect additions to dessert. There are some obvious candidates (sweet potato pie) and some less so (avocado cake!). Plus, it's always nice to know that a few more nutrients are making their way into my food.

So if you've never thought about baking with parsnips, read on. Here are some ideas for baking with those and other winter vegetables.

Beets

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[Photograph: Stephanie Stiavetti]

Peeling roasted beets can be a bit of a hassle (not to mention messy) but they have the most sugary sweetness of the vegetables and they pair surprisingly well with chocolate.

The recipes:

Winter's Bounty Breakfast Cake
Beet Seed Cake
Farmer's Secret Chocolate Bundt Cake

Sweet Potatoes

Spiced Sweet Potato Cookies

Spiced Sweet Potato Cookies [Photograph: Carrie Vasios Mullins]

We all know how good sweet potato pie is, so it follows that this tuber should find its way into other types of desserts. We like them as the sweet, honeyed base for cookies, biscuits, and doughnuts.

The recipes:

Spiced Sweet Potato Cookies
Sweet Potato Biscuits with JalapeƱo Butter
Spiced Sweet Potato Doughnuts
Sweet Potato Pie

Carrots

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Carrot Cake Pancakes With Sweet Orange Cream [Photograph: Sydney Oland]

Kids love carrots. Why? Because they're naturally sweet. They're also fresh tasting, adding brightness to pancakes or loaf cakes.

The recipes:

Carrot Sheet Cake
Carrot Cake Pancakes With Sweet Orange Cream
Brown Butter Pecan Carrot Cake
Carrot Walnut Loaf Cake

Winter Squash

Spiced Squash Doughnuts

Spiced Squash Doughnuts[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

We've left pumpkin off this list because we figure by this time, everyone's had their fill of pumpkin pie. Winter squash like butternut, kambocha, and acorn are a more interesting, but just as delicious, alternative.

The recipes:

Squash Pie
Spiced Squash Doughnuts
Acorn Squash and Cashew Sorbet
Browned Butter Squash Pie

Parsnips...and Avocado

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Parsnip Muffins [Photograph: Anna Markow]

Parsnips are closely related to carrots, and they pair well with similar spices (think cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.) Avocados, on the other hand, are buttery and fatty, making them the perfect base for baking.

The recipes:

Chocolate Avocado Cake With Avocado Buttercream
Parsnip Muffins
Parsnip Spice Cake

Do you have a favorite way to use winter vegetables in dessert? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

About the author: Carrie Vasios Mullins is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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