Catherine Berwick's Parsnip & maple syrup cake

Catherine Berwick's Parsnip & maple syrup cake

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(145 ratings)

Prep: 20 mins Cook: 45 mins


Serves 8
The winner of Good Food's 20th birthday cake competition, we think this is the new carrot cake

Nutrition and extra info

  • Unfilled sponges can be frozen


  • kcal697
  • fat41g
  • saturates22g
  • carbs79g
  • sugars52g
  • fibre3g
  • protein8g
  • salt1.12g
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  • 175g butter, plus extra for greasing



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • 250g demerara sugar
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs



    The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a…

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
    Baking powder

    Baking powder

    bay-king pow-dah

    Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making. It is made from an alkali…

  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 250g parsnips, peeled and grated



    The fact that the parsnip is a member of the carrot family comes as no surprise - it looks just…

  • 1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated



    Grown in temperate regions, apples are one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. There are…

  • 50g pecans, roughly chopped
    Pecan nuts



    Related to the walnut, pecans are native to America, and grow enclosed in a glossy, browny-red…

  • zest and juice 1 small orange



    One of the best-known citrus fruits, oranges aren't necessarily orange - some varieties are…

  • icing sugar, to serve

For the filling

  • 250g tub mascarpone
  • 3-4 tbsp maple syrup


  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Melt butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over gentle heat, then cool slightly. Whisk the eggs into this mixture, then stir in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice, followed by the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and juice. Divide between the tins, then bake for 25-30 mins until the tops spring back when pressed lightly.

  2. Cool the cakes slightly in the tins before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely. Just before serving, mix together the mascarpone and maple syrup. Spread over one cake and sandwich with the other. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

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Comments (184)

nitramarual's picture

I just made this, and despite following the recipe exactly it took over an hour to bake, and is still partially raw inside but crispy outside? What did I do wrong? :(

NootB's picture

I've lost count of the amount of times I've made this cake now - easily in double figures - and it comes out a treat every time. I've never had anyone who didn't love it, which is why I keep making it! It sometimes requires an extra 5-10 minutes than stated, but otherwise follow it to the recipe and it'll come out a treat. It's now my boyfriends favourite cake ever (much to his mother's dismay). The mascarpone filling is spot on - don't be tempted to swap it for buttercream as it brings a slightly more savoury taste to the cake which otherwise would be too sweet, just make sure you use a full fat version and don't mix it too much or it will go too runny to spread. Believe the positive comments - if it's gone wrong it's not the recipe's fault...

lizleicester's picture

Had this as a Valentine treat and it is just delicious (and a great way to use up a surfeit of parsnips!).

louise.manson's picture

Flat, undercooked despite being in for 15 mins extra, dense and doughy. Won't be bothering with this recipe again.

choccie_123's picture

Made this cake for a Contact The Elderly afternoon tea. All the guests loved it. I did not have quite enough maple syrup but that made no difference. Very easy to make. If I make any changes next time I make this it would be to try a different filling, though I had no trouble with the filling bring to runny.

reenie2015's picture

I found it rather overpowering with the allspice and orange.
The filling was runny and had to throw it away. Stuck with a plain butter-cream filling instead.

KEP61's picture

I made this for a Macmillan coffee morning to raise for cancer research and it was entered into a bake off before selling. I came second. It is by far superior to the carrot cake as I did a trial run first to sample. OMG. I love it I would give it 10 *

amanickasamy's picture

I made this cake a while ago - it went down really well at a family gathering.

I replaced the pecans with the same weight of chopped roasted hazelnuts. I loved the flavour, but must confess I haven't tried it the original way to compare.

