Parsnip-Ginger Layer Cake with Browned Buttercream Frosting

Parsnip-Ginger Layer Cake with Browned Buttercream Frosting

By Cara Mangini as posted on

Recipe used with permission from Workman Publishing Company 

Amped up spice cake with fresh parsnips and ginger balanced with sweet-and-nutty, browned buttercream frosting. From the cookbook: The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini


  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pans
  • 1 cup grapeseed or canola oil (see notes)
  • 3 cups peeled and shredded parsnips (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 inch knob (1 to 1 1/4 ounces) fresh ginger, peeled and grated on a Microplane
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup low-fat or whole milk
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped

  • Browned Buttercream Frosting:
  • 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 to 6 Tablespoons milk or warm water, plus extra, if needed


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the bottoms and sides of two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's hot but not smoking, add the parsnips and fresh ginger and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the parsnips are fragrant and tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan for the heat and let the parsnip mixture cool.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a large bowl. Add the 2 cups of flour, the sugar, baking powder, and salt and whisk until incorporated.
  4. In smaller, separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of oil, the eggs, milk, and vanilla.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the parsnip mixture and toasted pecans until just combined.
  6. Divide the batter equally between the two cake pans. Bake until the tips begin to turn golden or an inserted toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, 30 - 35 minutes.
  7. Transfer cakes to wire cooling racks and let cook in the pan for 10 minutes. To remove the cakes, run a knife around the inside edge of each cake pan. Invert the pans onto the cooking racks, leaving the pans in place until the cakes release. Remove the pans and the parchment, and allow the cakes to cool completely.
  8. Place one of the cakes top side up on a cake plate. Scoop out about one third of the frosting onto the center of the cake, and use and offset spatula (or butter knife) to spread out the frosting evenly. Place the second cake, top side down, onto the frosted cake top. Scoop the remaining frosting onto the center of the second layer (you may use less frosting if you prefer--you want just enough to cover the top surface of the cake) and spread it in an even layer all the way to the edge (leave the sides bare.)

  1. Browned Buttercream Frosting:
  2. Heat the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat until it melts and becomes golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, sift 4 cups of the confectioners' sugar into a medium -size bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer).
  4. Add the browned butter to the confectioners' sugar along with the vanilla and beat together with an electric hand mixer (or stand mixer) on medium-low speed until just incorporated. Add 3 tablespoons milk or more to reach your desired consistency and beat on medium-low speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. If you add too much liquid and the frosting is too thin, just add more confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, to reach our desired consistency. Let the frosting cool before spreading on the cake.
  5. It (the frosting) will keep, in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring it to room temperature before using and add more milk or warm water to thin if needed.

Yield: 8 -10 Servings

Prep Time: 00 hrs. 30 mins.

Cook time: 00 hrs. 35 mins.

Total time: 65 mins.

Tags: Weekday Supper, Cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher, Cara Mangini, cake, dessert, parsnips, spice, butter, pecans

NOTES: Cara likes to leave the sides of this cake bare, spreading the frosting generously between the layers and on top-this way the parsnips really shine-but you can frost the sides of the cake as well. There will be enough frosting either way.

For a lower-fat version of this cake, replace 1/2 cup of the oil with 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce. 

To make a 4-layer cake, bake the cake in 2 pans and turn them out of the pans as directed. Once the cakes have cooled completely, cut each in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Double the frosting. Layer and lightly frost each round.