brown butter parsnip loaf cake

brown butter parsnip loaf cake-5

I absolutely have a thing for loaf cakes. they’re small and easy to throw together. yet, have the versatility of a regular, full sized cake. they somehow make cake acceptable for all the meals (and snacks). guys, we need all the delicious, cozy comfort foods right now. for this brown butter parsnip loaf cake, I took all the best features from one of my most popular recipes and tailored it just to highlight the humble parsnip. so, put on your comfiest clothes, grab the warmest blanket you have and make this cake. it’s my official self care plan for winter 2021.

how this cake became a recipe

my humble chai carrot loaf cake became a very beloved recipe over the last year. while it was intended as a spring cake, it has been one of the most popular recipes on my blog for the last nine months! since you guys love this recipe so much, I really wanted to make another version. but, this time I wanted to bring in a vegetable you may not normally bake with. the very underrated parsnip was made for this cake. or rather, this cake was made for it! needless to say, my goal was to encourage you to branch out a bit and try something that is both familiar and a little outside of your normal cake. I hope you love it as much as I do.

what exactly is a parsnip?

if you’ve never tried a parsnip, you are in for a real treat! once you bake or cook with them, there is no limit to all the delicious things you can make!

a parsnip is a root vegetable most widely available during the winter to spring months. although it looks very similar to a white carrot, the flavors are different. parsnips have a nutty, slightly spicy, earthy, starchy and naturally sweet flavor. think a sassier, more grown up carrot! fun fact, parsnips were used as a sweetener prior to cane sugar.

parsnips can be roasted, baked, boiled or sautéed. the best flavor parings for parsnips are:

  • sweet: honey, maple syrup + brown sugar
  • savory: pork + chicken
  • spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, garlic, + pepper.
  • herbs: parsley, sage + thyme.
  • fruits + vegetables: carrots, apples, potatoes, carrots, pears + spinach

this parsnip cake is best described as

  • moist
  • buttery
  • with notes of caramel (thanks, brown butter + sugar)
  • sweet
  • reminiscent of a spiced cake
  • nutty
  • hint of background citrus
  • similar to carrot cake, with more grown up flavors
brown butter parsnip loaf cake

your shopping list

you mostly likely have most of these ingredients in your pantry. if not, add this to your grocery list:
  • cake flour
  • all purpose flour
  • almond flour
  • ground spices: ginger, cinnamon, all spice, cardamom
  • baking soda and powder
  • salt
  • unsalted butter
  • light brown sugar
  • granulated sugar
  • orange (for zest, optional)
  • eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • almond extract
  • whole milk greek yogurt
  • parsnips
    • most well stocked grocery stores carry this. it is located with the other root vegetables
    • sub with carrots if you absolutely can not find parsnips
  • cream cheese
  • honey
  • powdered sugar
  • milk or heavy cream, optional for thinning out buttercream

from these ingredients you will make the brown butter parsnip loaf cake and the brown butter honey cream cheese buttercream

any special baking tools?

this recipe was developed using a 9X5 aluminum loaf pan. this is really the only specialized piece of equipment needed. it is possible to make this by hand in a mixing bowl if you want. however, I would recommend using a stand mixer with both the whisk and paddle attachments or an electric hand mixer with beaters.

brown butter parsnip loaf cake

tips for a great loaf cake

substitutes for this brown butter parsnip loaf cake:
  • brown butter: this is highly recommended for flavor purposes
    • use regular unsalted butter in the amounts as noted in the recipe if you don’t
  • parsnips: its best to use these as the recipe was created for them
    • carrots would be a good swap if you absolutely can’t find parsnips
  • cake flour: use all purpose OR make a diy version:
    • measure out 1 c (120g) all purpose flour
    • scoop out 2 tbsp (15g) flour
    • replace the flour with 2 tbsp cornstarch
    • sift the new flour mixture together 4-5 times
    • you have an approximate 1 c of cake flour
  • almond flour: this is more for flavor
    • use 1/4 c (30g) all purpose flour instead
  • almond extract and orange zest: both of these are optional, but highly encouraged
    • compliments and highlights the flavors of the other ingredients
  • sugars: the brown sugar gives a lovely caramelized flavor
    • pairs well with the parsnips
    • sub brown sugar with 1:1 white
    • sub white sugar with 1:1 brown
  • greek yogurt: sub 1:1 with any other full fat (if possible) yogurt or even buttermilk
  • cream cheese: mascarpone would be a lovely sub here
  • when mixing in the dry and yogurt with the wet, this is best done by hand or lowest mixing speed
  • the batter will be a bit thick
    • scoop out 1/2 batter
    • evenly spread into the pan
    • scoop with remaining 1/2 into the pan
  • prepare the brown butter in advance
    • store prepared brown butter in the fridge until ready to use
    • a food scale helps to measure out the butter once browned
  • use room temperature ingreidents
  • don’t cool the cake in the pan more than 15-20 minutes
  • cool the cake completely before topping with buttercream
  • cool the buttercream in the fridge for 20-40 minutes if it becomes too warm to spread
  • drizzle honey right before serving, not before
  • storing:
    • frosted loaf cake: in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days
    • unfrosted loaf cake: in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days
brown butter parsnip loaf cakes
brown butter parsnip loaf cake
brown butter parsnip loaf cake
brown butter parsnip loaf cake

more loaf cakes to love

brown butter parsnip loaf cake

brown butter parsnip loaf cake

this brown butter parsnip loaf cake is filled with shredded parsnips, brown butter, yogurt, lots of spice and notes of caramel running through. top this lovely loaf with a brown butter honey cream cheese buttercream.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 55 mins
Cooling Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 35 mins
Course Breakfast, brunch, Dessert
Cuisine American


