Dish of the Day: Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth

Lily Vanilli

Lily Vanilli 225x300 Dish of the Day: Lily Vanilli’s Sweet ToothVegetables are often overlooked when it comes to sweet baking – which is a shame.  Despite carrots having been used in cakes since Medieval times and carrot cake often voted the most popular in both Britain and America, experimentation with veg in baking often ends there.

But it shouldn’t be so. Beets have a high natural fructose content as well as giving your bake a gorgeous rich purple pink colour and a deep earthy flavor, so well worth using.And they are not alone, parsnip and sweet potatoes can both be subbed into any carrot cake recipe with lovely results. In my bakery, we make a version ‘Tutti Rooty’ with a full house of beets, carrots, parsnips & sweet potato that’s always a big hit, even if people are reluctant at first.

Don’t be afraid to try things out: I’ve had lucky experiments in the past with caramelised button mushrooms on a cognac rich fruit cake.

And keep an eye to the seasons, adapt recipes as they change, a carrot and courgette cake in summer becomes a root veg cake in the colder months.


Parsnips have a subtle butteriness and work like a spice note in the background.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1½ hours

Serves: 8

250g peeled and cored mixed pears and parsnips, grated

100g raisins

20g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon

150g plain, wholemeal or wholegrain spelt flour, sifted

¾ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

1 tsp baking powder

150g ground almonds or hazelnuts

3 eggs

150g light brown sugar, plus extra for topping

125ml olive oil

90g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C/ gas mark 6.
  • Use kitchen paper to soak up any excess moisture from the grated fruit and vegetables, then put them into a bowl with the raisins, ginger, lemon juice and zest and combine.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder and ground almonds/hazelnuts. Set aside.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until very light and airy – approximately 5 minutes on high speed – then add the oil, beating to incorporate. Beat for another 2 minutes before folding in first the flour mix, then the pear and parsnip mix. Transfer the mixture to your prepared cake tin and level out to the edges.
  • Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with the chopped nuts, all the way to the edge of the batter.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out with no more than a few sticky crumbs. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

- Only slightly adapted from Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth (Cannongate books, 2012) £20

We are also introducing the world’s first agony-aunt baking column:“Recovering from a Bad Bake-up”. Send in your baking disaster stories of unexpected failures in the kitchen/recurring problems to

On the third Friday of the month we will feature a q & a with advice to help you recover.

@lilyvanillicake instagram:lily_vanilli_cake

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