Dorie Greenspan’s Triple-Layer Parsnip and Cranberry Cake

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 28 2020


One of my best days of filming season four of Weekends with Yankee was spent in the Connecticut kitchen of beloved cookbook author Dorie Greenspan. And when I say “beloved,” I’m not exaggerating: There’s a whole section of Instagram, not to mention the blogosphere, devoted to cooking recipes from her many books, the most recent of which is Everyday Dorie

Greenspan splits her time between New England and Paris, but she does most of her writing in her airy Connecticut kitchen, which looks out over a pond frequented by geese, ducks, and the occasional blue heron. After years spent in Manhattan, she now has to drive 30 minutes to the grocery store. “Living here has made me a more practical cook,” she says, “and maybe even a nimbler one.”

Her recipes are accessible but special enough to make you feel accomplished for pulling them off. And she brings fresh twists to beloved classics, as with this parsnip cake. It’s inspired by a good old-fashioned carrot cake with nuts and cream cheese frosting, but she replaces the signature vegetable and uses coriander, rather than cinnamon or nutmeg, as her warm spice. “This cake is meant for birthdays and anniversaries, graduations, holidays,” she writes. “I love it for … any time you want to make a big group of people happy.” —Amy Traverso

Notes: You can make the filling up to three days ahead and refrigerate it. You can also make the cake layers a day ahead and keep them wrapped airtight.


16 to 18 servings

For the cake:


2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
Finely grated zest of 1 small orange or 1 tangerine
1 cup (240 ml) neutral oil, such as canola
½ cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound (454 grams) parsnips, trimmed, peeled and grated (3 cups)
1 cup (120 grams) chopped pecans or other nuts, toasted or not
½ cup (50 grams) chopped fresh cranberries


To make the cake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. (If your oven can’t hold three 9-inch cake pans on one rack, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds.) Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, dust the interiors with flour, and tap out the excess (or use baker’s spray).

Whisk together the flour, coriander, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Put 2 teaspoons of sugar in a small bowl and stir in the minced ginger and zest.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat together the oil, the remaining 1 cup sugar, and the brown sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes. The mixture might look grainy, but that’s fine. One by one, beat in the eggs and then continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and velvety. Beat in the vanilla, followed by the ginger-zest mixture and any syrup that might be in the bowl. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture all at once. Pulse the mixer to start incorporating the flour, then mix on low just until the dry ingredients almost disappear. Add the parsnips and nuts and mix to incorporate. Switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold in the cranberries. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and smooth the tops.

Bake for 33 to 37 minutes, until the cakes are golden and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans; the tops will feel springy to the touch and a tester inserted in the center will come out clean. If you’re baking on two racks or your oven has hot spots, rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom after 18 minutes. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool for 5 minutes, then run a table knife around the sides of the pans and turn the cakes out onto racks to cool to room temperature.

To assemble the cake: If the tops of the cakes have mounded, slice away the crowns to even them. Place one layer bottom side down on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula or a table knife, generously cover the top of the layer with frosting. Spoon half of the cranberry filling into the center of the frosting and spread it so that it comes to about an inch or two shy of the edges of the cake. Place the second layer on the cake, top side down. Cover with frosting and spread the remaining filling over it. Finish by placing the last layer on the cake, bottom side up. Cover the top layer with frosting, adding some swirls and whorls, if you’d like. You’ll have frosting left over, so you can frost the sides of the cake, too, if you’d like.

The cake can be served as soon as it’s assembled, but it’s easier to slice if you give it an hour or two in the fridge. You can keep the cake at room temperature (not hot or humid) for a couple of days or, wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze the cake: Freeze it, then wrap airtight; defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.

For the cranberry filling:


One 12-ounce bag (340 grams) cranberries (if frozen, don’t defrost)
¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (or water)
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger


To make the filling: Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture bubbles, many of the cranberries pop, and the sauce starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. The filling will thicken more as it cools. Scrape the filling into a bowl and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate if you’re not using immediately.

For the frosting:


¾ pound (340 grams) cream cheese, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons; 170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
6¼ cups (750 grams) confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


To make the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt on medium speed until very smooth; scrape down the beater and bowl frequently. Add the vanilla and beat to blend.