  • 9X5 loaf pan, preferrably metal
  • stand mixer with ballon whisk attachment and paddle attachment or electric hand mixer with beaters
  • parchment paper
  • medium sauce pan
  • 2 c capacity measuring cup


brown butter parnsip cake

  • 1 c (120g) cake flour sub with all purpose or see notes
  • 3/4 c (90g) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 c (30g) almond flour sub with 1/4 c all purpose
  • 1 1/2 tsp (2.5g) ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp (4g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground all spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp (6g) baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp (2g) baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp (170g) unsalted butter, browned and reduced to 1/2 c (113g), softened to room temperature sub 1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c (100g) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c (100g) granulated sugar
  • zest from one medium orange
  • 2 (114g) large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp (10ml) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) almond extract
  • 1/3 c (79ml) whole milk greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c (354ml) shredded parnsips (about 2-3 medium parnsips)

brown butter honey cream cheese buttercream

  • 6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter, browned, reduced to 4 tbsp (56g) and cooled to room temperautre/softened sub with 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 oz. (112g) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2-3 tsp (10-15ml) honey
  • 1 tsp (10ml) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 c (180g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tbsp (15-30ml) milk or heavy cream as needed
  • addtional honey for topping


brown butter parsnip loaf cake

  • Make brown butter the day before or about an hour before you plan to bake the loaf.
    It will need 45-60 minutes to cool enough to become the texture of softened butter. To make the brown butter, melt butter in a clear heavy bottom sauce pan. Once the butter starts to foam, whisk continuously until brown bits start to form. Remove from heat, pour into clean bowl and cool 30 minutes to room temperature and transfer to the fridge for an additonal 30 minutes.
    Line 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving 1-2 in. overhang on the sides. Preheat oven to 350F. Convection ovens should reduce temperature to 325F. Regular oven baking is recommended for cakes.
  • Whisk together all flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a seperate bowl. Set aside.
    Clean, peel and grate the parnsips. Make sure to measure the final amount in a measuring cup.
  • In a stand mixer with whisk attachment (or by hand with a whisk), whisk sugars and zest toegther until a wet sand like texture forms. Add in the softened brown butter and beat until well combined, about 2-3 minutes on low-medium speed.
    Add eggs, beating well after each one until well combined. Add vanilla and almond extracts, beating until well combined.
  • In this order (dry ingredients, yogurt, dry, yogurt, dry), add dry ingredients to the wet alternating with the yogurt. Slowly beat each time until JUST combined. A few flour streaks is okay! Fold in the shredded parsnips.
    Evenly scoop 1/2 the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Evenly smooth into the corners and along the sides. Scoop the remaining 1/2 batter into the pan and repeat.
  • Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Return to the oven for 10-20 minutes, checking for doneness every 5 minutes (55-65 minutes total). When a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, its done.
    Cool in pan for 20 minutes. Carefully remove from pan, using the excess parchment. Continue cooling on cooling rack for an addtional 20-30 minutes. Loaf needs to be completely cooled before frosting. Once frosted, drizzle honey on top if you like.

brown butter honey cream cheese buttercream

  • It will need 45-60 minutes to cool enough to become the texture of softened butter. To make the brown butter, melt butter in a clear heavy bottom sauce pan. Once the butter starts to foam, whisk continuously until brown bits start to form. Remove from heat, pour into clean bowl and cool 30 minutes to room temperature and transfer to the fridge for an additonal 30 minutes.
  • Cream together cooled and softened brown butter, room temperature cream cheese, honey, vanilla and salt until creamy and well combined, about 4-5 minutes.
    Stop and scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add sifted powdered sugar 1/2 c at a time, beating each addition of powdered sugar until incorporated. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl as needed. Beat on high until the buttercream is fully incorpated and desired consistency. If the buttercream is too thick, add 1-2 tbsp milk or heavy cream, beating until well incorporated. Using an offset spatula or frosting knife to spread on top of completely cooled parsnip loaf cake. Top with drizzle of honey.


diy cake flour: measure out 120g all purpose flour. scoop out 2 tbsp (30g) flour. replace this 2 tbsp flour with 2 tbsp cornstarch. sift this new flour blend 4-5 times. you now have an approximate cup of cake flour. follow the recipe as written for the remaining ingredients. 
brown butter: I prefer to make this the day before I plan to make the cake. to do this, simply brown the butter, cool to room temperature in a heat proof bowl. once the brown butter has cooled, pour the butter into an airtight container and store in the fridge. bring to room temperature the same way you would regular unsalted butter. if using a food scale, you can make a big batch of brown butter and slice off/measure the amount chilled and reformed butter you need for the recipe. 
Keyword brown butter, brown butter cream cheese buttercream, brown butter parnsip, spiced loaf cake
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