Gardener's cake

The Little Growers' Cookbook:

Gardener's Cake

A delicious and beautiful cake for those who’ve worked hard in their garden and deserve a treat. Don’t be put off by the use of parsnip – this honestly tastes like carrot cake! See if anyone can guess the vegetables and fruits you used – bet they can’t! It’s also refined sugar free, if you use maple syrup and coconut sugar, which is a big thumbs up. Our preference is to use honey in the icing. Fresh blueberries are also a lovely decoration if you don’t have flowers to hand.

Makes one 8 inch/20cm cake, 10–12 slices


120g finely grated parsnip (peeled and trimmed weight)

120g finely grated carrot (peeled and trimmed weight)

120g peeled, cored and grated eating apple (about 1 large or 2 small apples)

50g pecans or walnuts, chopped

150ml mild oil such as rapeseed, sunflower or vegetable

100g coconut sugar or soft brown sugar

100ml maple syrup

4 eggs

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

2 tablespoons orange juice

250g wholegrain stoneground spelt flour 

4 level teaspoons baking powder

For the icing

175g slightly softened butter

225g full fat cream cheese

3–5 tablespoons mildly flavoured runny honey or maple syrup


To decorate

Edible flowers and herbs such as lavender, roses, borage, nigella, mint, rosemary, nasturtiums, viola, cornflowers or fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3.


Grate the vegetables and apple and mix together, with the nuts, in a bowl. 


Put the oil, sugar, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla and orange juice into a mixing bowl and whisk well for a minute or so. 


Add the grated vegetables, apple and nuts and using a large metal spoon, fold in.


Sieve over the flour (you will need to add the grainy bits back into the bowl once sieved), 2 pinches of fine salt and the baking powder. Using the same spoon, gently fold in until just combined. 


Spoon into a greased and lined deep, loose bottomed 20cm cake tin (or a silicone cake tin). 


Bake for 55 mins – 1 hour or until cooked through (push a skewer into the centre of the cake – if it’s cooked it will come out clean). If it’s not quite done, simply return to the oven for an extra 5–10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and after 5 minutes cooling, turn out onto a wire rack to cool.


Whisk the butter and cream cheese until smooth then whisk in 3 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup. Add extra if you like it sweeter. 


Cut the cake in half horizontally (into two layers) then spread over a heaped tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture. Put the cake back together and transfer to a plate.


Spoon the remaining icing on top of the cake and carefully smooth over the top and sides. Note: for a more professional look, spread over half of the icing first then chill in the fridge for 10 minutes before spreading over the rest. (The first layer is the crumb coat which covers the cake and any crumbs).


Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then decorate with herbs and edible flowers and their leaves or blueberries. This cake will keep in the fridge for two days, just bring up to room temperature before serving.

Extracted from: The Little Grower’s Cookbook by Ghillie James & Julia Parker (Lettuce Publishing) 4th March 21, £20 Hardback, Photography by Ali Allen