Spiced Parsnip Cake

April  3, 2011
4 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Makes one 9x13-inch cake
Author Notes

I love parsnips. I think they're a very underused vegetable. I found an article in the Oregonian about parsnips in dessert recipes. There was an attached recipe for parsnip cake. Not one to leave well enough alone, I decided to create my own parsnip cake recipe. I used my favorite carrot cake recipe from Better Homes and Gardens that uses a buttermilk glaze in place of cream cheese frosting as my starting point. I wanted to incorporate maple syrup in the cake and the glaze, as I think it complements the parsnips nicely. I tried several spice combinations, and finally settled on French four spice (I used the Penzey's blend which contains white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves), cinnamon, and ginger. I am quite pleased with the result, and hope you get a chance to try this cake. —hardlikearmour

What You'll Need
  • Spiced Parsnip Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal flour (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon French four spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (grade B preferred)
  • 3/4 cup superfine or castor sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups shredded parsnips (about 2 large parsnips)
  • Maple Buttermilk Glaze
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (grade B preferred)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  1. Spiced Parsnip Cake
  2. Preheat your oven to 325º F with a rack near the center. Grease your 9- by 13-inch glass cake pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Combine the first nine ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk about 30 seconds to fully mix and aerate the flour some. Set aside.
  4. Combine the remaining ingredients, excluding the parsnips, in a medium bowl. Whisk well to combine. The sugar should dissolve before proceeding to the next step.
  5. Dump the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until almost incorporated - like making pancake batter. Add the parsnips and stir until just incorporated.
  6. Pour into prepared cake pan, and bake until center springs back or a toothpick inserted near center come out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack, and immediately pour the glaze over the hot cake, trying not to let much glaze spill between the cake and the pan. I sometimes pierce the surface of the cake with a fork to allow the glaze to seep in better.
  7. NOTE: If you prefer, you could allow the cake to cool completely then frost with your favorite cream cheese icing. A little orange zest and/or juice in the icing would work well with the flavors of the cake.
  1. Maple Buttermilk Glaze
  2. Combine the maple syrup and butter in a glass measure or other microwave safe container. Heat until the maple syrup starts to boil and the butter is melted or close to it. Allow to cool for several minutes, then whisk in the buttermilk.
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  • Bevi
  • CarlaCooks
  • Mashie Arif
    Mashie Arif
  • calendargirl
  • lydia.sugarman
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

40 Reviews

Drew T. January 21, 2019
This was a moist spice cake, but nothing special about it at all. Uninspiring. There are far better spice cakes our there and many better things to do with parsnips.
KR October 9, 2018
I found it difficult to follow this recipe (1st 9 ingredients) then "the rest"...Is is possible to divide the recipe into sections? (I haven't posted a recipe, so not sure if possible)....
I made this today for Thanksgiving & made many adjustments as I didn't have French Spice & don't really like pepper in my sweets, lowered the sugar, & added a generous TBS of molasses. If I make it again, I will reduce the sugar by maybe 3 TBSP as I found it a little sweet for my taste. I enjoyed the spice combo. The cakes broke when we tried to get them out of the pans onto the rack/serving plate. Perhaps this cake has to be served in the baking pan. I also wonder how necessary 4 eggs are to this cake...seemed like a lot to me... I also used half carrots and half parsnips, and used the coarse side of my box grater. The parsnip pieces are clearly visible. Nice!
Lisa M. February 29, 2016
Also added a 1/2 cup of plumped yellow raisins because, as you can see, I can not leave well enough alone.
Lisa M. February 29, 2016
This was delicious. A friend is experiencing a parsnip glut and has been handing them out by the bunch. I made this last night and it was a huge success. I used 1/2 butter and 1/2 coconut oil, added a tablespoon or two of homemade orange marmalade, and some of the pulp from my juicer (to make up 2 cups - including the shredded parsnip.) Very moist cake, no need for frosting or glaze. Also used 1/2 cup of coconut sugar and a cup of regular sugar.....
X December 13, 2015
Since I would have no other use for French spice, and didn't want to buy it just for one recipe, I used some pumpkin pie spice that I had on hand, which has all the same ingredients of French spice (except for the white pepper, which I added separately and didn't really care for, so I'll leave it out next time), and includes the cinnamon called for in the recipe. I left out the coconut and added chopped, toasted walnuts. Was very nice with a cup of coffee.
ghainskom October 4, 2015
Made a couple of subs because this was a spontaneous decision. So subbed the maple syrup for half syrup half honey and the butter with half butter half coconut oil. I think as long as the spices quantities are sticked to, this recipe will be a winner.
dgrolle September 23, 2014
Just thought I should say this recipe is fantastic. Make it!
sharon July 27, 2014
could you clarify?..the ingrediants for the maple glaze are spread out in the list. But #3) states "combine the remaining ingredients" which include maple ,buttermilk and importantly butter. -as part of the wet section of the cake ? So are the 1/2 cups of maple and butter split between the cake and glaze? thanks !
hardlikearmour July 27, 2014
The glaze ingredients and instructions are below the cake instructions.
Bevi March 29, 2014
I have made this cake twice and it is delicious!
stephanie March 12, 2014
I made a half recipe in an 8x8 pan. It's delicious!
CarlaCooks February 5, 2014
I made this last night in two loaf pans. All I can say is there is no better way to eat parsnips! I am not really a fan of parsnips, so I made this as a way of getting rid of some from my CSA box. I shredded the parsnips in my food processor with the shredding disk; I did the first batch of parsnips on the bigger shred, then the second batch on the smaller shred. The two loaves took about 45 minutes to bake through. The final result was very tasty: not too dry, but also not terribly moist, and with hardly any flavor of parsnip (which is a good thing for me!).
Sarah January 27, 2014
I made this yesterday with a cream cheese orange frosting - it was a huge success! I found the cake on it's own to be a bit dry, in addition to the icing I made a bit of syrup with juice from the orange and poked holes in the cake and poured the syrup over and allowed it to be absorbed before frosting.
kath1 December 5, 2013
I have just made this, looks and smells wonderful. Fiddled a bit with ingredients as didn't have buttermilk and made it in a fancy bundt pan. I should think honey would sub in fine for maple syrup.
Mashie A. December 3, 2013
Hi dont know where my comment disappeared this looks great though getting hold of maple syrup is very difficult so any subs for that
calendargirl December 2, 2013
This is wonderful! Brava! I am a parsnip partisan, too, and don't know how I missed this first time around. So glad it is getting a chance to shine, can't wait to make it.
lydia.sugarman December 2, 2013
Here's a recipe from Epicurious for making your own French four spice blend- http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/French-Four-Spice-Blend-243545
aargersi December 2, 2013
WHOOP! Congratulations!!! I WILL make this, and soon
arielleclementine March 25, 2012
what a beautiful cake! will try very soon!
hardlikearmour March 26, 2012
Thanks, ac! I'd be honored if you chose to make it!
wssmom March 23, 2012
I missed this the first time, but I am sure glad I didn't miss it this time! What a great use of parsnips! And maple!
hardlikearmour March 24, 2012
Thanks, wssmom! I snuck it in w/o a corresponding contest, so it was easy to miss.
EmilyC March 21, 2012
This looks and sounds great, HLA!
hardlikearmour March 22, 2012
Thank you, Emily! I am really happy with how it turned out.