Parsnip Pear and Ginger Layer Cake with Honey Goat Cheese Icing

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Cakes, Food + Drink | No Comments


This is my favourite cake of all time.  It has a complex grown-up flavour with the fresh brightness of lemons, zesty ginger, earthy parsnips and sweet pears.  It practically screams autumn.  This recipe was adapted from one of my baking heroes, Lily Vanilli, but I’ve replaced the spelt flour she uses with buckwheat flour to make the cake gluten free. I’ve also topped it with a creamy icing, flavoured with goat cheese and honey that compliments it pretty well, if I do say so myself.

PPG - sliced

If you do decide to go the fancy route, I like to bake the cakes and make the toppings the day before, and then ice and decorate the cakes the next day.  I find it easiest to work with icing that’s just been made or at room temperature, and cakes that are just out of the fridge, or even slightly frozen.
PPG 3Now, go make this cake while everything’s in season – you won’t regret it!

Parsnip Pear and Ginger Layer Cake with Honey Goat Cheese Icing


    For the Cake
  • 250g peeled and cored mixed pears and parsnips, grated (approximately 2 small pears and two small parsnips)
  • 100g raisins
  • 20g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • Juice and finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 150g buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 150g almond flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 125ml olive oil
  • For the Icing
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 100g soft goat cheese (chevre)
  • 50g honey
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • For the Pear Crisps
  • 120ml water
  • 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 firm pear, finely sliced
  • For the Candied Hazelnuts
  • 250g hazelnuts, skins removed
  • 65g organic cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Butter/oil your pans and line with parchment paper - I did a three layer 6" cake, but this also works well as a two layer 8" cake.
  • Use paper towel to soak up any excess moisture from the grated pears and parsnips, and then combine with the raisins, ginger, lemon juice and zest. Put aside.
  • Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and put aside.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer on high speed for five minutes. Add olive oil and beat for two minutes more.
  • Fold in dry ingredients, and then the fruit mixture. Transfer mixture to prepared cake tins. I like to weigh them to ensure that the mixture is pretty much evenly divided.
  • Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
  • Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, and then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once cooled, wrap cakes well in plastic wrap and refrigerate (or freeze) until you are prepared to ice them.
  • Icing
  • Beat the butter on high speed in a stand mixer for five minutes. The butter should be light, airy and pale in colour.
  • Add cream cheese and goat cheese and beat to combine well. A minute or so should do it - any longer and you risk a grainy icing.
  • Add honey, and then icing sugar, mixing well. Add more icing sugar for a stiffer and sweeter icing.
  • Store covered in refrigerator if you are not decorating your cake right away.
  • Pear Crisps
  • Preheat the oven to 230 degrees.
  • Bring the water, sugar and lemon juice to boil in a saucepan and remove from heat.
  • Dip the pear slices in to the sugar water, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for one hour, or until slices are dry and crisp. Once cool, store in an airtight container.
  • Candied Hazelnuts
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine sugar and water in a large bowl, and then toss with hazelnuts.
  • Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.
  • Cool on baking sheet and store in an airtight container.
  • Decorating
  • Spread icing - it should be room temperature - on the first cake layer, sandwich the next on top and repeat.
  • If you want to be fancy - do a crumb coat - spread only a thin layer of icing on the top and sides of your cake, and then refrigerate until slightly hardened. This will seal in the crumbs, and provide a nicer result in the finished icing.
  • Once your crumb coat has hardened, coat the rest of your cake with a nice thick layer of icing.
  • Top with chopped candied hazelnuts and pear crisps. It's best to do this as close to serving as possible, as they will soften from the moisture in the icing.
  • Slice, eat and enjoy!


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