Parsnip Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

A twist on a classic carrot cake made with grated parsnips and walnuts and topped with chocolate cream cheese icing.

A piece of cake with chocolate icing next to two whole parsnips.

I love carrot cake. The moist cake with the hint of cinnamon and toasted nuts are wonderful and cream cheese frosting is the perfect topping. I swapped the carrots for parsnips and this parsnip cake turned out great.

I wanted to punch up the flavour of this cake and turned the topping into a chocolate cream cheese frosting. The end result is a cake that is sweet and moist with a hint of spice and a wonderful chocolate kick for any chocoholics out there! This cake is a winner for sure.

Close of picture of a piece of cake.

Parsnips are a highly underused root vegetable. They have a sweet and spicy flavour and are wonderful in many different dishes.

  • Add some cooked and mashed parsnips to mashed potatoes.
  • Add parsnips to chicken noodle soup.
  • Roasted carrots and parsnips are an amazing side dish to roast pork or chicken

This parsnip cake shows just one more way that parsnips are a great vegetable for cooking with.

Ingredients needed for cake collected on a cutting board.

Ingredients For Parsnip Cake

  • Parsnips
  • Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Oil
  • White Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Walnuts – pecans are another great options for nuts in this cake.
  • Vanilla
  • Butter
  • Cream Cheese
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Icing Sugar

Whole parsnips next to a grater.

Parsnips are typically found in the supermarket next to the carrots. Where I get them, they are in a bag and usually have 4 to 5 whole parsnips. They look similar to a carrot, but are a yellowish white colour. A parsnip has a fatter end and then goes much narrower at the tip.

Expert Tip: For this parsnip cake, we need 2 cups of grated parsnips. Depending on the size of parsnips, the amount you need may vary. I find that 2 or 3 parsnips is enough.

Grated parsnips in an oval container.

How To Grate Parsnips

First, cut the ends off the parsnip and then use a potato peeler to remove the skin. I use a cheese grater to grate the parsnips, but a food processor with the grating attachment will also work very well and get the job done in a matter of seconds.

Flour and other dry ingredients in a glass bowl.

Dry Ingredients

I prefer to mix the dry ingredients separately. This ensures that everything is well mixed for the parsnip cake. Dump the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda to a mixing bowl.

Expert Tip: I use all purpose flour, but cake and pastry flour will also work well.

Sifted dry ingredients in a glass bowl

Mix The Dry Ingredients

Use a whisk or a fork to stir all the dry ingredients together. Make sure to get around the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl. Once it is well mixed, you should see the cinnamon all throughout the flour.

Expert Tip: Using a glass mixing bowl is handy because it allows you to see if there are any pockets of unmixed flour along the sides of the bowl.

Eggs, oil and sugars in a glass bowl.

Wet Ingredients

In a separate bowl, add the eggs, oil, brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla. I like to mix the white and brown sugar together with the wet ingredients since it allows the sugars to dissolve first before mixing with the flour.

Wet ingredients mixed in a glass bowl.

Use a stand or handheld electric mixer to beat the wet ingredients together. Mix at medium to high speed until the batter is a smooth creamy consistency. This should not take long and be nicely mixed after about a minute.

Dry ingredients getting mixed in with the wet ingredients.

Dump the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and beat them together. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl to ensure that the batter is well mixed.

Grated parsnips and chopped walnuts on the mixed batter.

The last part of making the batter is to add the grated parsnip and chopped walnuts to the bowl.

Parsnip batter in a glass bowl.

There is not need to use the electric mixer at this stage. I just use a rubber spatula to fold the nuts and parsnip into the cake batter.

Cake batter in a rectangular baking dish.

Pour the batter into a greased 13×9 rectangular baking dish. Make sure that the batter is evenly spread in the dish.

Expert Tip: I use a non stick metal dish, but a glass or ceramic baking dish can also work but the cooking time may vary

Baked cake in a rectangular metal dish.

How Long To Bake Parsnip Cake

Place the cake in a 350F oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick or knife stuck into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Once the cake has finished baking, place it on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Chocolate icing just mixed in a glass bowl with icing on the beaters.

The chocolate cream cheese icing really elevates this parsnip cake. While the cake is cooling, you can make the icing. Beat the softened butter and cream cheese until well mixed. Then slowly beat in the cocoa powder, icing sugar and milk until smooth and creamy.

