SWEET: Moist Chocolate Beet Cake
MAIN INGREDIENT: Beets, Chocolate
GREAT FOR: Everyday Baking
It’s no secret that I’ve got a sweet tooth. That title may even be an understatement. Legend has it that my parents made their best attempt to limit my sugar intake when I was little. I don’t hold this against them—they were first-time parents, just trying to be responsible or something. And it was the eighties. Then…my cuteness finally got the best of them. It was a hot summer day when my dad succumbed to my big brown eyes and gave me a lick of his ice cream cone (chocolate, knowing my dad). I subsequently gave my parents a good long stare. Where in the world had they been hiding this deliciousness?! The rest is history.
But I don’t just like to eat sweet things, I like to make them too, and through the years my sweet tooth transformed into passion for baking. While I have a soft spot for killer chocolate chip cookies and good old apple pie, I’m always looking to “spread my culinary wings” and expand my palate. So when I saw this recipe for a chocolate cake with beets in it I was intrigued. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of beets on their own. But when I thought about their luscious texture and bright color, chocolate didn’t seem like such a far-off mate.
I made this cake twice over the holidays, once for Thanksgiving and once for Christmas, and I delighted in repeating “Yes chocolate beet cake,” “Yes beet as in the vegetable.” Skeptical dinner guests were pleasantly surprised with the cake’s distinct chocolate-y flavor and subtle sweetness—but not too subtle: my sweet tooth is definitely satisfied after a slice.
Juliana Barton is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, who avoided the dining hall by playing lunch lady in her own kitchen. She’s currently looking for another strange but delicious chocolate-vegetable combo. Read more…
Moist Chocolate Beet Cake
Barely adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater
I made this cake in the comfort of my parents kitchen, with all of their equipment. But it is definitely possible to make in a small college kitchen, just takes a little planning! This cake is best served the day after its baked. The original recipes calls for a crème fraiche and poppy seed topping. I topped with orange zest and powdered sugar, which lent a nice brightness. I also served with slightly sweet fresh whipped cream and ice cream to great success.
2 beets (to yield a scant 1 cup mashed)
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup hot espresso or strong coffee
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
5 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
whipped cream or ice cream for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8-inch spring-form cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water in a small-medium sized saucepan. Depending on their size, they will be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife within 30 to 40 minutes. Small, younger ones may take slightly less time. Drain them and let them cool under running water. Then cut off their stems and roots, and peel them (wear gloves if you don’t want to die your palms red). Process the beets in a blender or food processor until they become a coarse puree. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can mash them with a fork, just be careful of the vibrant beet juice!
Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour in hot espresso/coffee and stir once. Add the cubes of butter and push them down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and let them soften.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa in a small bowl. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together in a third bowl.
Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks so they blend evenly into the mixture. Fold in the beets.
Using an electric mixer or your very strong arm, beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Fold the beaten egg whites and sugar carefully into the chocolate mixture. Finally, gently fold in the flour and cococa.
Transfer to the cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325°F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will set and feel spongy, while the inner part should still wobble a little when the pan is gently shaken.
Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan. Right before serving, zest orange onto the top of cake and sift on powdered sugar. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.