Sometimes life happens and it isn’t very nice. Other times it happens and it’s amazing- most of the time it’s that, but sometimes it sucks. I always try to find anything that could be positive about a situation that is, in all appearances, very un-positive (Broken down on the side of the road? That’ll give you plenty of time to admire the countryside without the distractions of driving. Lose something very important? Your searching skills are certainly going to be a lot sharper after this. You get the idea. And when it is just a truly frustrating, sucky situation… well, at least you’ll make sure it never happens again.), but sometimes there is just nothing. Even knowing you will never do anything so stupid or unthinking again gives little in the way of reassurance or positive vibes at these times. These scary, stressful, lonely times.
Or, that’s the way it seems. Actually these shitty, nothing-good-about-them situations do leave you with a little something positive. They really show you who is there, gunning for you, all the time. Those people who will support you, no questions asked, no explanation needed, and always with a comment to lighten the load to go along with their unconditional support. Your champions.
When bad things happen the consequences may be unbearable, the situation horrible, the outlook very bleak indeed… but if you are lucky enough to have people (or person) in your life that love you no matter what, this is the time that you will really feel that love. You will be thankful all over again for what you may have allowed yourself to take for granted when your situation was sunnier. You will be reminded of the power of these people that love you, that you love.
When there is shit flying all around, these people will be there with really huge umbrellas, smiles on their faces, ready to rush you to a happier place. And surely a reminder of that is worth a bit of shit?
And, of course, after these champions of yours have shepherded you back into good times, you will be wanting to thank them. With… cake? Yes, of course with cake, do you know me at all? So everything is good again and you’re in the kitchen, flour on the bench, scales at the ready. You’ll probably still be feeling a little shaky, maybe not up to anything crazy, craving some simple comfort. But you’ll be wanting to show your heroes how amazing they have been, you’ll want a cake that is special enough for that.
May I humbly present to you this parsnip and rosemary cake? It’s earthy and savoury-sweet, with a creamy citrus filing and a light and crackly meringue roof. It looks very pretty adorned with fresh garden bits, it is comforting, delicious and just a little bit fancy. It’s the perfect way to say thanks. It’s also perfect for any other day too. Parsnips are piled high at the farmer’s market now so fill your basket and then bake this cake.
And if you’re deep in a shitty situation, remember it isn’t forever. And remember your champions. They’ll be there for you, whenever you ask.
rosemary and parsnip cake
Very lightly adapted from Bourke Street Bakery‘s carrot cake. Makes a 20cm, 2 layer cake. Follow the method in the order listed below- it’s important, there’s meringue involved. And work fast!
Preheat your oven to 200c. Grease a 20cm round cake and line the base and sides with baking paper, ensuring it rises 2cm above the tin.
Sift the flour, spices, powders and salt together twice, to ensure it is evenly mixed.
Rub the chopped rosemary into the sugar for the egg yolks until the sugar is fragrant with rosemary.
Put the egg whites into the very clean bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high until soft peaks begin to form. Slowly pour in the sugar for the whites, the mixer still running, and beat until the meringue reaches soft peak.
In another bowl that fits the mixer, combine the egg, yolk and rosemary sugar and beat on high for 3-4 minutes until doubled in size and quite airy. Keep the mixer running and slowly stream in the oil, being careful not to deflate or split the mixture.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the sifted flour, mixing as little as possible until just combined. Fold in the parsnips and almonds. Quickly and very gently fold in the meringue, don’t worry about mixing it completely- you’re going for a batter streaked with white meringue.
Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly, drop the temp to 180c after the first 30 minutes.
To make the filling beat the icing sugar and butter until pale and smooth. Add the cream cheese spoonfuls at a time, ensuring the mixture is combined before adding more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. When the cream cheese is incorporated, add the cream and lemon zest and mix just until smooth- if you overmix the filling may curdle and separate. Depending on the cream cheese you use, you may need a little more cream. You want the filling to be spreadable but not runny at all.
When the cake is cooked and cooled cut it in half horizontally and spread the cream cheese over the bottom half. Sprinkle the chopped rosemary over and sandwich the other half of the cake on top. Sift the icing sugar all over and decorate with whatever flowers you like best, and perhaps some fresh rosemary.
for the cake:
70g toasted almonds
150g SR flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp bicarb soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
55g (about 2) egg whites
60g castor sugar for egg whites
1 egg yolk
160g castor sugar for egg yolks
3 sprigs rosemary, very finely chopped
170ml light olive oil
125g parsnips, grated
for the filling:
20g icing sugar
20g butter, softened
145g cream cheese
40g whipping cream
zest of 1 lemon
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped