Mick Telkamp

Mick Telkamp

Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberries are among the most flexible crops when it comes time to serve dessert.

My grandfather used to refer to the spoon placed horizontally over the dinner plate at a place setting the “prophet spoon” because it prophesized there would be dessert.

Dessert is somehow a reward for finishing a meal. Salads are lovely. Serving up a side dish of garden fresh green beans or peas is extremely satisfying. But no matter how good the meal, there’s always one eye on that spoon.

What homegrown crops lend themselves to the whim of the prophet spoon? Some are obvious choices. But with a little creativity, outstanding dessert options can be found at both ends of the garden.

Berries

The clear winner when it comes to harvesting dessert from the backyard. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries…all can be cultivated by the home grower and are versatile ingredients for satisfying a sweet tooth.

Cakes, pies, ice cream. Trifles, cobblers and crisps. All make spectacular use of a sweet berry. And if the berries are good, serving them all by themselves or with a little whipped cream is elegant in its simplicity and mighty tasty to boot.

And lest you think I’ve forgotten, the strawberry is king of the home harvested dessert crops. Around here, one of my favorites is the indicator that summer has begun. Strawberries are among the most flexible crops when it comes time to serve dessert, but for my money, strawberry shortcake is hard to beat.

Vining Crops

Melons like honeydew or watermelon are always a refreshing dessert option, but the less traditionally sweet viners are also powerhouses at the end of the meal.

Most familiar is, of course, pumpkin pie. But there are plenty of other types of squash out there that lend themselves well to sweet creations.

Dessert-style breads are an excellent use of squash surpluses, bringing moisture, heft and subtle flavors. And butternut or yellow squash pie is every bit as good as that high profile pumpkin.

Zucchini may not seem like the first choice when baking, but zucchini cake has such delightful flavor and weight, you may forget you’re only making it because you have 50 pounds of zucchini on the counter.

Zucchini Cake
Zucchini cake with tomato cream cheese frosting.

Tomatoes aren’t the first thing that comes to mind for dessert. It’s a little hard to bring this one out of the box, but tomatoes have a natural sweetness, vibrant color and a taste all their own that works surprisingly well in cakes or pies.

Root Vegetables

Sweet potato pie and carrot cake are already popular choices, but many root vegetables are packed with sugar that can be made to shine in dessert form. Consider candied parsnips, a winter vegetable cobbler or even adding grated beets to brownies for a vibrant boost in color and flavor.

This cake has an unusual twist. I served this one to my teenage nieces who wholly approved. Of course, I didn’t tell them what was in it until after they’d finished.

Zucchini Cake with Tomato Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Cake
2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c zucchini, peeled and grated

Frosting
2 packages cream cheese
¼ cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup pureed tomato (remove skin first)
3 cup confectioner’s sugar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger and set aside.
  • In a standing mixer, combine oil and sugar.
  • With mixer running, add eggs one at a time.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Slowly add combined dry ingredients to mixer.
  • Add zucchini and mix to combine.
  • Divide batter into two greased and floured 8” cake pans.
  • Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Let cool until pan can be handled, then remove and allow to finish cooling on rack.
  • Combine all frosting ingredients in mixer with whisk attachment and mix until light and fluffy.
  • Using a spatula, frost bottom layer of cake, add top layer and frost.
  • Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

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