Root vegetables are not typically associated with sweet treats. While you often see them in side dishes for meals, their dense texture and sweet, earthy flavors make for excellent inclusions in desserts as well.

Carrots are a standard vegetable for desserts, as carrot cake will be a popular dessert in the coming months. At Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego, California, one of customers’ favorite dishes is the Extraordinary Carrot Cake. This dessert features ingredients such as carrots, golden raisins, orange zest, chunks of pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. The cake is layered with cream cheese mousse and is light, nutty, and full of flavor.

On the East Coast, pastry chefs are finding unique ways to incorporate parsnips into their menus this winter. In Asheville, North Carolina, Rhubarb’s Executive Pastry Chef Kaley Laird created the Parsniperage. This parsnip tart is a true custard pie – the filling is a clean and simple parsnip puree, with brown sugar (which lends additional depth in both flavor and color), buttermilk, and eggs.

In Richmond, Virginia, Longoven co-owner and pastry chef Megan Fitzroy Phelan introduced the Parsnip Cake. This dish is made in a manner similar to carrot cake with grated parsnips, maple caramelized apples, and yogurt ice cream. To complete the plating, the elegant cake is covered with shingles of parsnip discs.

Another useful root vegetable in desserts is rhubarb. Chef Nathaniel Reid of Nathaniel Reid Bakery in St. Louis, Missouri has earned great acclaim thanks to his innovative uses of ingredients. One of those is rhubarb, a long, stalky plant that goes well with many desserts. The former James Beard Outstanding Baker semifinalist likes to balance the tart flavors of rhubarb with something creamy. Chef Reid uses cream cheese because of its texture and versatile flavor.

There are so many other flavors that work well with rhubarb, including strawberry, elderflower, and raspberry. The vegetable pairs well with subtle floral flavors. Try adding a few drops of orange blossom water to any recipe for an added dimension. Nathaniel Reid Bakery makes a rhubarb, raspberry, and elderflower jam that is excellent on everything.