Expert Tip: There is very little milk used for this cream cheese icing, and it is essentially added to ensure that the icing is not too thick, but is easily spreadable. I add the milk last and slowly drizzle it in small amounts, beat it into the icing, and stop when it has reached the desired consistency. If needed, you could add even a little more milk than is in the recipe.

A piece of cake with chocolate icing on a cake.

Once the parsnip cake has cooled completely you can spread the chocolate cream cheese icing on top of the cake.

This parsnip cake is moist and has the delicious spice from the cinnamon and parsnip. The cream cheese icing is awesome and adding the chocolate to it will really differentiate this from a traditional carrot cake.

Parsnip cake with whole parsnips in the backround.

Other Cake and Loaf Recipes!

If you like this parsnip cake and are looking for some other bread or cake recipes that use vegetables, then check these out!

Parsnip Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Close of picture of a piece of cake.
5 out of 5
3 reviews
A moist cake that is similar to a carrot cake but made with grated parsnips. Topped with chocolate cream cheese icing.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 18



  • 1 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups parsnips , peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts , or pecans


  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter , softened
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk


  • Preheat oven for 350F.
  • Grease and flour a 13x9 cake pan.
  • Mix together the oil, milk, sugars, eggs and vanilla until creamy and smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until fully combined and no longer lumpy.
  • Mix in the grated parsnips and walnuts.
  • Pour the batter in the cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. A toothpick inserted should come out clean. Bake a little longer, if necessary.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly beat in the cocoa, icing sugar and milk. The frosting should be smooth and spreadable.
  • Once the cake is completely cooled, spread on the frosting.


Per serving:

Calories: 437kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 5gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 237mgFiber: 3gSugar: 38g

Nutrition Disclaimer


A piece of cake with chocolate icing next to two whole parsnips.

Did you try this recipe?

Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out. Or, take a picture to share on Instagram and tag me @theblackpeppercorn.

5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  • 5 stars
    I am really wondering how parsnip has never caught on as a delicious alternative to carrot in cake. I am just obssessed with the delicious cake I made with a similar recipe to yours. These are the most tasty, moist cakes you will ever taste. I can see that chocolate would be great frosting. I made a cinnamon, lemon buttercream frosting for mine. I could eat it straight.
    Someday I hope that everyone gets to try this amazing cake.

    • Reply
    • I agree. The first time I made parsnip cake, I was surprised that you don’t really hear about it much at all. I also love adding parsnips to other dishes like chicken noodle soup. So good!

  • Cream cheese is something the best! This recipe seems interesting, but not so simple for me. Anyway i will give it a try!

    • Reply
  • “White carrots”! – That’s precious, Steve. Parsnips are a fantastic root with a unique and wonderful flavor. Great cake idea!

    • Reply
  • i’ve never had a cake made from parsnips! Brilliant! And it looks so SO good!

    • Reply
  • When I saw this I had to check it out as I am a fan of including vegetables in delicious desserts! I have always wanted to try parsnips in a cake, and yours looks delicious! That chocolate cream cheese topping is the perfect finish.

    • Reply
  • The only time I cook with parsnips is when I make chicken soup. But as a carrot cake fanatic, I would love to try your recipe…it makes a lot of sense to use parsnips in place of carrots~

    • Reply
  • I love the idea of using vegetables in sweet recipes. This parsnip cake looks delicious. It looks so moist and with chocolate cream cheese frosting…what a super tasty combination.

    • Reply
  • Whhh…What?? Parsnips in a cake…. you are Amazing!! First of all I don’t know if I have ever had a parsnip… I need to venture out and try it for sure. Second… what a fantastic idea to put it into a cake…. well done for getting some veg into dessert. 🙂

    • Reply
  • I’ve never put parsnips in a cake but I adore them roasted.

    I agree with Isabelle, they look like carrots so we should be making cake with them.

    You’re way ahead of us!

    • Reply
  • What a clever idea! I love me some parsnips, but I’ve only ever used them for savoury applications… though in retrospect, the resemblance to carrots should’ve been a dead giveaway that they’d make a pretty amazing cake. 🙂 Adding this to my must-bake list ASAP.

    • Reply
  • Oh, In love parsnips and they do look like white carrots! I bet this is a fantastic cake.

    • Reply
  • I would have never thought to make a cake from parsnips, but it looks delicious so I can just imagine how good it tastes!

    • Reply
  • How creative of you to use parsnips for a cake! This is the first I have seen of it and it works deliciously by that photo. This does make you think of a parsnip in a different way. Well done Steve!

    • Reply
  • What a novel use for parsnips, I’m so intrigued!

    • Reply

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