I am really proud of this cake. When I first made it, I wasn’t sure how well parsnip and pear would go together. But I needn’t have worried; this worked out so well! Parsnips and pears are both perfect autumnal fruit and this light and moist cake is a really nice way to use them.
A few weeks ago in my post about Spicy Parsnip Soup I talked about how parsnips were used as a sweetener before sugar became widely available. I decided to put this to the test, incorporating it into a cake. I added in the pear too, hoping that the delicate flavour of the fruit would compliment and balance out the stronger taste of the parsnips.
Pears come in thousands of varieties and they are widely grown in most parts of the world, providing an integral part of the diet of many cultures. The term “pear” actually refers to the different tree and shrub species, as well as the fruit they produce. They have been used for cooking for thousands of years, whilst a number of varieties are predominately ornamental. The first eating pears were cultivated in France and Italy in the 16th century. It is said that pears were first cultivated in the Caucasus (a region at the boder between Europe and Asia) over 4000 years ago and from there spread across Europe and Asia. Pears have apparently been found in Celtic literature, Roman history and Chinese lore. Furthermore, the fruit was favoured by both the ancient Greeks and Romans for their flavour and medicinal properties. They have also been cultivated in China for over 3000 years.
In my parsnip soup post, I also mentioned the versatility and many health benefits that parsnips have. Pears too have many benefits. Among other things, pears help improve digestion and heart health, reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system and improve circulation. Like many other fruits, they contain a multitude of antioxidents that help fight various conditions and diseases, as well as preventing different types of cancer.
In Britain, it is possible that pears were cultivated during the Roman occupation and old pear trees are mentioned in the Domesday Book (which was basically a huge survey commission by William the Conqueror and completed in 1086). By 1640 over 60 varieties were being grown in England, the majority of which were used for cooking. Different types of pear have contrasting and distinct flavours, tastes and textures. Pears ripen from the end of summer until the beginning of winter. The variety of pear I used in my cake was the Conference. Conference was introduced in the late 1800s, and quickly became the most popular; today it makes up over 90% of the UK commercial production of pears. You can, of course, use any variety of pear you want!
Parsnip and Pear Cake
- 160g self-raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1/2tsp cinnamon
- 1/2tsp mixed spice
- 1tsp ginger
- 100g brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 150ml vegetable oil
- 150g parsnips, grated
- 100g pear, peeled, cored and cubed
- Preheat oven to 180c and grease a sandwich tin
- Sieve together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice in a bowl
- In a seperate bowl mix together the brown sugar, eggs and oil until combined and smooth
- Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture until just incorporated
- Mix in the parsnip and pear
- Pour into tin and bake for about 35 minutes, until slightly brown. The moisture from the pear leaves it quite gooey in the centre, but don’t worry, it is cooked
- Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin before placing on a cooling rack