Parsnip, Cherry Walnut Cake with Sweet Hawaij Glaze is a knock-out. I know, I know – parsnip?! But hear me out. We eat carrot cake and zucchini bread without giving it a second thought. So why not the under-rated cousin of carrot? Parsnips are one of those root vegetables that is a harbinger of autumn for me. This sweet, unassuming vegetable is wonderful in soups, stews and root vegetable mash. But cake?
We Jews have just begun the Festival of Booths (Sukkot) which is the middle holiday in the panoply of High Holidays celebrated by Jews all over the world. This ancient harvest festival “commemorates the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert after the revelation at Mount Sinai. The huts represent the temporary shelters that the Israelites lived in during those 40 years.”
And parsnips are the perfect early harvested vegetables to begin the autumn and the Jewish New Year. I came across this recipe through a website called Nosher on my Jewish Learning. It intrigued me enough to try it. While perhaps not the most impressive-looking of cakes, it is packed with flavor. I did change the original glaze to one of my own making, however. It seemed that the amounts and types of spices would overwhelm the cake.
Included below is a recipe for Sweet Hawaij from the cookbook Shuk by Einat Admony and Janna Gur. This Yemeni spice blend is magical. I often use it to replace anywhere you might use pumpkin or baharat spices. It will take coffee and roasted vegetables to the next level. Try it in pumpkin pie. You might just be converted. I make up my own but it is also available online and at spice stores.
Despite the leavening used in the recipe, the cake does not rise very much in. If you would prefer a higher cake, you could use a smaller bundt pan, but it would likely increase the baking time. While dense, the cake is not at all heavy. Every day the flavors melded and became even moister and richer. I would definitely suggest making this at least a day ahead of when you plan on eating it. Mine was stored in a glass-domed cake plate and has held up beautifully.
So if you are looking to add more veggies into your diet, there is no sweeter way than this Parsnip, Cherry Walnut Cake with a Sweet Hawaij Glaze. The tart cherries perfectly complement the sweet parsnip and the walnuts add some depth and texture. But don’t wait for a holiday to make this yummy cake.
Yield: About 10 servings
For the cake
2 cups (260 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons (7.2 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2.6 g) kosher salt
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup (206 g) packed light brown sugar or jaggery
1 cup (240 g) sour cream at room temperature
2 teaspoons (10 g) vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons or 113 g) unsalted butter, browned slightly cooled
About 4 parsnips (340 g after peeling and trimming ends), finely grated and packed into a 2 cup measuring cup
1/2 cup (60 g) dried pitted cherries or barberries
1/2 cup (57 g) walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
For the glaze
1.25 cups (155 g) confectioners or icing sugar
1 generous teaspoon Sweet Hawaij (see recipe)
pinch of kosher salt
About 1/3 cup milk (79 ml)
Yield: About 1/2 cup
1 Tablespoon ground cloves
2 Tablespoons freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1 Tablespoon ground cardamom
This will last in a cool, dark place kept in a small glass air-tight jar for up to a year. Mine gets used up waaaaaay before that!
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Spray well a 12-cup Bundt pan with a non-stick vegetable spray and set aside. Place a cooling rack over parchment, newspaper or a baking pan and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt and set aside.
Using a stand or hand-held mixer (or by hand), combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, vanilla paste and browned butter. Mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix just until barely combined. A few small streaks or lumps of flour are okay. (Over-mixing leads to a gummy cake!)
Add the finely grated parsnips, cherries and walnuts and mix just until combined. pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn it out. Allow it to cool completely. If you are feeling lazy, you can simply dust the cooled cake with confectioners sugar and call it a day. The cake alone is delicious. But if you want AMAZING, make the glaze.
For the glaze
In a medium bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, salt and Sweet Hawaij or pumpkin spice blend. Slowly add in the milk until you get a consistency that is fairly thick but still pourable. If you go too far, just add a bit more sugar. When the cake has cooled completely, pour or drizzle the glaze over the top and allow it to run down the sides.