As far as seasonal winter produce goes, things can get pretty limited when you live in a cool climate as most things grow best in the warmer months. Enter the humble parsnip. Unlike just about every thing else, parsnips are actually at their best during winter.
This white root veg looks a bit like a white carrot and has a sweet, distinctive flavour. Parsnips are in peak season late Autumn to early spring but are at their best in the middle of winter after the plants have been exposed to some frost, as these very cool conditions help to convert the starch into sugars, making the parsnip sweeter. Parsnips are quite versatile, they can be roasted to a golden crunchy perfection, made into a creamy mash, added to a wintry soup, grated and eaten raw (if that floats your boat) or fried into thin little chips. It’s sweetness also means that parsnip is really great added to cakes – sounds weird but if you consider how popular carrot cake is, parsnip cake isn’t that crazy an idea after all.
This cake features some warming spices to pep things up for winter, along with the lovely nuttiness from the hazelnut meal and moistness from the grated parsnip. Everyone loves a good cream cheese icing, this one is made healthier by making your own cream cheese out of unsweetened yoghurt (promise you won’t know the difference!).
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup olive oil or rice bran oil
- ½ cup brown or rapadura sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- grated rind of 1/2 an orange
- 1 1/3 cup spelt flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2/3 cup fresh hazelnut meal*
- 230g grated parsnip
- 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (optional)
- ½ cup natural yoghurt
- 2 cups natural greek yoghurt **
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- First, preheat the oven to 180C
- In a large bowl, whisk up the eggs until frothy then add the honey, sugar, olive oil and vanilla and whisk until well combined.
- Sift the spelt flour, baking powder, cinnamon and mixed spice into the egg mixture and add the orange zest, hazelnut meal, chopped hazelnuts, grated parsnip and yoghurt. With a spoon, mix all ingredients until well combined.
- Pour mix into a cake tin lined with baking paper and place in the oven. Bake for approx 50 mins- 1hour or until cake is set and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- Place the yoghurt into a piece of clean muslin or a new chux cloth and secure cloth at the top with a rubber band then place in a sieve over an empty bowl. Leave this to drain for 12-24 hours, they whey in the yoghurt should drain into the bowl, leaving you with a thick, almost cream cheese like yoghurt (also called labne). Discard the whey in the bottom of the bowl (or save it and add it to your smoothie as a protein boost).
- Place the thick yoghurt in a bowl and mix through the honey and vanilla with electric beaters until smooth, creamy and a little bit whipped.
- Spread over your cake when cooled and decorate with extra hazelnuts/orange zest if desired.
- You will need to begin this recipe the day before
- * Often the hazelnut meal that you get from the supermarket can be a bit stale, instead you can make your own by grinding skinless hazelnuts up in your food processor yourself. Roasting the nuts before grinding adds another depth of flavour too if you have the time.
- ** make sure you choose a yoghurt without added thickeners/gums as these will prevent the whey from separating out. Alternatively you could use fresh ricotta cheese, quark or light cream cheese in place of the drained yoghurt.