Catherine Berwick's Parsnip & maple syrup cake

Catherine Berwick's Parsnip & maple syrup cake

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(136 ratings)


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Cooking time

Prep: 20 mins Cook: 45 mins

Skill level



Serves 8

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

Nutrition and extra info

Additional info

  • Unfilled sponges can be frozen
Nutrition info


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  • 175g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g demerara sugar
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 250g parsnips, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 50g pecans, roughly chopped
  • zest and juice 1 small orange
  • icing sugar, to serve

For the filling

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

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  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.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, November 2009

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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!,,

kt15blue's picture

In a word, stunning! Think I may even prefer this to carrot cake! Kept it in the over for an extra 10 mins just to be sure but cooked perfectly, will definitely be making this again! Just a shame maple syrup is so expensive! Anybody tried an alternative?

Rachel Ivy's picture

I used golden syrup, which worked fine. Can you actually taste the maple syrup in the finished cake? In my cake, the flavour of the spices was the most dominant taste.

mcleigh1a's picture

I have told so many people about this cake, what really parsnip - yes it's gorgeous!!! This has to be a massive cake success and is now one of my all time favourites. Everyone who has tried it has enjoyed it, my only bug bare is having to grate the parsnips but apart from that yum!!!

stephenjoanne's picture

Used magimix so was dead quick to make, but maybe could have been better done with a hand grater as veg was quite course.
Have faith in the filling I didn't like the flavour on its own but in the cake it was delicious .
Did take 45 -50 mins to cook.
Lovely moist cake that kept for a few days in fridge.

JW_69's picture

Made this today for a birthday cake. I used walnuts instead of pecans and golden syrup for maple syrup. I held back some of the orange juice & zest to mix in to the filling.
Made my filling with a mixture of marscapone and philadelphia cream cheese about half and half. I also made extra filling to use on the top. For the top I added a little vanilla.
Before I baked this cake I read comments here that referred to baking time. I went for 180 in my fan oven and extended the time from 25mins to about 40.
Have to say it is still moist but not overly so, and delicious!

raven's picture
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Moist and delicious, nobody could guess what was in it they thought it was apple and cinnamon.

franziska's picture
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This is one of my all time favourite cake recipes. I can't wait to use it for one of my winter weddings. It is the type of cake people should try before they know what is inside it. I cannot imagine anyone not liking it!

pab3032's picture
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Brilliant! My Daughter helped and we made a great job of it!
Maple syrup is my favourite and the addition of a one a day bonus!
only used 150g of Mascapone which seems enough! Very nice!
My son had 2 helping of the "Surprise Cake" (he doesn't like Parsnip's) Loved it!!!

lildripping's picture

I've just made this for a group of cake loving friends who are coming to my house tonight. There is a long standing joke about me and parsnips (just cos I'm a vegetarian) so I cant wait to see their faces when I tell them whats in it!
I only had smaller cake tins so with the leftovers I made some cupcakes, I'm looking forward to trying them.
It states 20 prep time - it took me nearly 3 times that long with all the weighing, grating and mixing - hopefully it's worth it.

allikennelly146's picture
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This was a brilliant cake. So moist and yet not too rich. I kept everyone guessing what the ingredients were!