Spiced Apple and Parsnip: A cake a cut above the rest by Anthony O'Toole

A good workman never blames his tools. That’s usually because a good workman only uses good tools. Irish chef, Anthony O’Toole, is one such craftsman. Found in the kitchen, rather than the workshop, he is committed to the importance of simple, carefully chosen pieces when he’s cooking. Ones that effortlessly combine form and function, are elegant yet utilitarian and guaranteed to work. He’s a devoted supporter of our Spear Pestle and Mortar and has shared with us his secret to creating the perfect mixed spice blend and his favourite recipe in which to use it.

 “When we think of a mortar and pestle, baking never really springs to mind. We tend to use shop-bought ground spices instead of grinding spices ourselves. For many bakers, freshly ground spices can bring a cake to the next level, creating a complete difference in taste and texture. Whole spices and seeds, stored properly, last longer than ground spices and I like to make up only small amounts of spice blends at a time, storing them in an airtight jars in a dark, cool cupboard. I prefer to buy my spices from Asian stores, specialty food stores or a spice merchant because they tend to have a high turnover of spices so they are always fresh. My rule is, buy ‘little and often’, compared to having spices at the back of your cupboard that you will never use.

This spice mix is a fragrant reminder of Christmas. ‘Mixed spice’ or ‘pudding spice’ as some people call it is one of my favourite spice blends. We think to only use it at Christmas time to make our festive bakes but I use it throughout the year in biscuits, cakes, and ice creams, with roasted fruits, and even in some savoury dishes as well.

When making any spice blends, I like to weigh my spices as it delivers consistency. A teaspoon measure can vary quite significantly from baker to baker.

  • Allspice berries, 10 grams
  • Cloves, 5 grams
  • Coriander seeds, 5 grams
  • Mace blades, 5 grams
  • Ginger powder, 5 grams
  • Nutmeg, freshly grated, 5 grams
  • Cassia bark, freshly grounded, 5 grams

Place all the spices into the mortar and very slowly grind with the pestle until they form a powder. It will take some time to grind, about 2-3 minutes, so turn on your favourite tunes. There will always be a few spices that will not grind down, so I sieve out these pieces before storing in a jar. Below, Anthony shares with us the perfect recipe in which to use this spice blend. 

with a maple syrup, mascarpone and hazelnut topping

Makes 1 x 900g / 2lb loaf

For the cake

Soft brown sugar, 150 grams

Sunflower oil, 150 ml

Free range or organic eggs, 3 medium size

Vanilla extract, 5 grams

Plain flour, 125 grams

Baking powder, 10 grams

Ground almonds, 50 grams

Mixed spice, 10 grams

Sea salt, crushed, 2 grams (pinch)

Parsnips, peeled and coarsely grated, 200 grams (weight when peeled)

Eating apple, peeled, cored and coarsely grated, 100 grams

Hazelnuts, roughly chopped, 75 grams

Sultanas, roughly chopped, 50 grams

For the topping

Mascarpone, 250 grams

Maple syrup, 30 ml

Hazelnuts, roughly chopped, 20 grams

Maple syrup, 10 ml – for drizzle

Baking instructions

Preheat your oven to 170°C/Fan 150°C/Gas 3. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment paper.
Into a large mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract together and whisk until light in colour for roughly 1 minute. Use your electric mixer if you have one.
Fold in the plain flour, baking powder, ground almonds, mixed spice, and sea salt.
Then, fold in the grated parsnips, apples, hazelnuts and sultanas.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Use a plastic spatula to make sure you get all the mixture in.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool completely before removing from the loaf tin, as the cake will be very moist and might break.
To make the icing, beat together the mascarpone and maple syrup until combined.
Using a small spatula or knife, spread the mascarpone evenly on top of the cake making ripples so the hazelnuts and more maple syrup will have groves to stay on top. Sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts and lastly, drizzle over the extra maple syrup.


I love to eat this the day after baking as the spices mellow and the flavours develop.

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