March. That time of year when spring tries to break through but can’t quite out-muscle winter just yet. I think Dickens described it best: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
Said with less eloquence: March is a tease. I can shiver through a morning in a hooded sweatshirt and follow it up by a jog in shorts and a t-shirt. Nothing thrills me more than bright yellow daffodils blooming and warming up the landscape, but most everything else stays stubbornly brown.
March can’t make up its mind, and in some ways, neither can I. I am ready for warm spring days and light in the sky past 6 p.m., but I am not quite ready to give up the two things I enjoy about winter: dark beer and parsnips.
I relegate parsnips to winter food list since I pay them no mind after the cold months where roasted root vegetables are the in-season choice. Unless someone starts selling bags of prepared parsnips like baby carrots, I probably won’t think about them again until November.
Fortunately, I have found a new way to enjoy parsnips via this spice cake recipe. Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts, so it was really no surprise that I liked this parsnip cake too. The spice cakes are so incredibly similar that I don’t know that I would be able to tell them apart in a blind taste test. So why bother with the parsnips in the first place? Why not just stick with carrots?
I don’t know. Because it’s fun to cook and bake with something different every once in a while. It’s a pleasure to find a new way to use something I love (parsnips) in another something I love (cake). Until spring arrives, I’ll pair these parsnip cupcakes with a few dark beers. Enjoy!
Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
- For the Cupcakes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups (peeled and) grated parsnips (from 4 to 6 parsnips)
- For the Frosting
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 5 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, melted butter and vanilla.
- Whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the large bowl of wet ingredients.
- Next stir the dry flour mixture into the wet ingredients until combined.
- Fold in the grated parsnips.
- Spoon the batter nearly to the top of each well of a paper-lined muffin tin.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes; a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake will come out clean.
- While the cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting.
- Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
- Sift in the confectioners' sugar to remove lumps and continue to beat until smooth.
- Add the maple syrup and whip until well combined.
- Dollop the frosting onto cooled cupcakes, then immediately sprinkle with walnuts to garnish.
Some parsnips have a tough, woody core. To avoid using this part of the parsnip in the cake, grate the side of the parsnip until you hit the core (it will get tougher to grate once you hit it). Keep grating along the sides, as opposed to holding the parsnip perpendicular to the grater, until you have the two cups you need.