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Parsnip and Ginger Cake

Forget carrot cake, make this nutritious cake instead

Every good boy and girl deserves cake. So why not offer cake with some sort of nutrition? Carrot cake is the most famous for this, but I have included a couple of cake recipes in this book that incorporate different vegetables. Glacé ginger in syrup can be found in most good food stores, usually in the cake or gourmet section. If you can’t find it, you can use candied ginger, which is slightly sweeter but still packs a ginger punch. — Mike McEnearney, author of Real Food by Mike


Medicinal Benefit: Brain, gut, heart

Humble parsnips have a lot going for them, health-wise. They’re high in dietary fiber (good for digestion and lowering cholesterol) and contain certain antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anticancer functions. They can help relieve respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and asthma, and help prevent blood vessels from swelling, thus helping prevent stroke and heart attack. Parsnips also contain large amounts of potassium, for regulating blood pressure and for the proper functioning of muscles and nerves. Then there’s the immune-boosting quantities of vitamin C and vitamin B3, aiding digestion and the nervous system, and vitamin K, which assists in blood clotting and protecting the liver from disease. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids (heart-healthy fats) and vitamin E antioxidants.


  • 9 1⁄2 ounce all-purpose flour
  • 1 ⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 ⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 fluid ounces vegetable oil
  • 5 1⁄2 ounces caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 Ounces glacé ginger in syrup, drained and finely chopped
  • 10 Ounces coarsely grated parsnip
  • 4 Ounces activated walnuts (see below), toasted and chopped
  • 1 quantity Buttercream (see below)

Activated nuts:

  • 2 Cups raw nuts, shelled
  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • 2 Cups water


  • 9 Ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways and seeds scraped
  • 1 Tablespoon tepid water
  • 4 1⁄2 ounces confectioners’ sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees F). Grease and line a 21-by-11-centimeter (8 1/4 by 4 1/4 inches) loaf (bar) tin with baking paper on the bottom and long sides.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and ground ginger.

In a separate large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, sugar and three-quarters of the chopped ginger to combine. Add the parsnip and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, then fold through the nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 60–70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When cool, spread the top of the cake with the buttercream and scatter with the remaining strained and chopped glacé ginger.

Activated nuts:

Combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive container, then cover and soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to the lowest setting (about 50 degrees C/120 degrees F) or turn on your dehydrator, if you have one.

Drain the nuts and rinse them well, patting them dry with a clean tea towel (dish towel). Lay them on a baking tray and roast them for 24–48 hours.


Using an electric mixer, whip the butter on low speed for 3 minutes until pale. Add the vanilla seeds and the tepid water (as cold will make the butter set and hot will make the butter split — you can use milk instead if you like). Turn the speed to high and add the sugar. Whip for 5 minutes or until the mixture is white, glossy, and silky smooth.

Recipes excerpted with permission from Real Food by Mike by Mike McEnearney (Hardie Grant Books, August 2017)