Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen: Roots

We’re delighted to have Diane Morgan as our guest blogger once again. Diane’s the author of many bestselling Chronicle cookbooks. Her latest release, Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More than 225 Recipes, is a true culinary tour de force. This week’s recipe has an eye towards the Thanksgiving holiday that’s fast approaching.

What are your favorite root vegetables to eat on a regular basis? Do you have a Thanksgiving root veg tradition? Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of the book we’ll reward to a randomly selected lucky person (giveaway good in the US and Canada only).

Parsnips are best harvested after the first frost. This is their season!

For this recipe, think carrot cake, but with parsnips—a natural switcheroo! You get the same delightfully moist texture and sweet flavor from ivory white parsnips that you get from carrots. I am a confirmed chocoholic when it comes to cakes, but am completely won over by this one. Big and tall, with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting to satisfy everyone (like my husband) who loves a creamy dab with each bite of cake. I like the rustic look, with just the layers and top frosted, leaving the sides of the cake exposed. If you prefer the sides generously swirled with frosting, too, you’ll need to make one and a half times the amount of frosting.

Three-Layer Parsnip Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 12

Unsalted butter for the cake pans, at room temperature
2 cups/255 g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 cups/680 g grated parsnips, about 8 trimmed and peeled parsnips (see Cook’s Note)
1 cup/85 g sweetened flaked dried coconut
1 cup/115 g chopped walnuts
1/2 cup/85 g golden raisins
2 cups/400 g granulated sugar
1 cup/240 ml canola or other neutral oil
4 large eggs

Cream Cheese Frosting
Two 8-oz/225-g packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup/225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups/200 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup/40 g sweetened flaked coconut for garnish (optional)

1 To make the cake, position one rack in the center and a second rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F/180°C/gas 4. Butter three 9-in/23-cm cake pans with 11/2-in/4-cm sides. Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper. Sprinkle one pan with a spoonful of flour, and then tilt and tap the pan to distribute the flour evenly. Turn the pan upside down over the sink and gently shake out the excess flour. Repeat with the second and third pans.

2 In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. In another bowl, stir together the parsnips, coconut, walnuts, and raisins.

3 In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat together the sugar and oil until smooth, about 2 minutes. Begin the mixer on low speed and then increase to medium speed so the oil doesn’t splatter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until the batter is smooth. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until it disappears. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the parsnip mixture until evenly distributed.

4 Divide the batter among the prepared pans, spreading it evenly in each pan. Bake the cakes until they just start pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. For even baking, at the midpoint, switch the pans between the racks and rotate them front to back. Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Run a table knife around the inside edge of each pan to loosen the cake sides. Invert the cakes onto the racks and peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before frosting.

5 To make the frosting, in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using the handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and beat until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

6 Place one cake layer, top-side down, on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula, spread one-third of the frosting over the top. Spread the frosting right to the edge of the top without frosting the sides. Carefully set the second cake layer on top, placing it top-side down and lining up the edges. Spread half of the remaining frosting on top of the layer the same way. Place the third cake layer on top, right-side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake, again without frosting the sides. Swirl the frosting to decorate the top and then garnish the top evenly with the coconut, if desired. Refrigerate the cake for at least 45 minutes to set the frosting. Remove from the refrigerator 30 to 40 minutes before serving.

Cook’s Note
If you have a shredding blade for your food processor, you can make quick work of grating the parsnips. Otherwise, use the coarse holes on a box grater.
The cake can be made up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate until cold and then carefully cover with plastic wrap. The frosted cake also freezes well. Place it in the freezer unwrapped until both the frosting and the cake are firm and set, usually about 3 hours. Wrap the cake airtight in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. I don’t like to freeze baked goods longer than 30 days, as they pick up a stale-freezer taste. Thaw the cake, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight.

Purchase: Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More Than 225 Recipes.

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  • Sara P. November 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I LOVE parsnips! I grow them in my garden, and roast them all winter long.


  • Janel November 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I love getting tiny, new potatoes from the farmer's market. Sometimes they aren't much bigger than marbles. Roasted with olive oil, salt & pepper. Yum!


  • Kathy November 17, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I love glazed carrots at Thanksgiving (and any time). We also have a great pickled beet recipe we've been doing for a few years now that's a nice addition to many dinners, picnics, and parties. winterwrens at gmail dot com


  • lisa November 18, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I make refrigerator pickled carrots as my of my crudite platter for my holiday table. They disappear immediately.


  • nik December 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! I've only just discovered the many delights of parsnips and this one is definitely going on my list of must-try recipes! I love beets too…they are so fun to play with in all sorts of recipes. Citrus Beets with Maple Orange Walnuts is what we had for Thanksgiving…sooo delicious! We try to do something with root veggies every week during the winter…yams and ginger are a big favorite here!


  • @wirechairs December 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

    …nik is our lucky randomly selected winner of a copy of Diane's book! Congrats. And thanks to all for your comments.


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