If I see red velvet cake or carrot cake behind a glass-front counter, it's game over - other cakes, you have no chance to go home with me. I've never been in a situation, to be honest, in which I had to choose between them. And I probably wouldn't; they would both probably end up in a nice little Styrofoam container for me to eat as dessert and breakfast.
What's even better than a slice of cake is a whole cake, and better yet, a whole cake baking fresh in your own oven. Recently I mulled over the idea of baking a jazzed-up carrot cake. Then I got to thinking about how delicately delicious parsnips would be as a carrot substitute.
Out of curiosity, I Googled "parsnip cake" to see if anyone had done this already. I stumbled across a handful of references. Emeril has one with walnut frosting. TastingTable National had an entire article on parsnip dessert creations by top chefs from around the country, including one from Portland pastry chef Danielle Pruett, which "garnered much applause from her hipster clientele."
Parsnips are...hip, I guess.
Upon discovering all of these parsnip cake renditions, I must admit I felt my contrarian nature kick in, and I veered away from the basic model of a layer cake with cream cheese frosting. I drafted some potential ingredient combinations. To the natural sweetness of parsnips I would add lemon and honey. I'm a fan of sweet and savory desserts, so I incorporated mild pink peppercorns (found in a lot of dark chocolate desserts) to bring a lemon-pepper kick to the earthy intensity of the parsnip base and mellow olive oil.
Finally, the prominent lemon flavor of this cake is a nod to my grandmother's famed lemon cake. That's despite the fact that I discovered, when I asked her for her recipe, that it's made with yellow cake mix and lemon Jell-O. Still, it doesn't take much to travel far from Betty Crocker: a tart lemon glaze from fresh-squeezed lemons is the clincher, poured over the cake while it's still hot.
So here it is, a hip parsnip cake in the likeness of my grandmother's lemon bundt cake. Don't forget a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
Lemon and Pink Peppercorn Parsnip Cake
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 3 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 4 tablespoons freshly ground pink peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups parsnips, grated
- 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
- juice of two lemons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 10" bundt pan.
In a small bowl, mix eggs, honey, sugar and olive oil until sugar is dissolved.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, peppercorns and salt.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in grated parsnips and ginger and pour batter into bundt pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden and toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
Poke several holes in top of cake, and pour fresh lemon juice over the cake.
Cool 15-20 minutes before inverting bundt cake onto serving plate.
Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of pink peppercorns.
Marcelle Richards writes about food at gastropacalypse.com