Three Layer Parsnip Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting and Roots: The Definitive Compendium

This delectably moist, rich cake puts those parsnips you found in your CSA box to good use. Mountains of cream cheese frosting make this dessert a breathtaking experience. This recipe keeps 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. Yield: 1 very tall cake that serves 12
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 890kcal
Author Diane Morgan


For the cake

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

For the cream cheese frosting

  • Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups/200 grams confectioners’ sugar sifted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup/40 grams sweetened flaked coconut for garnish optional


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 (176°C). Butter three 9-in/23-cm cake pans with 1½-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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Make the frosting

  • In a 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.

Frost the cake

  • 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.


Calories: 890kcal | Carbohydrates: 88g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 58g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Monounsaturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 154mg | Sodium: 614mg | Potassium: 359mg | Fiber: 4g | Vitamin A: 1250IU | Vitamin C: 9.1mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 2.9mg