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Parsnip lends an earthy sweetness similar to roasted chestnuts to this maple-sweetened, cinnamon-spiced Parsnip Cake Recipe with Maple Buttercream.

Parsnip Cake Recipe with Maple Buttercream Sliced on Plate

I think I remember Ina Garten once saying that dessert is the most memorable part of dinner. She’s so right, dessert is the real deal breaker.

Dessert is the course that takes an ordinary dinner and makes it wonderful or a good dinner and makes it outstanding.

Like most people out there, I’m a dessert lover, so I was thrilled to recently receive a copy of Michel Richard’s Sweet Magic to review. The name of this book immediately drew me in. After reading it, I realized just how appropriately named it is. What else but magic could cause a few simple ingredients to come together so harmoniously?

Top View of Parsnip Cake

Sweet Magic Cookbook by Michel Richard

The first question everyone (ok, maybe nine people out of ten) asks me when I tell them about a new cookbook is, are there pictures?

In order to be fair to you, Dear Reader, I have to tell you that there are no photographs at all in this book (don’t despair! Please read on). But the book is full of delightful, unique illustrations that Michel drew himself, including the adorable cover illustration! Multi-talented, right?!

Something that really impressed me early on when reading this book was Michel’s view on sugar in sweets. When making desserts, he uses sugar more as a seasoning to highlight other flavors in a recipe, rather than as a main ingredient. Michel says that this allows him to reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction. Absolutely brilliant, no?

Although it is chock full of fantastic recipes, this book is more than a mere cookbook. Michel’s personal history is reflected in his cooking and throughout the charming anecdotes contained in this book.

He started his career as a pastry chef in France, and this book includes recipes for classic French lovelies like Rum Apple Crepes, Cherry Clafouti, and Gallette de Rois (Kings’ Cake). He later moved to the U.S. and incorporated many new recipes into his repertoire, which is reflected in the American desserts he shares, like Macadamia Chocolate Chip Cookies and Lemon Cheesecake Ice Cream.

I found Michel’s thoughts on the cultural differences in cookies to be very interesting. Michel says “Another dessert revelation was the cookie. You have so many of them. I was not raised in a cookie culture. True, we had our madeleines, tuiles, sacristains, and macarons, but not real cookies like in America – the kind that cries out for a glass of milk alongside…”

Parsnip Cake with Description

Parsnip Cake Recipe with Maple Buttercream

As always is the case for me, the hardest part of reading this cookbook was deciding what to make first.

Although, perhaps it wasn’t quite as hard as usual this time; just read Michel’s description of his parsnip cake: “When cooked, parsnips have a flavor and consistency that reminds me of the sweetest roast chestnuts. Grating them gives the cake the mouthfeel of shredded coconut. Add maple syrup for earthy sweetness and aromatic spices, and you have a lovely cake that has one other special quality; if you ask the people around your table what is in it, no one will ever be able to guess.”

I was enamored with the use of maple syrup and after reading that description I really had no choice but to make this fabulous cake.

This Parsnip Cake Recipe is beautiful and the flavors marry so nicely. It’s reminiscent of carrot cake but a bit earthier. Despite its humble appearance I think this is quite a special cake.

And Michel is right, the ingredient comes as quite a surprise to those who taste the cake. I asked the eight people who tried this cake and no one was able to guess that parsnip was the secret ingredient!

Shredded Parsnip

What is Parsnip? What Does Parsnip Taste Like?

Before I get to the recipe, I want to talk a little bit about parsnip, since it is an altogether gorgeous vegetable. It looks like a white carrot!

I like to think of parsnip as a carrot all dressed up in a lovely white winter gown. Its texture is a bit woodier than carrot, which is why I like to shred parsnip if I’m going to use it raw in a salad.

Eaten raw its flavor is very refreshing and palate-cleansing. Slow-cooked in a soup or stew, the texture of parsnip turns soft like carrot but not mushy like potato.

Parsnip has a heady aroma of fresh, bright flavors. To me it smells like a mix of ginger, parsley, and celery. It really is a beautiful aroma (and for some reason it has an effervescence that reminds me of 7-Up soda).

More Cake Recipes That Have Fruit or Vegetables:

Parsnip Cake on White Cake Plate

Did you make this recipe? Please rate it and leave a comment below because I love hearing from you! You can also tag @anediblemosaic on social media. To stay up-to-date FOLLOW ME on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Xoxo, Faith

Parsnip Cake Recipe with Maple Buttercream

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Yields: 12 servings
Parsnip lends an earthy sweetness similar to roasted chestnuts to this maple-sweetened, cinnamon-spiced Parsnip Cake Recipe with Maple Buttercream.

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Parsnip Cake:

Maple Meringue Buttercream:


For the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350F; butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, canola oil, eggs, and ginger.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  • Gradually stir the dry ingredients into wet, then fold in parsnips.
  • Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake about 38 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool completely before frosting.

