Chocolate Beet Cake

For several months now I have been teaching a weekly cooking class to a great group of ladies who all want to learn to cook new things. We started off with homemade bread, and we have quickly moved into the more advanced world of pastry. Interestingly enough, I made this cake exactly one time while I was the Head Baker for a local restaurant, and one of the ladies in my class managed to get a piece of it (nearly a year before meeting me) and has been carrying a little torch for this cake ever since. After begging for the recipe enough times in class, I decided it was time to give it another whirl.

I was originally attracted to this recipe because 1) I was intrigued by the words “moist chocolate”, 2) It was designed by one of my favorite british cooking writers and a not-so-secret chef-crush, and 3) It has beets in it and I had a bunch I needed to use up in the restaurant kitchen. Because the original author is British, superfine sugar (which is called castor sugar and is readily available there) is called for, but elsewhere you can simply whiz regular sugar in a food processor for about ten seconds until it’s fine. Or, in this particular recipe (though its not always the case when superfine sugar is called for, such as with an angel food cake) you can just use regular granulated sugar. Food processor whizzed turbinado sugar, often called “raw sugar” in the US, would be a great substitution because it carries a nice molasses flavor which would go well with the earthiness of the beets and chocolate.

This cake is not overly sweet, which is good for those of you looking for more of a snack cake, rather than a towering, frosted dessert. Although the original recipe calls for chocolate that is 70% cacao solids, you can use one that is in the 50-60% range, depending on what’s available in your area. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar to provide a beautiful snowy finish and hide any cracking in the cake’s surface. This is great served with vanilla ice-cream or a vanilla frozen yogurt.

Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake

Eight to ten servings

Adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater

8 ounces (240 g) beets, unpeeled, rinsed and scrubbed free of dirt
7 ounces (200 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (70% cacao solids), chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) hot espresso, strong black coffee, or water
7 ounces (200 g) butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 cup (135 g) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (the darkest you can find, natural or Dutch-process)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
Powdered sugar to dust surface after baking.

  1. