Pear and Calvados Parsnip Cake

I am still very much in love with the cook book Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache and as I’m always looking for any excuse to bake, I decided to make something from it for a party I was attending at the weekend. I spotted this recipe and decided it was ‘the one’ for that particular soirée. The original recipe uses pecans but the shop failed me, so Brazil nuts it was; I’ll leave the choice up to you!

Pear calvados

I discreetly didn’t really tell anyone what was in the cake other than pears and Calvados as people seem to be put off when you say ‘gluten free cake made with vegetables and no butter’, goodness knows why?! Everyone who had some said it was really lovely, only once they’d eaten it did I mention that it contained parsnips and no butter. Mwahahaha. I don’t even like parsnips but they do make for a lovely moist cake, I must say. Vegetables are far more versatile that people give them credit for. My sister made parsnip fudge the other day, who knew?!


  • 3 small, firm pears (~300g)
  • Half a lemon
  • 150 g of pecans (or Brazil nuts!)
  • 150 g of rice flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp of salt
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and the seeds scraped out (or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste)
  • 2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 3 medium, free-range eggs
  • 180 g of caster sugar
  • 200 g of peeled, top and tailed, finely grated parsnip (don’t grate too far in advance, it might go brown)
  • 125 ml of Calvados (you could substitute brandy if you can’t find any)
  • Icing sugar to top

You’ll also need a food processor, a 23 cm diameter, lose bottomed cake tin and some kitchen string.


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Cut out two circles of baking paper the same size as the tin and a larger piece of foil, big enough to cover the tin and be secured with the string.
  3. Cut a length of baking paper a few cm longer than the circumference of the tin. Fold the paper lengthways three times, so you have a long narrow strip. Snip into the folded side of the strip at 2 cm intervals.
  4. Line the edges of the tin with the baking paper, snipped edges folded inwards on the bottom of the tin.
  5. Place the first circle of baking paper on top of the folded in snippets, on the bottom of the tin. Brush the lined bottom and sides with oil.
  6. Place the second circle of baking paper on top of the other one and brush with oil. Set your lined tin aside.
  7. Peel, core and finely slice the pears. Place the sliced pears on a plate and cover in the freshly squeezed juice of the half a lemon. Make sure they are all evenly coated with lemon juice. Set them aside.
  8. Blitz the nuts in the food processor until you have crumbs.
  9. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla seeds/paste, ginger and cinnamon and blitz until well combined. (Now would be a good time to grate your parsnip if you haven’t already).
  10. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk, until pale and fluffy.
  11. Mix the grated parsnip into the egg mix.
  12. Add the contents of the food processor to the mixing bowl and whisk until well combined.
  13. Pour in the Calvados and whisk until mixed in.
  14. Pour half your mixture into the prepared tin. Cover the mixture with a layer of half of the sliced pears.
  15. Pour in the remaining cake mixture and top with the remaining pears, nice pattern optional.
  16. Place the foil circle over the tin (make sure it isn’t touching the cake) and secure with the string (tie around the edge of the tin).
  17. Bake on a wire rack oven shelf on the lowest level in the oven possible (i.e. near the bottom of the oven) for 2 hours. You are absolutely not allowed to peak during this time!
  18. Once cooked, remove from the oven and brush the tops of the pears with water (not the cake, just the pears) and dust the cake with icing sugar.
  19. Ideally serve warm but it is delicious cold too. If serving warm, cream or ice cream would compliment it beautifully.

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