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Low Sugar Gluten-Free Parsnip Cupcakes: Perfect for a First Birthday!

boy reaching for cupcake

My baby just turned one (sniffle, sniffle)! This is the fourth time we’ve celebrated a first birthday in our family…and it never gets easier. Something about that transition from baby to toddler is so hard for Mama!

I think this one is especially hard, knowing it is our last time. I love watching my kids grow and mature. But there is nothing quite like snuggling a little one.

Over the years I’ve baby-stepped my way to a healthier diet. My oldest had a pink cake (yes, with food dyes) made with white flour, trans fat frosting, lots of sugar…the works. By the time my third came along we just went for simple fruit and veggie popsicles (she is not a fan of sweets).

As my youngest son’s birthday approached I knew I wanted to make his cake simple, allergen-free, and low in sweetener. Not an easy combination. But that was my goal.

We have five out of six birthdays within a two-month span. My little guy celebrated just six days after big sister and two weeks before big brother. Now you can see why I needed something very easy!! April and May bring cake mania to my kitchen. But I was determined to give him a great first birthday cake.

parsnip applesauce cupcakes

What Does a Parsnip Taste Like?

Cake has to have flavor. So I turned to the foods that are naturally sweet – fruits and vegetables! We’ve been eating a lot of parsnips lately. And they are very sweet. Plus my son likes them. So we went with first birthday parsnip cupcakes. And he loved them!

If you’ve never eaten a parsnip, you should try one. Parsnips are sort of like carrots, but they are white, sweeter, and they get softer when cooked. HERE is a post with all of the details about parsnips if they are new to you and you’re curious.

Our favorite way to eat them is roasted. My four-year-old could eat the whole sheet pan! That is always the first food gone off her plate. Then again my seven-year-old detests them. He has a hard time with new foods in general.

one-year-old eating parsnip cupcakes

Parsnips also make a great mashed potato substitute. I actually prefer pureed parsnips over potatoes. My one-year-old does too.

What is Parsnip Good For?

In my humble opinion, I think parsnips make a great cake! Pureed parsnip adds both sweetness and moisture to these gluten-free, dairy-free cupcakes.

I don’t really trust my palate these days. I’m so used to eating odd foods. So I let my kids give the verdict on flavor.

All four kids had no problem whatsoever polishing off the whole batch of cupcakes. Even my parsnip hater. He said he could taste a hint of parsnip. But not enough to prevent him from eating the cupcakes. That is saying a lot considering the face he makes when I encourage him to try a piece of parsnip at dinner.

The other benefit of using parsnips in cake is the color. They are white, so they don’t make the cupcakes look strange. That is always a bonus when feeding kids.

Gluten-Free Parsnip Cake

Parsnip birthday cupcakes

In addition to parsnips I added a little applesauce to give the cupcakes a natural sweetness. Aside from that there are only two tablespoons of honey in the whole batter.

Not only are the cupcakes low in sugar, they are free of all of the major allergens. We deal with a lot of food allergies and sensitivities. So most of my baking is everything free.

Gelatin (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) and psyllium husk help bind the cupcakes in place of eggs. I use rice milk as the liquid, but you can use any milk your family tolerates.

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Low Sugar Gluten-Free Parsnip Cupcakes

  • Author: Mary Voogt (Contributing Writer)
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 15 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


A low sugar and allergen free first birthday cupcake made with parsnips and applesauce.



ship kroger


  1. Peel, chop and simmer 2 medium parsnips in a small amount of water until tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Puree with immersion blender. Set aside.
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake wrappers.
  4. In a small bowl combine the gelatin and 1/4 cup rice milk or water. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl combine the flour, psyllium husk, salt (Use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off of your first purchase), baking soda and cream of tartar. Mix to blend.
  6. Add 1/2 cup parsnip puree, applesauce, oil, honey, vanilla, and 1/2 cup rice milk. Beat to combine well.
  7. Add the hot water to the gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add this mixture to the batter and beat until combined.
  8. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups, about 3/4 full.
  9. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
  10. Cool completely before frosting.


