Packing the earthiness of root vegetables into something sweet might seem counterintuitive, but as pastry chefs go hunting for local produce in sparse cold-weather months, the subterranean standbys are taking root on dessert menus around the city.
Ube Bites at Sunda
Bibingka, a tangy Filipino rice cake, serves as inspiration for this jammy brunch dessert at Sunda. The golden brioche is injected with a bright ube jam and garnished with a dollop of lavender-tinted butter infused with the purple yam’s subtle, earthy notes. For added contrast between savory and sweet, chef Louie Yu accents the custard-soaked bread with cheddar cheese, rounding out the bite-sized treat with a mint leaf and sweet berries. $12, 110 W. Illinois St., River North
Sweet Potato Cake at Blackbird
It’s no secret how perfectly sweet potato pairs with warm baking spices, but pastry chef Nicole Guini kicks the combo up a notch at this West Loop stalwart. She tops the gluten-free oat and rice flour cake with a rich sliver of goat’s milk cheesecake and apple cider gelée. A sprinkle of crunchy oat crumb lends textural contrast, while compressed apples and a quenelle of cider-sage sorbet brighten up the palate with a tart bite. $13, 619 W. Randolph St., West Loop
Parsnip Cake at WoodWind
The dense, golden olive oil cake’s flavor is deepened by parsley’s starchy, vegetal cousin and buoyed by La Boîte’s mishmish spice blend of crystalized honey, saffron, and lemon. A smear of cream cheese frosting covered with honey and crushed pistachios pays tribute to classic carrot cake, but it still allows the parsnip flavor to shine. $10, 259 E. Erie St., Streeterville