Using root vegetables in baking adds flavours to cakes

Michelle Darmody bakes up some delicious treats using root veg.

ROOT vegetables really come into their own as other vegetables are fading away and the year moves ever closer to an end. Irish grown root vegetables are available throughout the winter months, they add great texture and subtle flavours to cakes and baking. I still remember a friend explaining carrot cake to me for the first time.

The idea seemed so alien — vegetables in a cake! Now it is par for the course and experimenting with different vegetables and flavours can lead to excellent results.

Parsnips have a delicate note, along with the maple syrup they help to create a warming winter loaf. Caraway seeds have quite a distinct taste and may outshine the other flavours, so if you do not like their taste feel free to leave them out altogether. When making this cake I grate the parsnips with the rougher side of a box grater. I like the texture that this creates. If you want a more dense and smoother cake you can grate them finer.

Carrots go very well with the cherries in the second recipe and make for a nice twist on the original carrot cake. You can quite easily serve this cake without the icing, it is really nice as is but he icing makes it a little more celebratory.

Carrot and cherry cake

200g of self-raising flour

1½ tsp of baking powder

2 tsp of ground cinnamon

230g of golden caster sugar

40g of almonds, roughly chopped

40g of dried apricots

70g of frozen cherries

225 mls of olive oil

225g of carrots grated

3 eggs, lightly beaten

To decorate

250g of cream cheese

40g of soft butter

240g of icing sugar

the zest of 2 oranges

a small handful of coconut flakes, lightly toasted

Heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 6 inch round springform or loose based tin with baking parchment.

Sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in sugar, almonds, apricots and half of the cherries.

Add the oil and grated carrot and stir until combined.

Add the eggs one at a time and stir. Finally add the vanilla essence and stir once more until a batter is formed.

Pour the mixture into your tin and spread it evenly sprinkle with the rest of the cherries. Bake for 1¼ hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin.

To make the icing whisk the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and zest until air is added an it increases a little in volume.

Once completely cool turn the cake out onto a plate and cut it into three discs. Layer them back together with a thin layer of icing. Spread the rest over the exteriour of the cake and sprinkle with the toasted coconut flakes.

Parsnip and maple syrup loaf

120mls of maple syrup

220g of demerara sugar

175g of soft butter

250g of self-raising flour

2 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp of ground caraway seeds — optional

2 tsp of ground nutmeg

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 apple, peeled and grated

250g of parsnips, peeled and grated the juice of 1 orange and the zest of 1 the zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 2 lb loaf tin with parchment.

Place the maple syrup, sugar and butter into a heavy saucepan and melt over a low heat until combined. Set aside to cool.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, caraway (if using) and nutmeg together and set aside.

Stir the eggs into the butter mixture then stir in the flour mixture.

Add the grated apple, grated parsnip as well as the juice and zest. Scoop the mixture into the loaf tin, flatten it and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from tin.

Beetroot and cocoa brownies

100g of soft butter

200g of dark chocolate, broken into small even pieces

400g of beetroot flesh, steamed until soft, skin removed

2 tsp of vanilla essence

230g of demerara sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

25g of cocoa powder

100g of plain flour

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line an 8 x 10inch tin with parchment.

Place the butter and sugar into a saucepan and melt over a low heat, set aside.

Blitz the beetroot draining any excess juice before you do. Stir the beetroot and vanilla into the chocolate.

Whisk the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Fold this into the beetroot mixture. Sieve in the flour and cocoa and stir everything until completely combined.

Scoop the mixture into the tin and flatten it out. Bake for 25 minutes and allow to cool in the tin. Cut into squares before serving.

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