Heather Barron tries a cake recipe with an unusual ingredient from the allotment - the humble parsnip...

I LOVE trying new cake recipes and always like to share new and old ones with friends.

It’s good to try something a little bit different, which is why the delicious courgette cake - recently featured in Country Life - has become such a favourite in our house.

To celebrate its 20th birthday, BBC Good Food held a competition for readers to submit their best birthday cake recipes, and the winner - Catherine Berwick's Parsnip & Maple Syrup cake - was both perfectly suited to using produce available at this time of year, as well as being unusual enough for me to try out at home.

The surprise ingredient – parsnips – is in plentiful supply just now, with Good Food calling it ‘the new carrot cake’.

The parsnips is a root vegetable closely related to the carrot, with a long, tuberous, cream-coloured root. It is left in the ground to mature and becomes sweeter following a winter frost. Choose small to medium parsnips as the larger ones can be quite fibrous. They are high in vitamins and minerals, especially potassium. They also contain antioxidants and both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre.

The other two finalists in the competition were Louise Read's Coffee crunch cake (a nutty meringue with coffee-flavoured Victoria sponge) and Hannah Obee's Salted caramel chocolate cake (a sophisticated dark, rich and moist cake).

There was also an under-11s category winner - blackberry & coconut squares – and an 11-17 age group winner with banoffee marshmallow cake.

All the cake recipes, and lots more, can be found on the BBC Good Food website, but the overall winner is featured below.

Catherine Berwick's winning Parsnip & Maple Syrup cake


175g butter, plus extra for greasing

250g demerara sugar

100ml maple syrup

3 large eggs

250g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp mixed spice

250g parsnips, peeled and grated

1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated

50g pecans, roughly chopped

Zest and juice of 1 small orange

Icing sugar, to serve

For the filling

250g tub mascarpone

3-4 tbsp maple syrup

Method in the kitchen

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4

1. Grease 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

2. Melt butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over gentle heat, then cool slightly.

3. Whisk the eggs into this mixture, then stir in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice, followed by the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and juice.

4. Divide between the tins, then bake for 25-30 mins until the tops spring back when pressed lightly.

5. Cool the cakes slightly in the tins before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

6. Just before serving, mix together the mascarpone and maple syrup. Spread over one cake and sandwich with the other.

7. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

  • If you have an unusual cake recipe you’d like to share with Country Life, send it to peter.barron@nne.co.uk along with a reasonably high-resolution image.