This 'Any Veggie Cake' Recipe Will Make You Feel Good About Your Dessert Habit

If you can grate it, you can bake it.
A top view of Gardner's veggie cake, decorated with nuts.
Heath Robbins
A top view of Gardner's veggie cake, decorated with nuts.

The quickest way to feel good about eating cake is to add a vegetable to it.

Let’s be honest, carrot cake sounds like a smarter choice than chocolate cake. We’re not saying that carrot cake actually is actually healthier (it’s still cake, after all), but there’s something about the addition of produce that makes the dessert seem a little more virtuous.

Erin Gardner, author of the new Erin Bakes Cake cookbook and food blog Erin Bakes, understands that. She came up with this Any Veggie Cake recipe that calls for just about any vegetable you can grate. While this cake is absolutely not a health food, the recipe is versatile and delicious.

Adding veggies and fruits to cake not only gives the cake a more complex flavor, but adds texture as well. Check out Gardner’s Any Veggie Cake recipe below, and try it out with a vegetable you have in the fridge. Gardner provides examples for carrot, zucchini and sweet potato.

Gardner's sweet potato cake.
Heath Robbins
Gardner's sweet potato cake.
Reprinted from Erin Bakes Cake by Erin Gardner. Copyright (c) 2017 by Erin Gardner. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

Any Veggie Cake

This recipe was born as a carrot cake, but evolved as I searched for a good zucchini cake recipe. Botanical purists, I see you wagging your fingers at me. Yes, zucchini is technically a fruit, but Any Root Veggie, Tuber, or Fleshy Thick-Skinned Fruit Cake just didn’t have the same ring to it, you know? Basically, if you can grate it, it’ll work with this recipe.

My perfect carrot cake includes pineapple, so my other veggie variations contain a complementary fruit as well. Pineapple perks up the veggie flavor and adds a much-needed hint of tartness. In all of these variations, the fruit can be omitted and replaced with an equal amount of additional shredded vegetables, though I strongly suggest enjoying the combinations as they are presented. The nuts are entirely optional. Include them for added texture, or omit if you’re being mindful of allergies or creating a layered cake filled with an element of crunch.

Yields: Just under 10 cups batter, two tall 8-inch round cakes, or three regular 6-inch round cakes.

  • 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for the pans)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Flavoring (see below)
  • Shredded vegetable (see below)
  • Fruit (see below)
  • Nuts (see below), optional

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray and flour pans in your chosen size.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, sour cream, vanilla extract and flavoring.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the shredded vegetable, fruit and optional nuts.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake, rotating the pans’ positions halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs clinging to it, 50 to 55 minutes for 8-inch round pans or 35 to 40 minutes for 6-inch round pans.

Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a flat surface, like plates or a clean countertop. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting, filling, or storing.

Unicorn Thought: Swap in extra-virgin olive oil for the vegetable oil. Olive oil is not only heart-healthy, it provides complexity to the cake with an added savory flavor and subtle floral notes.

Gardner's carrot cake.
Heath Robbins
Gardner's carrot cake.


Carrot cake

Flavoring: 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

Vegetables: 3 cups shredded carrots

Fruit: 1-1/2 cups finely diced pineapple, fresh or canned (drained)

Nuts: 2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped

Zucchini Cake

Flavoring: 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Vegetable: 3 cups drained shredded zucchini

Fruit: 1-1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)

Nuts: 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped

Sweet Potato Cake

Flavoring: 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Vegetable: 3 cups shredded sweet potato

Fruit: 1-1/2 cups finely diced peeled apple

Nuts: 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped

It doesn’t get easier than that to add a little nutrition into your delicious bakes. Need more cake ideas? Check out Erin Bakes Cake on Amazon.


CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated the wrong measurement for flour.

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