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Now, if carrots are humble, then parsnips are surely among the poorest peasants in the entire Duchy of Vegetables. Poor Monsieur Parsnip! He doesn’t even have the happy orange color that brightens the carrot.
But when cooked, parsnips have a flavor and consistency that reminds me of the sweetest roast chestnuts. Grating them gives the cake the mouthfeel of shredded coconut. Add maple syrup for earthy sweetness and aromatic spices, and you have a lovely cake that has one other special quality; if you ask the people around your table what is in it, no one will ever be able to guess.
Courtesy of "Sweet Magic" by Michel Richard. Reprinted courtesy of Ecco: HarperCollins Publishers.2011.
|2 cups almond meal (or very finely ground almonds)* Freeze the almonds before grinding them||2 eggs|
|3/4 cup all-purpose flour||3 tsp fresh ginger, grated|
|1 tsp baking soda||2 cups parsnips, peeled and finely grated (about 6 medium)|
|2 tsp ground cinnamon||1/2 cup toasted pecans|
|1/4 tsp fine sea salt||1 cup maple syrup (for maple meringue frosting)|
|1 cup maple syrup||4 egg whites (for maple meringue frosting)|
|8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted||2 tbsp sugar (for maple meringue frosting)|
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Butter the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan, line it with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit, then butter and flour the paper and the sides of the pan.
To make the cake, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the maple syrup, butter, and eggs on medium speed until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the dry mixture, 1 cup at a time, until just combined. Stir in the ginger and parsnips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Arrange the pecans in a decorative pattern on top of the cake. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the frosting: Pour the maple syrup into a medium saucepan. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set the maple syrup over medium heat and, using a candy thermometer, monitor its temperature. When it reaches 230 degrees, start to whip the eggs on high speed. After about 4 minutes, add the sugar to the egg whites. Once the maple syrup reaches 252 degrees, pour it into the whites in a slow, steady stream as close to the side of the bowl as possible to avoid splattering. Continue mixing on medium speed until the bottom of the mixing bowl is cool to the touch, about 15 minutes.
Loosen the sides of the cake with a knife and remove it from the pan. Let it cool completely on a rack. Serve the cake dolloped with the maple meringue.