The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian cooking with a side helping of food politics

parsnip and orange cake with mascarpone cream cheese

It is a shocking fact that an estimated one billion people living on this planet are suffering from long-term malnourishment. But that statistic becomes truly shameful when set against the fact that here in the developed world we have an over-abundance of food and one billion people who are overweight or obese.

In a fair and logical world, the excess food in the developed world would be redistributed to alleviate poverty in poorer countries. But this not happening. Why not?

Well, the global food giants which now exert so much control over so much of our food supply have absolutely no interest in addressing this unbalance. Their primary goal is to maximise profits, and they can do that best by encouraging the wealthy developed nations to keep consuming, and preferably to over-consume.

Even though this grotesque over consumption has massive knock-on consequences for our health and for the cost of the health services needed to tackle diseases associated with excessive consumption, our governments seem very reluctant to rein in these food giants. Why not?

Perhaps the answer lies in the dark art of “lobbying”, which in many cases appears to amount to little more than bribery and corruption. The food giants spend many millions each year in political activities – promoting and protecting their products in the corridors of power and “sponsoring” individual politicians, an activity particularly prevalent in the USA. Having politicians on the payroll is an extremely effective way for a company to ensure its political interests are being protected, even where this may run counter to the true public interest.

Political lobbying by some of these global giants here in the UK, as reported in my last post, has led to the farcical situation where junk food manufacturers and genetically modified organism (GMO) apologists like McDonalds, Unilever and PepsiCo are now “helping” the UK coalition government to write its food policy.

You can safely bet that tackling inequalities in global food distribution, or coming up with effective measures to halt over consumption of junk food products will not figure very highly should any ensuing “policy” ever meet the light of day.

harvested parsnips

Time to put on the stripey apron.

This recipe uses the last of another winter-hardy vegetable harvested this morning from my allotment plot, the Circus Garden, the mighty parsnip.

As with carrots, the flavour and natural sweetness and moistness of parsnips lends itself very well to cake baking, as this recipe demonstrates.

parsnip and orange cake with mascarpone cream cheese


100 g parsnips, peeled and woody stems removed, finely grated
100 g organic self-raising flour
2 free range organic eggs
120 g light muscovado sugar
50 g shelled walnuts, chopped
50 g desiccated coconut
50 g raisins
90 ml groundnut oil
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg

for the mascarpone frosting

250 g mascarpone cheese
200 g cream cheese
75 g icing sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla essence

to decorate

finely grated zest of one orange


1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375 °F , gas mark 5).

2. In a food processor, whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Add the oil and combine until emulsified, followed by the flour, walnuts, desiccated coconut, grated parsnip, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix to combine thoroughly.

3. Spoon the mixture into a greased cake tin, using a spatula to level off the surface. Place in the preheated oven for around 30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown in colour and a skewer comes out clean when it is used to pierce the centre of the cake.

4. Leave the cake to cool in its tin for a few minutes before carefully turning it onto a wire rack.

5. While the cake is cooling, make the mascarpone and cream cheese mixture which will be used for the icing and filling. Whisk together the mascarpone, cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Put this mixture in the fridge to chill. When the cake has cooled to room temperature, carefully slice it laterally across the centre to make two disks. Use half of the mascarpone cream cheese frosting to sandwich the two halves together. Spread the remainder on top of the cake. Finally scatter the orange zest across the top.

Categories: sweet

Tags: , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. This Man is a Guru and the food WOW… McDonalds, watch out


  2. As a fellow allotment grower, I have recently discovered your blog and have found it very interesting reading your comments on food production, plus your food looks and sounds fab! Thank you for thought provoking comments and inspirational recipes.


    • Hi Ann

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It’s great to receive feedback (especially when it’s positive!) I imagine that like me you’ve spent some time on the allotment over this lovely weekend. This is a busy time of year for the home grower, but I really love it – so full of promise and hope as we till the soil and sow our seeds.

      Best wishes



  3. As you so rightly point out it’s the distribution of food that’s the key problem. At boarding school we were always told that we had to eat the food on our plate because there were little children starving in other countries. One day I said to the nun who was waiting for me to finish whatever vile food had been put in front of me and said to her with childish logic, ‘they can have the food then because I don’t want it…..’ That was it…. detention for me….. So it does feel a little strange for me to then move on to my next comment about the recipe which is to say that your recipe looks like a great alternative to carrot cake. And the photo is great!


    • Hi Alison, and thanks for your comments. My photography is getting there, incrementally, in no small part down to the excellent food photography workshop we both attended at the beginning of this month (seems like a lot longer ago to me).



  4. Very excited for this recipe because I “collect” sweet vegetable recipes and also because I can’t wait to explore all your writings on Food Politics. Check out my blog– we have a lot in common. So glad to have found you, Annie


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