February 4, 2024


It's been a dull, grey weekend, the oven whispered "bake a cake" around lunchtime, and with a few parsnips lurking in the fridge, some lonely clementines in the fruit bowl and an unopened packet of chopped dates in the cupboard, a particular cake sprung to mind.  It's many years since I made it and the original comes from one of my most  favourite food blogs written by Dominic Franks.  You can see the last time I made this cake to Dom's recipe here.

Several people expressed a certain amount of scepticism when I made a cake using parsnips a few weeks ago, but on actually tasting it "ate their words".  Parsnips work just as well in a cake as do carrots, courgettes and other vegetables.  (I draw the line at kale.  The kale and apple cake I made a few years ago was truly horrible and I still shudder when I think about it!)

This time I used the dates instead of sultanas and, as both dates and parsnips are fairly sweet, I omitted the small amount of honey.  I also decided not to glaze it with the honey and clementine glaze either.  It was sweet enough without it and the top already looked nice and glossy so I didn't ice it.  I also decided to grate the parsnips a bit finer, using the medium grater on my box grater, which produced a nice cloud of fluffy parsnip which would be more easily concealed in the cake if anyone had doubts about it!

I made it as a traybake, with the walking group debriefing session in mind and it worked beautifully.  It was moist, delicious and kept well - possibly being even better the day after baking.  It was a huge hit with the handful of intrepid walkers that braved a cold, grey and muddy walk then retired to the bar.  There was only the slightest twitch of a raised eyebrow from our French members who by now probably realise that the English, although bonkers, can make a good cake from peculiar ingredients.  One even compared it to pain d'epices - and had a second slice.  Praise indeed!  A winner!


150g chopped dates

juice and zest of 4 clementines (or satsumas, mandarins or maybe 2 small oranges)

3 large eggs 

175ml groundnut or sunflower oil

200g soft light brown sugar

200g self raising flour

50g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

200g parsnips


Put the dates and clementine juice into a small pan.  Add a little water if necessary to ensure they are covered.  Bring to the boil, turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Peel and grate the parsnips, using the medium fine side of your grater, grating only the fleshy part and discarding the tougher core.

Preheat the oven to 170° C / 150° fan / gas mk 3½.  Butter and line the base and sides of a large traybake or roasting tin measuring about 33 x 24 cm.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and flour until well blended and creamy.  This is easy enough to do with a wooden spoon.

Add the soaked dates including any liquid and all the other ingredients including the clementine zest.  Mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and cooked.  Cool in the tin.

Cuts into 12-16 slices or squares, depending on how many people you want to feed.


  1. The thought of a "kale cake" fair turns my stomach!

    1. It looked and tasted disgusting and was totally irredeemable even with custard! I binned it.

  2. Very nice indeed. The sweetness of parsnips seems ideal in cakes, although I think it's important to choose the right kind of cake. I tried a chocolate and parsnip cake recipe some years ago, mainly because it seemed relatively healthy but also because I couldn't quite believe that it would work. It didn't work and was quickly binned.

    1. I now tend to think that if Mary Berry or Delia Smith haven't a recipe for it, it probably won't work!