For the Buttercream:

  • In a double boiler, whisk together the egg whites and maple syrup. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm (about 140F), whisking frequently, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and glossy, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla bean paste, salt, and cinnamon, then beat in the powdered sugar.
  • Add the butter and cream cheese piece by piece while beating; stop beating when the buttercream is thick and smooth.
  • Once the cake is cooled, frost it with the buttercream and decorate the top with sliced almonds if desired.


  • Adapted from Michel Richard’s recipe for Maple Parsnip Cake with Maple Meringue Frosting in Sweet Magic.


Calories: 489kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 181mg | Potassium: 247mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 38g | Vitamin A: 336IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 105mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Parsnip Cake, Parsnip Cake Recipe

Share it with me on Instagram and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

Parsnip Cake with Maple Buttercream Pin

This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on January 3, 2011. I updated it with more information on August 20, 2020.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to products I believe in, which means that even though it doesn’t cost you anything extra, I will receive a small amount of money from the sale of these items. Thank you for helping to support An Edible Mosaic!

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Uh, how long will a parsnip cake keep after you make it? I want to make it for my mothers birthday, but that’s wednesday, and I’d be thinking of doing it on Sunday.


    1. Hi Linus, This cake will keep for about the same length of time as a carrot cake, about 5 days (or up to a week) in the fridge (wrap it in plastic wrap before refrigerating). And Happy Birthday to your mom! I hope she enjoys this cake if you decide to make it for her.

  2. I know this is my THIRD COMMENT on this cake, but truly am in love with it. I made it for Easter for our Brunch as cupcakes and they went over splendidly. Thank you again for sharing this recipe! I used to go to Michel Richard’s bakery in Beverly Hills when I was a kid. His eclairs are still etched in my memory. Have a wonderful week Faith.

  3. I made a parsnip cake for the first time last October and was surprised at how good it was – I’d been told it was better than carrot cake and it was. Your one looks beautiful and I love the maple frosting.

  4. Never had parsnip in my life so when our CSA handed a lb of it I just stared at it for about 10 days. Finally decided to do a cake and found this recipe. Prepared it with my 6 year old son on Thanksgiving morning, excitedly waited for dessert time and voila! A wonderful and moist and light cake. Love it and will definitely bake it again. We didn’t make the buttercream topping, instead used powdered sugar and almonds on top. Thank you!

  5. I made this cake yesterday for company and it was a huge success! We all loved it. Thanks!

  6. Meredith @ A Busy Nest says:

    This looks so delightful! I love parsnips, but never would have thought to make it into a cake. I love the pretty meringue on top.

  7. Lentil Breakdown says:

    What a unique cake! I enjoyed reading about the author too.

  8. Susan: My Food Obsession says:

    I have never even seen a parsnip cake before – thanks for sharing.

    I have made a Zucchini cake in the past and everyone thought that was a weird cake.. I can only imagine the reaction I might get if I made this cake! It looks great.

  9. i love the maple syrup in there, and the frosting sounds fierce! heck, if we can have carrot and zucchini baked goods, why not parsnips? nice recipe and review!

  10. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit says:

    I’ve never heard of parsnips in a cake, but now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Your cake looks delicious!

  11. Brilliant! Love the recipe and the review!

  12. Sounds like a terrific book! They should use your pictures, they’re fantastic! Cake look awesome!

  13. delphcotecuisine says:

    What a tasty recipe, gorgeous photos as always
    bises from France

  14. Wha a lovely cake!! Gonna give it a try later this year.

  15. Magic of Spice says:

    What a fascinating ingredient for cake…a stunning cake by the way!
    Great review and I love the idea of illustrated cookbooks :)

  16. Anna Johnston says:

    Wow., now that’s a seriously different sorta cake, love the sugar philosophy too!

  17. Happy New Year Faith!
    It feels good to get caught up on your blog. Everything from the marzipan pastry,homemade ginger ale, Syrian meat pies and this wonderful little cake need a book mark. I’m still laughing over the stale candy canes, as kids we loved them that way, soft and chewy.
    The best to you and Mike in 2011.

  18. WOW! This looks delicious. I love the flavor of parsnips and I think its very cool that his dessert recipes don’t FOCUS on sugar. Sounds like a great cookbook.

  19. Faith,

    This cake looks awesome. nice review. I have to try with parsnip in the cake. Yes it is difficult to try something from the book without picture, still some are always good book even without clicks.

  20. I adore parsnips and can’t wait to make this cake! It looks so much better than a carrot cake and the almond meal sounds like a great and flavorful substitue for the flour. Happy New Year Faith!

  21. Quay Po Cooks says:

    This cake looks awesome! YUM! and thanks for telling us about the cookbook.

  22. I have been wanting to make parsnip cake ever since I saw Tom Hudgens recipe posted a few month ago. Unfortunately our season is long over here in Fairbanks. Maybe it was for good reason, this one looks even better with the maple icing.

