Well, this month is the first birthday of the Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. So to celebrate, Karen is hosting this month with the theme of Cake. What could be more appropriate for a birthday celebration than cake? I knew when she announced it exactly which cake I was going to make...
A few years ago BBC Good Food magazine was celebrating its 20th birthday and ran a competition to create a recipe for a suitably celebratory cake. There were lots of entries and the winners and runners up in various categories were chosen (and all look delicious). This Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake was in the magazine (November 2009) as a finalist but ended up as the winner, and deservedly so. The other two finalist's cakes were a Coffee Crunch Cake and a Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Yum!
I've actually made this cake before, a couple of years ago and never got round to blogging it, so this was a great excuse to make it again and remind myself of just how delicious it really is. My colleagues are generally open minded when it comes to trying the various different cakes that land on the tea-room table (they don't get a say - I bake what I want and they can choose to eat it if they want, or ignore it if they want) but I did wonder whether they would draw the line at parsnip in a cake. So it went on the tea-room table as 'Mystery Cake - can you guess the ingredients?'. It was good fun - all through the day I had people coming up to me with random suggestions of what was in the cake - some correct answers and some slightly wild suggestions which amused me greatly.
I did change the recipe slightly. I can't use pecans so I omitted those, I used a small pear rather than an eating apple and I omitted the zest and juice of the orange specified. I'm struggling to remember whether I replaced it with lemon, but I don't think I did. This is a cake that is more than the sum of its parts - perfectly balanced in flavours. There isn't a parsnip taste at all (in the same way that carrot cake doesn't taste of carrot) but oddly, there isn't a maple syrup flavour either. Quite a bit of syrup is used in the cake, and I'm sure that it contributes to the overall effect but it is the one ingredient that none of my colleagues picked up (quite a few said cinnamon - which is in the mixed spice) and a number suggested citrus - lemon or lime (which I don't think I used) but perhaps they were foxed by the strips of grated pear skin which was green and after suggesting various vegetables (the texture gives it away) some people said parsnip. I used a vanilla buttercream for the centre of the cake (50g butter, about 150g icing sugar and a tsp vanilla extract, made in the usual way). The texture of the cake is outstanding though - really moist and quite close, yet light too. I think this is quite a common feature of vegetable cakes - the moistness but without accompanying heaviness. The cakes are quite delicate when baked, so be careful when turning them out.
Great minds think alike though, as Suelle at Mainly Baking has already blogged this cake as her entry to TTT. However, because I think it's such a lovely cake and definitely deserves to be promoted and made by more people I'm blogging it as my entry too. So I guess I could sum up this entire post in one short sentence: Make and eat this cake, you won't regret it!