Chef Michel Richard is rightfully renowned for Citronelle, his Washington D.C. restaurant, where the refined (and often whimsical) French food has made him one of the country's top toques. The chef also possesses the uncanny gift for translating his culinary style onto the page. And his latest cookbook, Sweet Magic, is dedicated to our favorite food group: dessert. Inspired by carrot cake, this reinvention will alter your impression of the chronically overlooked parsnip. In the book, Richard provides a recipe for meringue frosting, but the parsnip's subtle sweetness, enhanced by maple syrup, makes the cake a standout all by itself.
Recipe adapted from Sweet Magic: Easy Recipes for Delectable Desserts, by Michel Richard (Harper Collins)
Yield: One 9-inch cake
2 cups almond meal or very finely ground almonds
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
6 medium parsnips, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
½ cup toasted pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 350° and position a rack in the center. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch-round cake pan and line it with a round of parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment paper and sides of the pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the almond meal with the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the maple syrup, butter and eggs. Beat at medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute, scraping the side of the bowl as needed. Add the reserved dry ingredients a cup at a time, mixing between each addition until just combined. When all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated, stir in the ginger and parsnips.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the pecans over the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes before unmolding. Let cool to room temperature, slice and serve.