Parsnip Walnut Cake (Torta di Pastinaca e Noci)

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I’ve adapted this parsnip and walnut cake from a recipe I liked on Simona’s blog Grembiule da Cucina. The combination of parnip and walnut works very well, and to brighten up the woody flavors I added some ground aniseed. To make the cake even more flavorful as well as gluten-free, I replaced the crumbled biscuits in the batter with ground walnuts. To flavor the crunchy walnuts on top, I used maple syrup and a pinch of salt.

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This is a wonderful cake with a nice contrast between the moist body and the crunchy walnut topping. Simona, ti ringrazio per l’ispirazione. Ecco la mia versione.

Ingredients

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For a 20 cm (8″) cake, about 8 servings

400 grams (.9 lb) parsnips

200 grams walnuts (about 2 1/2 cups whole walnuts, or 2 cups roughly chopped walnuts), divided

4 eggs, separated

100 grams (7 Tbsp) butter + more for greasing the pan

125 grams (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) sugar, divided

2 Tbsp maple syrup

2 pinches of salt

1 tsp ground aniseed (or ground fennel seed)

flour (gluten-free flour if you want to keep the cake gluten-free) for dusting the pan

Preparation

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Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (not fan forced). Toast 200 grams (7 oz) walnuts on a baking sheet for 8 minutes, then allow them to cool.

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Meanwhile, peel the parsnips, cut them in quarters lengthwise, and remove the woody inner core. Once you make a start with a small knife, the core will come away easily.

You should end up with 200 grams (7 oz) of clean parsnip.

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Roughly chop the parsnip and put it in the food processor.

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Process the parsnip…

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…until it is quite fine.

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Melt 100 grams (7 Tbsp) of butter, then allow it to cool somewhat.

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Beat 4 egg yolks with 100 grams (1/2 cup) of sugar until it is pale and creamy.

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Add a teaspoon of ground aniseed or fennel seed.

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Add the melted butter, making sure it is not too hot as otherwise the egg yolks will cook. Process briefly to incorporate the butter.

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Combine the butter and egg yolk mixture with the ground parsnip in a bowl.

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Put half the walnuts and 25 grams (2 Tbsp) of sugar in the food processor.

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Grind the walnuts into a coarse powder. The sugar helps to absorb the oil that will be released by the nuts.

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Add the ground walnuts to the parsnip mixture and stir to incorporate.

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Whip 4 egg whites with a pinch of salt until it resembles snow (or until the ‘soft peaks’ stage).

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Fold the whipped egg whites into the parsnip mixture in three additions using a rubber spatula.

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Try to keep the mixture as airy as possible by making gentle movements with the spatula, starting at the bottom.

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Continue to fold in the egg whites until the batter is homogeneous.

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Grease a 20 cm (8″) springform pan with butter, then dust it with flour.

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Pour the batter into the pan.

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Bake the cake for 45 minutes at 180C/350F (not fan forced).

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In the meantime, roughly chop the remaining 100 grams of walnuts and add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and a pinch of salt.

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Stir until the walnuts are coated with maple syrup.

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After 45 minutes of baking, take the cake out of the oven and arrange the walnuts on top.

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Return the cake to the oven for a final 10-15 minutes of baking and toasting the walnuts on top. Test whether the cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the center, it should come out clean or with some crumbs attached.

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Take the cake out of the oven and allow to cool in the pan.

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Wait until the cake has cooled to room temperature before transferring it to a serving plate.

Wine pairing

This is great with a passito (Italian dessert wine made from dried grapes) that has been aged in wood. The woody wine will work well with the woody cake.

Flashback

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Iberico secreto sous-vide with celeriac fondant sous-vide is a dish with a lot of flavor, showcasing how flavors can be enhanced by cooking sous-vide.

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13 thoughts on “Parsnip Walnut Cake (Torta di Pastinaca e Noci)

  1. You always inspire me to try something new! I just baked a similar cake yesterday, minus parsnips – Next time I’ll try your version! PS – I’ve found that pressing down gently on egg whites with a slotted spoon is an efficient yet effective way to incorporate them into a batter while preserving air.

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