An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Unlikely Inspiration


The empire of food-based television has been slowly crumbling, rotting from the inside out like last week’s Chinese take out, for years. Rapidly expanding into something larger than the Food Network itself, now every channel has their own foodie tour guide, cooking competition, or pour-and-stir cookalong. Quantity over quality, 99% of these daytime abominations aren’t watchable for even a full five minutes, and yet every new series somehow find a way to up the ante and churn out “entertainment” even more stomach-turning. You know this, I know this, and we can all agree that television programing has all but devolved into the same dozen clips of pornographic food shots and “celebrity” catch phrases over and over, 24 hours a day.

And yet, I watch so much of this crap, even I can’t explain it. Just 30 minutes, maybe an hour, to let my mind unspool and stop thinking. Despite the lack of decent programing, I just need that down time, and maybe an opportunity to spew my venom at all those misguided cooks and bakers making brownies out of pork and beans. Top Chef is hands-down my favorite option of all, typically featuring slightly less loathsome personalities, and providing at least occasional inspiration. That particular hour of programing, I devour like junk food. It’s my guilty indulgence, once a week, every week.

No, the combination of canned meat products and desserts didn’t quite set my world on fire in the last episode, but the quickfire did capture my imagination. Presented with root vegetables to incorporate into a sweet recipe, I immediately knew this was my sort of challenge. Carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes- Bring them on! Yet there were so many other promising tubers I hadn’t even known I was ignoring.

Celeriac, how could I not have thought of it before? Mild, almost sweet and nutty to begin with, I already adore the ugly, gnarled root in soups and salads, so why couldn’t it make the transition into the final course? Celery and peanut butter was an easy entryway into the concept, a combination already proven to work, and not just a passing food fad. After school snacks for decades have included some form of “ants on a log,” peanut butter-smeared celery sticks with a line of raisin “ants” marching along the top. It was so obvious, after making that connection from that unlikely source of inspiration, I couldn’t push it out of my mind.

So I made cupcakes. If you can have carrot cakes and zucchini cakes, why the hell not celeriac cakes? If you hate celery, okay, I can’t help you; You’ll probably hate these. But for everyone else, the sweet peanut butter frosting smoothed out the sharper edges of celery flavor nicely, while still allowing the pairing to be easily tasted. Currants take the place of raisins simply for more even distribution within the cakes, but you could always switch back to the latter.

Especially as fresh fruits dwindle along with summer’s bounty, these cupcakes provide a fun, nostalgic interpretation of more hearty fall and winter produce. Plus, you can painlessly squeeze in another serving of vegetables into dessert!

Ants on a Log Cupcakes (Celeriac-Currant Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting)

Celeriac Cupcakes:

1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 1/2 Cups Shredded Celeriac (Celery Root)
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Dried Currants
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
3/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tablespoons Water
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Peanut Butter Frosting:

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch Salt
1 – 2 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Extra Currants, for Decoration (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 12 standard muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt so that all of the dry goods are evenly distributed.

After shredding your celeriac, immediately toss it with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add the shredded celeriac and currants to the bowl of dry ingredients, and toss to coat in flour.

Separately, whisk together the oil, non-dairy milk of choice, water, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the whole mixture into your bowl of dry ingredients. Stir gently with a wide spatula, just until the batter comes together. A few lumps are just fine, as long as you don’t over-mix.

Evenly dose out the batter between your prepared muffin tins. Don’t be afraid to mound that batter up in the center, they should bake up nicely as long as the amount in each tin is equal. Bake for 23 – 26 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out dry. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together the non-dairy margarine and peanut butter in a stand mixer until completely smooth. Add in the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the “milk.” Start mixing on low speed with the whisk attachment, and once there’s no longer a risk of powdered sugar flying out of the bowl, crank it up to high. Whip for about 5 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy. Apply to cupcakes, and sprinkle with additional currants on top if desired.

Makes 12 Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

47 thoughts on “Unlikely Inspiration

  1. Very original recipe with celeriac! I’m going to have to convince someone to make them for me :)

  2. I love that show as well! I always want to veganize their creations, but I’m glad you took on this challenge first.

  3. This is SO Creative! I love, love, love this recipe and can’t wait to try it. Hooray for true foodie pioneers!

  4. These cupcakes look so great! Definitely creative. I’m really interested to try this! And that peanut butter frosting looks amazing!

  5. aw, hannah! as soon as i read “celeriac cupcakes”, i immediately thought of top chef just desserts, and the beastie boys challenge. i actually JUST fell in love with the show yesterday, and watched about four episodes back to back.

    these cupcakes look great. definitely takes me back to those pre-school “ants on a log” days ;)

  6. Wow. Unlikely, indeed but I am a fan of celeriac – I actually just bookmarked another recipe for it. Maybe with what’s left of the root I’ll make these! Your brain is amazing!

  7. Very original recipe and adorable pictures! The non-dairy milk ideas are great as I have lactose intolerant friends that are always looking for yummy alternatives.

  8. I agree – very creative! I’m one of those people you can’t help (lol), but I can still appreciate a great recipe :)

  9. I have to agree about food related television. It has really gone downhill the past few years. I, too, am an avid Top Chef fan, but I seldom am as inspired as you are to concoct such ambitious cupcakes! Those look fantastic. For some reason I find celeriac difficult to want to pick up at the grocery store — it looks old and dirty. I’ll have to convince myself to transform it into cupcakes now.

