There’s something strangely satisfying about sneaking root vegetables into cake, don’t you think? Carrot cake has been part of my repertoire for so long that I sometimes even forget that it’s made with carrots. Today it’s time to get a little sneaky with another root vegetable, the parsnip, which can show some resemblance to a carrot but has a starchier flesh and a slightly more complex and herbal flavour (think carrots meet parsley). I know you may be wondering what business something parsley-like has in your dessert, but I promise you that the magic of cake-making will take care of it, just like it does with carrots.
I’ve been hanging out with the thought of a cellar cake for a few months now, the idea being a simple and flavourful “banana loaf meets carrot cake” style dessert that takes advantage of winter goodies-i.e. root vegetables and citrus fruit. I wanted something less indulgent than a frosted carrot cake, but a little more decadent than a banana loaf, somewhere on the line between breakfast and dessert. It took a few tries of fusing my best banana bread and carrot cake recipes, but I’m super happy with the result. The cake is rich and moist with relatively little oil…and guess what? I used extra-virgin olive oil, which despite my hesitation, ended up being BFFs with the other flavours in the cake. The frosting is quite rich, but with only a touch of maple syrup for sweetness, making room for all the wonderful cake flavours to come through.
I used a 50/50 blend of grated carrots and parsnips, but I encourage you to experiment with different ratios. If you’re a little nervous about the parsnips, go with a carrot majority, and if you’re feeling bold and brave, you can even do 100% parsnips. You can substitute orange zest with lemon and play around with the spices as well. Go nuts with the flavours and tell us about your adventures in the comments below. Super bonus points if you sneak in another root vegetable!
- 1.5 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. finely ground sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- a few gratings of fresh nutmeg (or 1/4 tsp. pre-ground)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1 orange (~ 1/4 cup juice + ~1 tsp. zest)
- 1 - 2 small carrots, peeled and grated (~1/4 lb)
- 1 - 2 small parsnips, peeled and grated (~1/4 lb)
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, softened at room temperature
- 1/3 cup 35% whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
- a generous pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
- a generous pinch of salt
- Start preheating the oven to 350°F, oil a standard loaf pan (~ 8.5" x 4.5") and lightly dust the bottom with flour.
- Whisk together the first 7 (dry) cake ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
- Whisk together the next 5 (wet) ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
- When the oven is ready, add the wet ingredients to the dry mix, along with the grated carrots and parsnips. Stir with a wooden spoon, just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Don’t over mix the batter, but make sure that there are no large clumps of flour.
- Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, until the top is golden. Test for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer into the center of the cake and ensuring that it comes out clean.
- Combine the hazelnuts with maple syrup and salt in a small bowl, set aside.
- Add the mascarpone and maple syrup to a small bowl and whisk vigorously, until smooth.
- Using a mixer or hand blender with a whisk attachment, beat the cream just until stiff peaks start to form, but don’t over mix, as the result will be lumpy (been there!). Add the creamed mascarpone and maple mix, lemon juice, and salt, and briefly whisk again, until smooth. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300°F.
- Arrange the maple-coated hazelnuts on a small parchment-lined baking tray and roast for 8 - 10 minutes. The maple syrup should be sticky and bubbly when done. Remove them from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
- Once the cake is cool enough to handle, carefully remove it from the loaf pan and continue letting it cool completely on a wire rack. Total cooling time will take a few hours but it's important so that the frosting doesn't melt.
- Store the cake, frosting, and hazelnut topping separately, until ready to serve.
- Frost the top of the cake.
- Coarsely chop the hazelnuts, and sprinkle them on top.
The cake will keep in the fridge for a few days.