Pear, Parsnip and Ginger Cake

Cakes made from vegetables is not a new idea but it's one I love immensely. Harry Eastwood managed to devote an entire book to the subject in Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache. There is so much more to vegetable cakes than just the humble carrot cake. It's a wonderfully resourceful idea and that's what really appeals to me. That there is always a way to use up leftover beetroot or parsnip. 

This cake is wheat free as it is made with spelt flour and ground almonds. If you don't put the cream cheese frosting on top it's also dairy free. I loved the frosting but next time I will try it without. It's from Lily Vanilli's new book Sweet Tooth aka the BEST baking book I've ever bought. It's amazing. It has taught me so much about baking in the last few weeks and revolutionised how I'll make a vanilla sponge from now on. 

I've just had the best 4 day weekend. Back to work tomorrow. I can't say I was particularly productive other than our day out in Manchester but I'd had such a busy start to the week that it was nice to just do nothing. I baked, took photos for future posts, tidied up, read through my latest magazines and caught on some TV shows. Those little things that I can sometimes feel too tired to do after work.

I did some experimenting with more dairy/gluten free recipes. It's a side of baking I'm really interested in, and stems, largely, from my long-standing obsession with Babycakes NYC. Their iPhone app came out recently and it's fantastic. The UK version of the book is a must buy because they converted into grams (from cups) which is super helpful. I'll post some more about what I've made in the next week or so. In the beginning I have to say if I made something that was measured in cups I didn't change the recipe but I'm taking the time now to weigh out the cups measurement as I make it. As most of my readers are the UK I don't really want to put anyone off baking anything if they don't have a set of cups lying around...it's something that used to put me off until I finally got round to buying some cups.

Top of my Christmas wish list is a food processor. I do not own a food processor. There's no room in our tiny tiny kitchen for one but I do need one. This cake does require some effort with a grater, a grater which I do not get along with as I  inevitably end up losing a chunk of my thumb knuckle on it. Can someone please invent a thumb guard for a standing grater? Anyway, my point is that I could grate the pear, parsnip and ginger in seconds with a food processor. 

I was having a bad day with our kitchen yesterday. I love our flat but it gets increasingly frustrating baking on a 50cm square space. I need a chat with Rachel Khoo about how she does it without throwing flour in the air in anger (note, I did not throw flour in the air but I was close). Sometimes baking goes wrong, it gets frustrating but that's what makes it addictive. Em at Mbakes has blogged about her mistakes and it's really refreshing to know that other food bloggers have bakes go wrong or frustrating moments. At the end of the day every bake is an experiment. Even the most tried and tested recipes have the potential to go wrong and I wouldn't be surprised if even Mary Berry tossed flour in the air in anger once in a while. 

This is a fairly fool proof recipe. There's a few stages to go through, but unlike cakes based on butter and eggs it's easier to get this cake right. Even using the hob as an extra workspace.

Pear, Parsnip and Ginger Cake

250g pears and parsnips, peeled, cored and grated
20g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
100g raisins, soaked in hot water to plump them up
juice and zest of 1 lemon
150g plain spelt flour, sifted (you can also use wholemeal or wholegrain)
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g ground almonds (or hazelnuts)
3 eggs
150g light brown sugar, plus extra for topping
125ml olive oil

for the cream cheese frosting:
60g unsalted butter, softened
100g full-fat cream cheese
125g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

flaked almonds, to decorate

  1. Grease and line a 23cm/9 inch spring form or loose bottomed cake tin. Pre-heat your own to 180 C/Gas Mark 6. 
  2. Use kitchen roll or a clean tea towel to soak off any excess moisture from the grated pear and parsnip. Mix in a bowl with the  drained plumped up raisins, ginger, lemon juice and zest until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder and ground almonds. Set to one side.
  4. In another bowl (yep, I'm sorry to say you need to wash a few bowls with this) whisk together the eggs and sugar until very light and airy. This will be about 5 minutes on a high speed. Then add the oil, beating for another 2 minutes to incorporate.
  5. Fold in the flour mix and then the pear and parsnip mix. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level out out to the sides. Bake for 30 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then remove from the tin to cool completely on a wire rack. 
  6. For the cream cheese frosting, beat the butter for 4-5 minutes, add the cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes until smooth and evenly mixed. If you want the frosting to be firmer, add more icing sugar.
  7. Spread the frosting over the top of the cake and sprinkle with light brown sugar and flaked almonds.