Purple Potato Eater

Bubbling cauldrons are no where to be seen, but there’s definitely something strange brewing in this busy little kitchen. Between standard ingredients that behave contrary to common knowledge, mysteriously disappearing treats, downright impossible recipes that actually work (and quite well, I might add!), it’s hard to deny the unlikely alchemy going on every day. It’s easy to ignore the small, everyday signs that the kitchen could perhaps be enchanted by an otherworldly force, but when I pulled this last batch of cupcakes, you would have to be blind to deny the witchcraft of this working space.

Blue cupcakes. Bright purple frosting. No food coloring, naturally, so even I could hardly believe what I had baked. Truly, what sort of malicious curse would turn innocent confections into visions of the dark arts?

Believe it or not, the powerful wizardry here comes from a very unlikely source; A potato. Though it looks just like any other tuber from the outside, slice open a beni-imo and the magic will become clear. Bright violet through and through, these humble spuds don’t lose their color once boiled or exposed to air, making them a prime coloring candidate. Better yet, their mild, sweet flavor is somewhat akin to a pumpkin or sweet potato, making it easy to substitute an equal amount of purple potato puree in your favorite pumpkin cake recipe for a frightening new hue.

However, even more unusual is that once baked, my beni-imo cupcakes turned not only blue, but strangely swirled with emerald green! This is some sort of witchcraft that’s beyond me, since the batter was thoroughly mixed before hitting the oven… My best guess is that it’s due to a reaction with the baking soda or powder, but further experimentation is clearly necessary. While the results may look quite creepy indeed, they’re far less scary than the average consumer cupcake pumped up with Red Dye #40 and Blue Lake #1- That’s for sure!

65 thoughts on “Purple Potato Eater

  1. i was going to ask the same question as above. my experience with using potato puree can make or break a dish or treat. i have snuck spinach and blueberries in and hardly noticed. absolute love your photos. would like to see your setup.
    regardless, the food is not only healthy but decadent. i bet my 21 month old would eat it and get his veggies without even knowing it. and with that, i will definitely try this at home

  2. That’s some wild stuff you have going on there, Hannah. Also..the chocolate chips in the cupcake didn’t melt? What kind of bizarro world is this in which you bake tasty treat after tasty treat, each coming out so beautiful?

    I also really like your cupcake liners!

  3. I just had purple potatoes for the first time a few weeks ago. Such an earthy, nutty flavor. I just roasted them with other veggies, but we loved them.

  4. I love how they are perfectly colored like little “witch” cupcakes (or at least that’s how I always pictured a witch to look: green skin with some wicked purple hair). So cool!

  5. The cupcake look lovely! Okinawan sweet potatoes are my favorite tuber. They’re not quite as sweet as satsumaimo (which I also adore), but they do have a similar texture and that lovely purple flesh. I’m always on the lookout for them at the farmers market around this time of year, but they’re a little hard to come by around here and it’s still early in the season. Using these potatoes as a natural coloring agent is a brilliant idea!

  6. Very spooky looking and beautiful! I did a project on the colors in food that focused on an entirely purple meal, so I am very familiar with the beauty of purple/blue potatoes. Can we please have the recipe??

  7. Oh Hannah these are amazing! I love that they are au naturel and that I won’t have to worry about mutating my genes by eating them. Plus they include one of my favorite veggies. Can’t go wrong there!

  8. That’s wonderful. They’re really pretty, and the bright and unusual colours make them a great Halloween treat, in my opinion!
    You have amazing ideas – purple potato in a cupcake… thanks for posting about this experiment!

  9. FYI, natural colors like red and purple are usually from anthocyanins, found in beets, tomatoes (lycopene!) and other such dark plants. They’re great for imparting lovely color to a lot of foods. However, when subjected to the heat in baked goods, they lose a lot of their color. That’s why you can’t make red velvet cupcakes with beets – they turn just about white! That’s because the chemical bonds in these antioxidant-rich compounds are highly susceptible to heat and break down in such an environment, and why a natural, carmine-free red food colorant that survives baking is the holy grail of the natural food dye industry. Sometimes the acid from other ingredients can also degrade this, but for the most part it’s heat that turns reds and purples into duller versions of themselves. :)

    Food nerd out!

    1. @ Food Nerd thanks so much for the science behind the color shift! I’ve had Sunbutter (sunflower seed spread) turn green when baked. Their website suggested halving the leavening and adding lemon juice, which did the trick. Now I think I should try to take advantage of it for Halloween.

