Have you ever baked a carrot cake or carrot muffins, only for them to turn a weird green shade in the oven? This can be disconcerting, but actually has a fairly simple explanation. If you’ve ever wondered “why do carrots turn green when baked”?, read on! We’ll tell you why it happens, and how to avoid it in the future. And why the color has absolutely nothing to do with goblins.
Why do Carrots Turn Green When Baked? Is There Something Wrong with Them?
There are few things as disappointing as really looking forward to eating something, only for it to look really “off” when it’s served.
For example, good carrot cake is an absolute joy to eat. Carrots get even sweeter when they’re baked or cooked. Properly baked carrot cake will be the perfect balance between moist and crumbly, with just enough nuts to add some textured crunch, and gloriously creamy layers and frosting.
Related Article: Why do Carrots Turn Sweet when Cooked?
Needless to say, it’s pretty heartbreaking when you cut into a carrot cake, only to discover that all the carrots you shredded have turned green.
If and when this happens, you might assume that they’ve magically rotted in your oven. Or, that sometime during the baking process, goblins invaded your kitchen and transformed those shredded nuggets of joy into miniature horror shows.
We can assure you that neither of these is the case.
Instead, the answer is really quite simple, and has an easy fix so you never have to deal with green cake again.
There’s Too Much Baking Soda in the Batter.
That’s it. That’s the reason why.
Carrots contain several different pigments in varying quantities, such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein. These pigments can react to extreme pH levels. What this means is that they can undergo color changes when placed in environments that are very acidic or alkaline.
Carrots change color when they’re exposed to alkaline ingredients during the baking process. Interestingly, one of the most alkaline substances out there just happens to be one of the most common baking ingredients: sodium bicarbonate, aka “baking soda”.
When the carrots you’ve shredded make contact with baking soda in your dry mix, the soda’s extreme alkalinity will turn them green.
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Interestingly, similar color changes also happen with sunflower seeds, walnuts, and blueberries! The blueberries and sunflower seeds will also go green when exposed to baking soda, while walnuts will turn blueish purple.
Do you find that you’re consistently baking green carrot cake or muffins? Then reduce the amount of baking soda in the recipe. Try reducing it 1/4 teaspoon at a time until your baked goods stop looking Grinchy. If they keep going green, you’ll need to look at the other ingredients you’re using. For example, a pre-made cake or muffin mix that’s specifically designed for carrots will have low baking soda content.
In contrast, are you just using a standard cake or muffin mix and adding shredded carrot to it? Then the baking soda content might be too high. Try making your own blends instead, or use a mix that’s intended for carroty goodness.
Isn’t Food Science Fun?
This type of hands-on science is a great way to get kids interested in cooking and baking. After all, what’s more fun? Just reading about science experiments? Or taking part in them (and then eating the tasty results?!)
Try experimenting with different baking soda levels in carrot muffins. For example, if you’re baking 12 muffins, try three with 1 tsp soda, three with 1/2 a tsp, three with 1/4 tsp, and three without any baking soda at all. Be sure to mark them differently on top so you know which ones were which!
This way, you can see the different effects that the alkaline soda has on the other ingredients.
Meanwhile, not only are you teaching your kids about chemical reactions, you’re also getting them to bake their own snacks.