I’m a bit of a sneaky so and so. Although I am telling you what is in this cake – I’m a stickler for accurate titles – often when I am feeding my cancer nutrition groups I make them guess what is the ‘special ingredient’. After they have taken a bite.
I suppose I should add “not very nice” to “a bit sneaky.”
But it is with good intentions. Often we have preconceptions about how things are going to taste. I know I do at least. If you tell me something has coconut in it, or baked bananas, I will automatically wrinkle up my already wrinkled nose and decline. Things with coconut in them (unless it is fresh or like this, or this) make me think of tanning creams from the 70s (not sunscreens: there were no such things, hence the wrinkles). And baked bananas, well they are just gross, aren’t they? And don’t even think of giving me something with banana flavouring. Nose wrinkling doesn’t quite cover my reaction.
Vegetables in cakes are a relatively common thing these days. I have been making chocolate beetroot cake for at least 15 years now. And of course there’s good old carrot cake. That is scoffed by people who might not know a vegetable if it hit them. I think it is probably true that if you add enough sugar and a duvet of buttercream icing most people will eat anything in a cake.
But a nude parsnip cake? One with wholemeal flour and a scoop of seeds in it? That might be a bit of a hard sell. Parsnips are for roast dinners and perhaps a soup, but a cake?
Hear me out. Once these ghostly and unpromising roots are grated and mixed into the cake they somehow add a certain lightness that isn’t present in many carrot cakes. I’m not sure why. And carrots are naturally sweet when roasted and when juiced, so a cake from these unglamorous winter vegetables doesn’t seem too odd when you think about it. I mean, beetroot is hardly glamorous and now no self-respecting hipster cafe would dare not have chocolate beetroot cake on the menu (and juice, and smoothie, and salad).
No one ever guesses parsnip, by the way. And they always want the recipe.
Why not bake something like this for the wonderful fund-raising event that is Red Nose Day (Friday, March 13) or for Mothering Sunday (Sunday 15 March)? This Parsnip and Lime Marmalade Cake is one of the easiest cakes I make, and for not having much of a sweet tooth I can always find room for at least a wee square with a cup of tea. You can glaze it with warmed lime marmalade, or even slather it in buttercream, but I like it best nude. The cake that is.
Parsnip and Lime Marmalade Cake
This is adapted from my Carrot and Marmalade Cake (2011)