Three-Layer Parsnip Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Photo by Antonis Achilleos
Swap carrots with parsnips in this sweet parsnip cake recipe.


  • Cake Unsalted butter for cake pans, at room temperature
  • 2 cups whole-wheat (or all-purpose) flour, plus more for dusting pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups grated parsnips, about 8 trimmed and peeled parsnips (see note)
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cups coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 4 large eggs  Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Topping
  • 1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut for garnish (optional)


  • To make cakes: Position one rack in the center and a second rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-tall sides. Line bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Butter parchment paper. Sprinkle one pan with a spoonful of flour, and then tilt and tap the pan to distribute flour evenly. Turn pan upside down over the sink and gently shake out excess flour. Repeat with the second and third pans.
  • In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. In another bowl, stir together parsnips, coconut, walnuts and raisins.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat together sugar and oil until smooth, about 2 minutes. Begin mixing on low speed and increase to medium so oil doesn’t splatter. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until batter is smooth. On low speed, add flour mixture and beat just until it disappears. Using a rubber spatula, fold in parsnip mixture until evenly distributed.
  • Divide batter among prepared pans, spreading it evenly in each pan. Bake cakes until they just start pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. For even baking, at the midpoint, switch pans between racks and rotate them front to back. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Run a table knife around the inside edge of each pan to loosen the cake sides. Invert cakes onto the racks and peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely before frosting. To make frosting:
  • In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using handheld mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until combined, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Place one cake layer, top-side down, on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula, spread one-third of the frosting over the top. Spread the frosting right to the edge of the top without frosting the sides. Carefully set the second cake layer on top, placing it top-side down and lining up the edges. Spread half of remaining frosting on top of layer the same way. Place third cake layer on top, right-side up. Spread remaining frosting over the top of the cake, again without frosting the sides. Swirl frosting to decorate the top and then garnish evenly with coconut, if desired. Refrigerate cake for at least 45 minutes to set the frosting. Remove from refrigerator 30 to 40 minutes before serving. Note: If you have a shredding blade for your food processor, you can make quick work of grating parsnips. Otherwise, use the coarse holes on a box grater. The cake can be made up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate until cold and then carefully cover with plastic wrap. The frosted cake also freezes well. Place it in the freezer unwrapped until both the frosting and the cake are firm and set, usually about 3 hours. Wrap cake airtight in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. I don’t like to freeze baked goods longer than 30 days, as they pick up a stale-freezer taste. Thaw cake, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight.

    More Root Vegetable Recipes

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    Recipes adapted from Roots: The Definitive Compendium With More Than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan.

Think carrot cake, but with parsnips! You get the same delightfully moist texture and sweet flavor from ivory white parsnips that you get from carrots. I like the rustic look for this big and tall cake, with just the layers and top frosted, leaving the sides exposed. If you prefer the sides frosted, make one and a half times the amount of frosting. Editors’ note: We swapped whole-wheat flour for the white flour; coconut sugar for white sugar; and used unsweetened coconut flakes. These ingredients should reduce the dramatic blood sugar spikes associated with most desserts.

Three-Layer Parsnip Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

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