Vegbag diaries : Parsnip cake


Contributed by Gay Macdonagh



About a hundred years ago – well, maybe not quite that long, but long before anybody had dreamed of putting carrots, let alone beetroots, in cakes – I came across a set of recipes which totally bewitched me and inspired me to try using all sorts of veg in cakes.  They had plum and hazelnut potato flan, sweet potato and raspberry tart, swede, banana and date teabread and, finally, parsnip and walnut cake.  I come back to this dog-eared piece of paper again and again, as I just love the recipes so much.

And I came back to it a couple of weeks ago, when I had some spare parsnips and had got tired of making soup, and I decided to do the parsnip and walnut cake.  With a difference: I didn’t have any walnuts and also, as I didn’t want my daughter (who eats gluten-free) to be deprived of the golden opportunity of consuming parsnips in a form that she might find palatable, I used her Doves Farm gluten-free flour mix instead of the wheat flour in the recipe.

Here’s the recipe.  It makes a really big cake, or in my case two smaller loaf cakes.  I didn’t bother icing it, just put a lemon drizzle on top with some lemon zest.  It tasted pretty good.  You don’t really taste the parsnips at all, just as you don’t taste the carrots in carrot cake, but it gives a great moisture and texture to the cake.  I’ve still got the second cake in the freezer, so it’ll be coming in for the veg bag packers for sampling next week.  I hope they like it as much as I do (and it was a success with my daughter!)


  • 225 g margarine
  • 225 g sugar (I reduce this to about 175 g, as it’s far too much otherwise, and soft brown is better)
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 225 g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 350 g parsnips, peeled and grated
  • 100g shelled walnut pieces
  • Grated rind 1 lemon
  • Grated rind 1 orange

Preparation method

  1.  Cream marg and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
  2. Sieve flour and baking powder and gently fold into the creamed mixture with a large metal spoon.
  3. Stir in parsnips, walnuts and lemon and orange rind, and then spoon mixture into a greased and lined 20 cm round cake tin.
  4. Bake in preheated oven at 180 degrees / Gas 4 for about 1.5 hours until well risen and golden brown and the centre springs back when lightly pressed.
  5. Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes before turning out on wire tray to cool completely.
  6. Ice if you like with beaten cream or curd cheese, sugar and lemon juice or just do a lemon drizzle by dissolving a spoon or two of sugar in some lemon juice in a saucepan and pouring over the top when it’s still warm.