      Hannah, thanks for another stunning confection!

      1. Hi Libby and Hannah ~
        Great post and comment! Well now that it’s close to St Patrick’s Day, the green hue with SunButter may come in handy : )
        I also frequently use pureed beets for red food coloring and the kids at our house haven’t caught me yet. Thanks for a beautifully inspiring post.

  10. I haven’t seen those potatoes! Where did you find them? Is the frosting just colored with juice from the potatoes, or did you actually blend in some cooked potato?

  11. I used those beautiful purple babies to make sweet potato biscuits and mine turned green and blue too! I was hoping they would stay purple but they still looked pretty cool. I only used baking powder (no soda) in my recipe.

  12. That is so ridiculously beautiful that I almost can’t stand it. Makes me wish we celebrated Halloween properly here in Australia, just so I could pull out some green cupcakes for a party! Ah, the wonders of kitchen alchemy!

  13. I love this! What a great idea – I don’t ever use artificial food coloring. Heehee, I would have guessed blueberry but never potato! You are a very creative and resourceful food-witch! :D

  14. a very nice colorful halloween treat for children! without the use of artificial food coloring. the miracle of nature, who would have ever thought that a potato can be a natural source of food coloring. i just love emerald green reaction of the ingredients.

  15. Your cupcakes are beautiful! We have been buying purple sweet potatoes at our local farmers market recently. Purple mashed potatoes are fun! :-)

  16. Oh wow! The cupcake looks so interesting and yummy. :) When I first saw the photo, I thought you mixed green tea(maccha) powder in cake batter and also thought the chocolate chips were red beans! Potate puree, maccha flavor, and red beans… classic combination Asian people like me would LOVE!

  17. I love purple potatoes & you used them in these tasty looking cupcakes!! They look like real winners!! They are looking so festive too!

  18. The idea that those colors didn’t come from food coloring is beyond me! How lovely! I’m super curious as to what flavor cupcakes you made- it sounds like some sort of pumpkin? Purple potato pumpcakes? Love love love

  19. Oh my goodness gracious. I actually had my very last baby purple potato fall onto my feet this evening as I opened the fridge. And I thought, “shoot son, that fella has lived a long, long time” and decided it needed to be used oh-so-soon. And look at you! Thank you so much! I’m so on it :)

  20. Oo. Well it may not be intentional but I love the colors of that cupcake! Amazing really! I have never had purple potatoes before but if I ever see one somewhere I am so going to experiment with these. It looks amazing!

  21. That is one funky, cool cupcake. Its like my garlic turning green. I bet it is the baking soda. I wish I could find those purple potatoes around here. One of these days.

  22. These look awesome! you always come up with these creative, never been done, ideas!!

    I was on a hiatus for a while so it’s good to be back and connect with my fellow foodies!! :)

  23. Those are absolutely amazing. I want to get myself to south america just so I can observe the potato (among many other reasons) in the variety of hues and flavours they were meant to come in- before we we went all mono-culture all over them. Gorgeous as always sweet H.

  24. I grew peruvian purple potatoes this year and they make a fabulous colourful potato salad. I’ve not ventured to baking yet but having recently made a gluten free lemon cake with mashed potato in it I foresee a little experimentation coming my way. How intriguing that your cupcakes turned green.

  25. I am familiar with this sweet potato! My husband is Filipino-American, and this purple potato is called “ube.” In Filipino bakeries, they make the most amazing purple colored cakes and desserts as well! Love the idea of using for Halloween- will definitely make a note for next year!

  26. Baking magic, indeed! I can’t wait to try this out — I’ve just been scared off of food colouring when I checked the ingredient list, eeeek!

  27. Love the natural food coloring! Purple’s pretty hard to find in nature, the only food closest to purple I can ever think of are grapes! Will you give the recipe to this magnificent concoction? Or is it another witch’s secret?

  28. At first this post caught my attention because I have a post by the same name! Then I read even further and recognized the ube.. LOVE the stuff! Purple yam jam.. delicious! I tried making ube muffins once and had the same odd blueish-green hue! Too cool!

  29. Hello, this is totally awesome and looks delicious!! I was searching for a purple and green cupcakes to use for a Baby Shower that I’m hosting. Question, how did you do the natural purple frosting? Second, so you use purple potato to replace pumpkin to make the cupcake correct? Third, do you have this recipe in one of your books?? Also, I love your title, I’m a fan of purple and plus used to joke around about purple potato and purple asparagus.

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