The typical edible antidote to a bad mood is something indulgent, as sweet as possible, inevitably chocolatey. It is a reactive pick-me-up after a long day or a stressful week. But I find, for those days that feel really bleak, perhaps when you are under the weather (but not so unwell to have lost your appetite), baking something gentle, undemanding, and rather more wholesome than the obvious fudge cake, is a better remedy. I go for something that doesn’t even require a mixer – just a bowl and spoon. A near enough one-bowl recipe that comes together quickly with minimal mess, but still it doesn’t really matter if you take your time.
This is based on a carrot cake recipe, but the sugar reduced and replaced with dates allowed to gently plump up in warm milk and a spoonful of treacle. I used unsweetened almond milk, because I had it in the fridge and took the chance to make this dairy-free just because I could, but any milk will work. Parsnips take the place of wetter carrots, so it is slightly denser but still pleasingly moist. It is a less fancy variant of my masala chai parsnip cake recipe.
I used wholemeal flour for nuttiness and the warm hit of cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Baking this was a soothing exercise in mindfulness and restoration. I toyed with the idea of glazing the top, but it seemed absurd once I took a bite and appreciated the cake’s wholesome simplicity. A large mug of tea is all that is required.
parsnip & date cake
150g dried pitted dates, roughly chopped
1 tbsp black treacle
75ml olive oil
60g soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
220g grated parsnips (equivalent to one large parsnip when I made this).
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Lightly grease a 23cm springform cake tin, line the base and flour the sides.
Put the dates, milk and treacle in a saucepan and heat gently until the treacle is dissolved and the dates soften and swell. Take off the heat and leave aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until foamy.
Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture before adding the date mixture (including all the treacley milk) and the parsnips. Fold together until just combined.
Pour into the tin and bake for around 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before removing onto a cooling rack.