  10. So intriguing! And beautiful presentation as always :)

  11. Very original! And I may have to challenge you to come up with a recipe to use what I have just been challenged to make. My new gingerbread jam was the result of a challenge. But the new challenge is an apple jam with peppers. So be prepared. And yes, I will supply you with the resulting jam if you are willing to take it on.

    • Well I do love a challenge… Ha! That’s a tough one, but I think it would depend on how hot the peppers are we’re talking about. There is definite potential, though…

  12. So true! There is a new show everywhere. I could keep up, so I gave. :)

  13. I’ve been watching Top Chefs Desserts, too, and I think it’s time for you to audition for the show! LOVE these cupcakes!

  14. love the throwback to an old school yard favorite!

  15. OMG so cute! I LOVE the sound of this combo. So novel and unique. I agree that in almost every category way, way too many versions of shows have exploded. Top Chef is always one of my favorites and I do admit to also liking next food network star.

  16. SO creative!!

  17. Those look beautiful! the cupcake wrapper, the perfect frosting swirls with raisins on top… I love your photography. I don’t think these would be my favourite flavour (I’m not keen on peanut butter in desserts, not sure why) but your creativity always amazes me!

  18. Ugh!! I’m bummed. I hate celery! What I hate is the texture though…now that I think about it. And the chewing that has to go on and on and one before is even close to swallowable. Maybe celery in a cupcake is what I’ve always needed. And I still feed my husband ants on a log. So, now he still gets ants on a log but maybe I get celeriac cupcakes. Might be a decent trade off.

  19. Hannah! You fantastic, brilliant, creative, inspiring, goddess-in-the-kitchen woman! How do you do it?!

    P.S. Next stop, natto mudcake? :P

  20. I love Top Chef, but it’s the only food show I watch :)

    And celeraic cupcakes! No way! So interesting and, well, they definitely seem like they could work. I’ll have to think about playing with the veg sometime soon.

  21. genius! :) I saw the episode too and that was the combination that stood out to me also.. will have to try these

  22. I love these!

  23. Top Chef is definitely the only cooking show I can stomach for more than about ten minutes…sometimes the Just Desserts version but some of the personalities on that are SUPER annoying.

    I am pretty impressed that you put celeriac in a cupcake…I wonder if htat would cure me of my aversion to it?

  24. oh. my. genius!!! I adore celeriac… so “why the hell not?” is exactly right!

  25. This is so cool. Great idea! I love that you call them Ants on a Log.

  26. Such a gorgeous picture. And great name!


  27. Groundbreaking as always, Hannah.

    You know, I’ve been so bored with food tv lately. I used to be a Food Network addict, but every time I turn it on, it’s either diner crap or another meaty reality chef competition….yawn.

  28. Hannah, you always come up with something so interesting and yet so tempting…not that interesting should not be tempting hehehe!
    Hope you are having a great week and thanks for this awesome treat :-)

  29. Top Chef is definitely one of the better cooking show out there. I don’t get to watch it as much as I would like, but what great inspiration. The cupcakes are absolutely brilliant! :-)

  30. Brilliant idea! I never would have thought to use celeraic. And I love the ants on a log concept.

  31. I watched that episode; wondering what I could make with some of the root vegetables. My mind had an explosion of creativity. I love that you made these. I can’t wait to try my hand at these!

  32. pork and beans brownies? whoa. I’ve been missing a lot on TV lately, haven’t I? These cupcakes though sound great with the peanut butter frosting! I love celery and peanut butter!

  33. Your cupcakes look gorgeous as always! And as always, I love that you use such unusual ingredients, while I was showing your newest book to a friend at knit night, we were talking about how your book stands out because it’s unique, not just vegan versions of everyday recipes :)

  34. This ticks all the right boxes as far as I’m concerned! And you know how partial I am to a root vegetable cake!

  35. The cupcake is mouth watering. And yeah meat and dessert doesn’t quite add up. I don’t know what they trying to show us.

  36. I adore this idea! I watch Top Chef Just Desserts too and remember thinking that celeriac in a dessert would be awesome.

  37. Hello! Old reader here, just wanted to ask – I’d like to personify this cupcake (I know, I know, strange request) just for personal art, and I was wondering if I could use one of these photos (like here: ) as a background if I keep your “©Hanna Kaminsky etc etc” on it? I will of course link you to the drawing when/if I post it online.
    Thanks! And keep on cookin’

    • I had to admit, this is the first time anyone has made such a request! As long as the watermark remains intact, and you link back to me when it’s posted, I’d be happy to “lend” this photo to you, in that sense. ;) Anything for art!

      I can’t wait to see it!

  38. This is seriously genius!

  39. I am definitely a food network junkie, even though most shows don’t excite me much. Have you seen “Sweet Genius?” -Dr. Evil of desserts makes unsuspecting contestants use Peking duck and cotton candy to make a dessert inspired by butterflies… yeah.
    I love the way contestants fudge their way through their explanations… Butterflies make me think of air so that’s why my dessert is light and airy… um, like butterflies. LOL!

  40. I would have never in a million years dreamed up something like this, but I am intrigued! I love celery root (LOVE). PB frosting just seals the deal for me!

  41. Wow that’s definitely not what I was expecting hehe, but if you made it I bet it’s incredibly delicious. Love that you’re thinking outside the box!

  42. Totally creative, beautiful, and I’m sure delicious! Love them!

  43. What incredibly creative cupcakes!!! Love the sound of them and the ants on a log theme!

  44. these were incredible

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