Cat222's picture

This is a really moist and delicious cake. I always change the frosting to try out different things. A fudge butter icing in the middle with orange cream cheese frosting on top was lovely but might be a bit rich for some. And don't bother grating anything. I stick it all in small batches in my mini chopper, it's so quick and easy and it doesn't even matter if it goes a bit mushy. Just makes the cake even more moist. It's a dense cake but that's how I like my cake! None of this light and fluffy sponge nonsense!

amymadge's picture

This cake is unexpectedly superb! I made this cake for my sisters birthday and surprised them all with the flavours at the end. The orange flavour is strong, although it goes well with the texture of the cake. Next time I will definitely grate the parsnip in a food processor!

kenspeckle's picture

Has anyone tried freezing the icing (separately from the cake)? I know mascarpone can separate when frozen, but you can whip it back to smoothness. Just wondering if it works ok with the maple syrup in it, or best to add maple syrup once defrosted.

istara's picture

Absolutely delicious cake, five stars out of five for texture and flavour. I made this for the Reddit "52weeksofcooking" challenge for "Unexpected combinations".

It's far superior to carrot cake: silkier, lighter, better texture, no "carroty" flavour or stringiness. Mine was moist and also denser than a regular sponge, but I wouldn't say it was "leaden heavy", it was actually quite light.

Sadly or happily, depending on your view, you really can't taste the parsnips in this (so great for a "hidden vegetables" dish for fussy eaters).

As many others have mentioned the marscapone while delicious is far too runny, even without the maple syrup. I used less syrup, added a heap of icing sugar and it was still too runny. Cream cheese sounds like a wiser bet.

I would only probably make this cake again on request or if I had a glut of parships, because it was a faff to grate them (plus the apple) and I don't make carrot cake anyway. I agree with hvd201 that those with weak wrists should avoid it. You could try using an electric chopper perhaps, but the texture probably wouldn't be as silky and light and fine.

mich_mkp's picture

Absolutely gorgeous cake! Took this to work as "mystery ingredient" cake as I thought people might be put off, and everyone loved it. I would say that it took an extra 10 mins to bake as others have said, and I'd also say that parsnips are a LOT harder to grate than carrots! Well worth it though. The icing is delicious and I'd have happily eaten spoonfuls on it's own lol.

Rachel Ivy's picture

Made this for some friends, and they were all intrigued to know what was in it - definitely a hit.

I didn't have maple syrup, so just used golden syrup, which worked fine, and actually, mostly you just taste the spices in the finished cake. I wonder therefore, given the amount of spices in the cake, whether these mask the flavour of the maple syrup?

I used cream cheese, butter and icing sugar for the filling, as I didn't have mascarpone, and that worked fine.

Will be making again next time I have lots of parsnips to finish off.

duncey's picture

I made this, and there was pretty much no crumb to the cake it was so dense. I cooked it for longer than advised, until a skewer came out clean. Followed the directions pretty exactly, so not sure what went wrong? It's never happened to me before.

hvd201's picture

This cake is nice but I can't help but think that life is too short to grate parsnips for a cake.
If you plan on grating by hand then don't attempt this recipe if you have weak wrists or tire easily as I found it took a surprisingly long time and amount of energy to grate the parsnips.
I needed to bake it for longer than stated, an extra ten minutes or so.
I only had 17cms sandwich tins so I filled them half way (as you would for the 20cms tins) and used the remaining mix in muffin cases. I baked the cakes and muffins separately to avoid them sinking and having to open the oven door.
I baked it in an AGA by placing a cold shelf on the second from bottom shelf and then the rack on the bottom of the AGA and the cake tins directly on the rack.

jeanieh's picture

Thought I'd try this recipe as an alternative to carrot cake and I'm so glad I did! It's delicious! It went down a treat at work. Will definitely make this one again.

NOTTHE1's picture

This may seem weird but add a tablespoon of fish oil it tastes amazing!!!!

mpm140709's picture

This cake is simply the best!! 5 stars out of 5!!!

paulacoachhouse's picture

Fabulous,, lovely and moist, wondering what it would be like with less sugar!,,


Questions (3)

TanziBear's picture

I have an allergy to oranges ☹️ Do you think lemon would work instead?

kenspeckle's picture

Has anyone tried freezing the icing (separately from the cake)? I know mascarpone can separate when frozen, but you can whip it back to smoothness. Just wondering if it works ok with the maple syrup in it, or best to add maple syrup once defrosted.

fleabe's picture

Would it be ok to make the cakes a day ahead and then assemble before serving?

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