Parsnip and Honey Cake

We should all be using more vegetables in baking, but most of us stop at carrot cake and don’t consider other veg. Parsnips are sweet and pair beautifully with honey & coconut (also pistachios or other nuts).

This is similar in theme to my Zucchini Bread recipe, but make this one if you want a gluten-free frosted cake.

Serves: up to 24

For the cake:

  • 4 large eggs (62-66g each when weighed in the shell), separated – see Eggs footnote
  • 235ml vegetable oil (225g if weighing), plus additional for greasing tin
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g runny honey
  • 375g self-raising gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace or nutmeg (or, some freshly grated nutmeg)
  • 265g parsnips, peeled and grated (weigh after grating)
    (approx 2-3 parsnips depending on size)
  • 1 small orange (or, 2 clementines/satsumas): all of finely grated zest
  • 50g desiccated coconut nibs

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 1 small orange (or, 2 clementines/satsumas): all of finely grated zest, and 1 tablespoon juice
  • 180g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground mace or nutmeg (or, some freshly grated nutmeg)
  • Desiccated coconut curls, for garnish


  • A standard traybake tin 9x12″ / 23x30cm
  • Baking/parchment paper
  • 2 large and 1 medium mixing bowls
  • Graters – large (for parsnips) and fine (for citrus zest)
  • An electric mixer (hand-held or stand)
  • Sieve
  • Spatula
  • Cooling rack
  • Oven-safe plate
  • Citrus juicer
  • Manual whisk
  • Small, nonstick frying pan

Making the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C  (160 C fan-assisted). Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the tin and line with paper.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high speed as the colour and texture change.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks, oil, sugar, and honey on medium speed until creamy, about 3-4 minutes (no need to clean the beaters from the whites).
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, and spices over the egg yolk mixture and fold in gently. Fold in the parsnips, orange zest, and coconut nibs.
  5. Add 1/3 of the egg whites, folding briskly to loosen the mixture, then add the rest folding very carefully so you don’t lose the volume, until no white streaks or lumps remain.
  6. Dollop the batter into your prepared tin, smooth the top, and bake for 45-50 minutes, turning the tin halfway through for even baking. When a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, remove from the oven to a cooling rack.

Making the cream cheese icing:

  1. When the cake has baked, turn the oven off. Spread the orange zest on an oven-safe plate, breaking up any clumps, and put in the oven – door ajar – to dry out as the oven cools.
  2. Gently whisk all ingredients (except the coconut curls) by hand until combined. Take care not to over-work it – the more robust you are, the thinner the icing will be. Put the bowl in the fridge while the cake continues to cool.
  3. Toast the coconut curls in a very hot, dry frying pan, tossing continually for a minute or so until they brown. (Take care they don’t burn – just a minute or so is enough.)
  4. Spread the icing over the cooled cake. Sprinkle over the dried orange zest and toasted coconut curls to garnish.

Separating Eggs
I’ve used the ‘chiffon’ method to keep the cake as light as possible. You don’t have to do this; you could keep the eggs whole and whisk them with the oil, sugar, and honey without folding in the whisked whites separately.

Like most vegetable cakes, this recipe uses oil and not butter. To keep it entirely dairy-free, dispense with the cream cheese frosting; mix orange juice with icing sugar and spice until you have a spreadable consistency, and slather over the cake.

My jumping-off point was this BBC Good Food recipe, which advocates using a 22cm round cake tin. I opted for a traybake tin and scaled up the ingredients to be able to get more portions for the larger crowd for whom I regularly bake. I also made it GF, added orange zest and spices, reduced the sugar, and used a modified version of the frosting from my carrot cake recipe for extra flavour.


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