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Triple-layer parsnip and cranberry cake


For the cake:

  • 2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small orange or 1 tangerine
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) neutral oil, such as canola
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 454 grams parsnips, trimmed, peeled and grated (3 cups)
  • 1 cup (120 grams) chopped pecans or other nuts, toasted or not
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) chopped fresh cranberries

For the cranberry filling:

  • One 340 gram bag cranberries (if frozen, don’t defrost)
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) orange juice (or water)
  • 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger

For the frosting:

  • 340 grams cream cheese, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 6 1/4 cups (681 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. You can make the filling up to three days ahead and refrigerate it. You can make the cake layers a day ahead and keep them wrapped airtight. The cake slices better if it is refrigerated for an hour or two.
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. (If your oven can’t hold three 22 centimeter cake pans on one rack, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds.) Butter three 22 centimeter round cake pans, dust the interiors with flour and tap out the excess; or use bakers’ spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, coriander, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
  3. Put two teaspoons of the sugar in a small bowl and stir in the minced ginger and zest.
  4. Working in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the oil, the remaining one cup sugar and the brown sugar together on medium speed for about two minutes. The mixture might look grainy, but that’s fine. One by one, beat in the eggs and then continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and velvety. Beat in the vanilla, followed by the ginger-zest mixture, and any syrup that might be in the bowl. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture all at once. Pulse the mixer to start incorporating the flour, then mix on low just until the dry ingredients almost disappear. Add the parsnips and nuts and mix to incorporate. Switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold in the cranberries. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and smooth the tops.
  5. Bake for 33 to 37 minutes, until the cakes are golden and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans; the tops will feel springy to the touch and a tester inserted in the center will come out clean. If you’re baking on two racks or your oven has hot spots, rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom after 18 minutes. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool for five minutes, then run a table knife around the sides of the pans and turn the cakes out onto racks to cool to room temperature. (You can make the cakes a day ahead — wrap them well and keep them at room temperature.)
  1. Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan, stir and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture bubbles, many of the cranberries pop and the sauce starts to thicken, about ten minutes. The filling will thicken more as it cools. Scrape the filling into a bowl and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate if you’re not using immediately. (The filling can be made up to three days ahead and kept in the fridge.)
  1. Working in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt together on medium speed until very smooth; scrape the beater and bowl down frequently. Add the vanilla and beat to blend.
  1. If the tops of the cake have crowned (these usually bake pretty flat), you can slice away the crowns to even them. Place one layer bottom side down on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula or a table knife, generously cover the top of the layer with frosting. Spoon half of the cranberry filling into the center of the frosting and spread it so that it comes to about an inch or two shy of the edges of the cake. Place the second layer on the cake, top side down. Cover with frosting and spread the remaining filling over it. Finish by placing the last layer on the cake, bottom side up. Cover the top layer with frosting, adding some swirls and whorls, if you’d like. If some of the cranberry filling oozed to the edges or maybe even spilled over a little, celebrate it! I love the casual look of this cake.
  2. You’ll have frosting left over, so you can frost the sides of the cake, if you’d like. I like to leave the sides bare or run just a very thin layer of frosting around them, a layer that looks almost sheer, kind of naked, but not quite.
  3. The cake can be served as soon as it’s assembled, but it’s easier to slice if you give it an hour or two in the fridge.

You can keep the cake at room temperature (not hot or humid) for a couple of days or, wrapped, in the refrigerator for at least five days. You can also freeze the cake. Freeze it, then wrap airtight; if you can manage it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.


For an even more festive cake, crown it with sugared cranberries — finishing it like this is beautiful for the holidays. Make a simple syrup by boiling 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water together for three minutes. Remove from the heat, drop in as many fresh cranberries as you’d like and roll them around to coat with syrup, then lift them out with a slotted spoon or mesh spider and transfer them to a rack. Let them set for about one hour — they’ll be sticky and tacky, and that’s what you want. Roll the cranberries around in a cup of sugar and then let them dry on a clean rack for another hour. Sugared berries are meant for the last minute — they’ll get syrupy in the refrigerator and won’t survive freezing.

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