The cupcakes can be made in advance and frozen for up to six months.

The parsnip puree can be made up to three days in advance. There may be extra puree. Serve the extra as a vegetable side or in your favorite soup.

Use sunbutter or ghee mixed with a little honey for a simple frosting.

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The Easiest Frosting for Cupcakes

The cake was the easy part. But how do you frost a cupcake that is low sugar and free of allergens? I had to really put my thinking cap on for that one.

I realized I was making it too complicated. In the end, I made the easiest frosting ever. I actually made two versions.

Child with parsnip cupcake

The first is simply sunbutter. Straight out of the jar. You can use sweetened or unsweetened, whichever you prefer. My little one loves sunbutter. Plus it gives some healthy fat and protein with the starch of the cupcakes.

My second frosting is ghee mixed with a drizzle of honey. Yes, technically ghee is dairy. But since it has the protein removed many people that are dairy-free can still eat ghee. My son has been dairy free since birth. But he does tolerate a little ghee here and there.

He loved the ghee and honey mix! I loved that I could make it in about sixty seconds, and it was very easy to spread.

Two frostings. Two distinct flavors. Two minutes or less. That is my kind of baking.

Simple Cupcake Decorations

First birthday cupcakes

I know I could have left the cupcakes simple – just cake and frosting. But I love to decorate cakes (even if I don’t really have time these days).

My solution? Homemade gummies! I made grape, but any flavor will do. You can make them a softer set with less gelatin so they are easy for little ones to eat (I do about 1 cup grape juice to 2 tablespoons gelatin (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!)).

Use fun molds to make shapes or numbers. Then just stick them on the frosted cupcakes.

The grape gummy and sunbutter frosting combo was like a peanut butter and jelly cupcake! My older kids really liked those.

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Homemade Gummy Cake Decorations

  • Author: Mary Voogt (Contributing Writer)
  • Cook Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 5 minutes


Gelatin shapes, perfect for decorating cupcakes!



ship kroger


  1. In a small saucepan combine all of the ingredients. Whisk and let set one minute.
  2. Warm over medium heat, stirring with whisk until the gelatin dissolves and mixture is liquid (about 5 minutes).
  3. Pour into molds and refrigerate until firm.
  4. Remove from molds.

Low Sugar First Birthday CakeParsnip applesauce cupcake

My now one-year-old thoroughly enjoyed his parsnip cupcakes! I enjoyed giving him a fun treat that was also healthy. A win for everyone.

Fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, and no allergens. That is a great way to celebrate!

The recipe made fifteen cupcakes. I think they were gone in two days! My kids really liked them. And my husband didn’t even get to taste one!

If you are looking for a slightly unusual parsnip recipe that is totally tasty, these gluten-free parsnip cupcakes are just the thing.

Does your diet include parsnips regularly? Do you have any healthy parsnip recipes your family enjoys?
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

4 thoughts on “Low Sugar Gluten-Free Parsnip Cupcakes: Perfect for a First Birthday!”

  1. I haven’t tried parsnip cake, but I definitely would! I like parsnips, and I’ve had a lot of cakes made with vegetable that were delicious–carrot, zucchini, sweet potato, squash–the only one that didn’t work for me was beet, and I think that’s because I have trouble digesting beets; it tasted fine, but my stomach hurt afterward.

    My son requested pumpkin cornbread for his 3rd birthday “cake”! For his and his sister’s first birthdays, I made an applesauce cake with raisins from a cookbook recipe but cutting the sugar in half and substituting whole-wheat flour; it turns out fine.

  2. For those of us who can have eggs, would one be enough instead of psyllium or two?
    I just don’t feel like getting another odd ingredient. ? We occasionally get parsnips in our produce box and I’d like to do something besides add them to the broth pot.

    1. As long as you are using the gelatin I think 1 egg would be enough. When I first bought psyllium husk I wondered if I’d ever really use it. Now I use it in all of my gluten free baking! It really makes a difference in texture. I wish I would have tried it sooner.

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