  23. Blond Duck says:

    Dessert is the best part of dinner!

  24. Nicole, RD says:

    Faith, wow! This looks amazing! I am putting this book on my wish list, it sounds fabulous. I love that he uses sugar to accent, rather than as a main ingredient.

  25. As I get older and my tastes change, I find that most desserts are too sweet for me! So I agree with this wonderful chef that sugar should be used as a seasoning.

    Great recipe! I would love to taste this!

  26. Parsnips? I’ll be darned and curious to see how this tastes. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that the new year brings you all measure of good things. Blessings…Mary

  27. Steve @ HPD says:

    Funny … no one thinks twice about carrot cake, even though veggies in dessert are not all that common. And the parsnip is what, just a sweeter carrot? So it should be a natch fit. But say “parsnip cake,” and folks blink more than once.

    Hope 2011 is off to a great start!

  28. Faith,

    Awesome cake. Great flavor profile and lovely photos and presentation. Love the use of parsnips as well. Creative & fun.

  29. Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather says:

    I have become a huge parsnip fan these past couple of month. I get them almost every time with my produce delivery. I can’t wait to try this cake out with them! What a brilliant idea, thanks for the great review Faith!

  30. Crustabakes says:

    seems like i gotta give sweet magic a try!

  31. Wow, Faith, that dessert and that book both look fantastic! Parsnips in a cake … well, if it tastes like it looks, I’m buyin’ what you’re sellin’!

  32. marla {family fresh cooking} says:

    Parsnips in a cake? Outstanding. I never would have thought of that. “Sweet Magic” sounds like a wonderful book. I like Michel’s take on sugar as seasoning. Wonderful & thorough review Faith! xo

  33. The book sounds wonderful – I’ll have to add it to the wishlist. I love the idea of a secret ingredient in this cake – which looks pretty irresistible.

  34. It is so nice to have someone read a book and write a review about it. This cake looks delish!

  35. Sanjeeta kk says:

    The cake looks moist and lovely! Parsnip is a wonderful add in it.

  36. what an interesting way to look at sugar. seeing it and using it as a seasoning IS brilliant! i never thought about sugar that way before and i’ve never tried or heard of a parsnip cake (always learning through your blog). parsnip cake sounds boring, but looking at your picture and reading this recipe cahnges my view of that for sure. i would love to try a piece of this cake. you sure know how to take great pictures, Faith.

  37. I’ve made a parsnip cake once and it was super delicious. Yours looks fantastic! Parsnip is an awesome veggie.



  38. I’m in looooove! This cake makes my heart do flips. Saved!

  39. I made a parsnip pie last year and can vouch for how wonderful parsnips are in baked goods. That cake looks like a beaut! I’m definitely going to have to give this a try.

  40. Angie's Recipes says:

    I simply love this parsnip cake..maple syrup, almond meal..that’s magic combination, isn’t it?

  41. I like his attitude towards sugar, sometimes cakes have too much of it and it overpowers the other flavours. I love the sound of this cake! I once made a kitchen garden cake with some parsnip in it but this sounds even more unusual! :D

  42. Biren @ Roti n Rice says:

    That’s an interesting ingredient in a cake. Who would have guessed? For some reason I have not used parsnip in my cooking though I’ve been meaning to try for some time now. I always seem to just pass it by but now I really want to try it. Sounds like a wonderful cookbook.

  43. It sounds like a wonderful cookbook. That recipe looks simply elegant and absolutely delicious! Great review!

  44. When I saw this post in my google reader, I became so excited. I love trying and eating unusual cakes. Your post did not disappoint! I loved learning about this man’s philosophy on sugar…such good words! And this cake looks and sounds just heavenly. Thank you for sharing with me, my friend. I hope you have a lovely Tuesday.

  45. I would never have thought to put parsnip in a cake but you have absolutely pulled it off splendidly! That sounds like an awesome cookbook. the homemade pictures actually pull me in rather than turn me off!

  46. BeadedTail says:

    I only recently discovered that I like parnsips but I never imagined a cake made with them. It does sound so good!

  47. Cara Craves... says:

    For some reason I would never have thought to make a parsnip cake; sounds very delicious.
    Although I prefer cookbooks with pictures, a cookbook that reads more like a novel can be fun too.

  48. I confess I don’t like parsnips at all. Shame on me, I know. But if it’s anything like a carrot cake, I’m willing to try. You did a lovely job with it, Faith, and it certainly looks delicious!

  49. Parsnip cake look awesome, specially with the maple meringue…beautifully done :-) Great pictures!

  50. Honey @ honeyandsoy says:

    Happy New Year Faith!!! I SO second that about cookbooks and pictures! This parsnip cake looks so healthy!

  51. Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    I am a fan of parsnips and I love the idea of a cake with them. This sounds like a book worth checking out for sure. Happy New Year !

    Yes Niagara and Toronto posts are on the way ;-)

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