Lea's Carrot-Parsnip-Walnut Cake with Maple-Cloumage Frosting


Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty

This recipe is based on one I begged off my husband’s New Zealander cousin after watching her make it effortlessly, and from memory, a few times one summer. I love it for its simplicity, and its multiple uses of the food processor without having to rinse between ingredients. I’ve added parsnips to the grated carrot, again to introduce more vegetables into my children’s diet, and I found that it made for a lighter, subtler flavor that they really enjoyed, but you can make it all-carrot if you prefer. The parsnips have a drier texture than carrots, so I added more olive oil to compensate; reduce the oil by a quarter cup if you use only carrots.

While carrot cake is delicious any time of year, the late fall and early winter are my favorite times to make this recipe, since, after a frost, carrots and parsnips become really juicy and have developed their own natural sugars. The colder the weather, the sweeter the root, so the relatively small amount of cane sugar in this recipe is augmented by the natural sugars in the vegetables, resulting in a delicate dessert without the syrupy sweetness some carrot cakes impart.

The Cloumage makes a tangy frosting that balances the cake nicely. Be sure to refrigerate the cake if you make it ahead of time and if there are any leftovers; Cloumage is fresher than cream cheese, so it can’t be left out at room temperature like a cream cheese-frosted cake. Plus, the cake itself gets better with age, so a day or two in the fridge before serving can only benefit the flavors. Feel free to frost with a standard cream cheese frosting if you wish, but if you can find some Cloumage, a fresh curd cheese made in Westport, MA, give this maple-sweetened frosting a try.

This recipe makes a single-layer frosted cake that should feed around 8-10 people. You can easily double it to make a double-layer cake, feeding at least 14-16 people or more. It makes a nice addition to a holiday dessert buffet, especially at Thanksgiving, and children love it.

2 large carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 large parsnip, peeled and trimmed
1 cup finely chopped walnuts, plus 10-12 whole walnuts for decoration
¾ cup organic cane sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose white flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour, like Four Star Farms’ brand
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

8 ounces (approximately half a container) Shy Brothers’ Farm Cloumage
4 ounces Vermont Creamery Mascarpone
3 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup
⅓ cup sifted organic powdered cane sugar
Pinch salt, if needed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil and flour a 9”x 2” cake pan and set aside.

In a food processor fitted with the grating disk, grate the carrots and parsnip, pour into a mixing bowl, and set aside. Remove the disk and insert the standard metal blade. Grind the walnuts and add them to the grated carrots and parsnips. Without wiping out the food processor bowl, add the sugar, olive oil, and eggs. Blend to combine.

Sift the dry ingredients together and add them to the food processor; pulse to combine with the oil-sugar-eggs mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl before the last pulse. Pour the batter over the carrots and walnuts, stir gently to combine, and pour into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside on a rack to cool.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting. Using a whisk and a strong arm (or electric beaters), blend the frosting ingredients until light and fluffy. I find Cloumage to have a salty edge on its own so I rarely add salt to this frosting, but taste it and add a pinch if you think it needs it.

When the cake is completely cooled, turn it out onto a platter or cake stand and tuck some parchment scraps under the edges for clean frosting. Spread an even layer of the frosting on the cake with a spatula and decorate the top with the whole walnuts, or grind the walnuts finely and sprinkle them all over the top or in a ring around the edges. Serve right away, or make it ahead but refrigerate until ready to serve it.

This story appeared in the Winter 2015 issue.