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Parsnip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Parsnip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting recipe
Lauren Salkeld
Cook Time:
25 mins
Prep Time:
25 mins
1 (9-inch) layer cake or 24 cupcakes

Chef notes

Parsnips are a severely underrated root vegetable that don’t get nearly as much love as vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and even beets — but this holiday season, we’re going to give the gift of a deliciously sweet cupcake recipe starring this vegetable, which hails from the Apiaceae family. An entire pound of parsnips (about 4 to 5), which have a sweet, slightly bitter flavor, are used in the batter for these cupcakes. If you’ve ever made carrot cake or zucchini bread before, the process for making these bite-sized beauties should be familiar to you. The parsnips are peeled, grated and folded into the batter just before baking. A team of ground allspice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are also added to the batter to bring warm, spiced notes to every bite. 

This holiday-ready cupcake recipe is perfect for sweet tooth-skeptics. It’s sweet, but not cloying, and it’s an unexpected twist on ever-popular carrot cake. 

While the cupcakes bake, make the cream cheese-based frosting. It’s made with equal parts of unsalted butter and cream cheese, plus confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. It’s a natural pairing for these cupcakes inspired by their orange-hued relative. Plus, the contrast of the snow white frosting against the spiced cupcakes feels seasonally appropriate for any holiday gathering

This recipe makes two dozen cupcakes or two 9-inch cakes; if you choose to bake two cakes, stack them with a generous smear of cream cheese in the middle for one epic layer cake. 

Swap Option: If you only have pumpkin pie spice in your pantry, you can use that in place of the four individual spices that are called for.

Technique Tip: Use a rubber spatula to fold the grated parsnips into the batter, rather than incorporating them with the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, to avoid overworking the cupcakes.



Parsnip cucpakes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 pound parsnips, trimmed, peeled and coarsely grated on a box grater (about 3 cups total)
Cream cheese frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar sifted
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Make the cupcakes:


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, combine the brown sugar and 1 egg. Beat on medium until smooth and incorporated. Add the remaining 3 eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until smooth and incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and paddle. With the mixer on low, add the oil in a thin steady stream. Continue beating until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches and use a rubber spatula to fold it into the batter. Using a spatula, fold in the grated parsnip.


Divide the batter between the cupcake tins and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes. Set the tins on a rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, combine the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Beat on medium, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until completely smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.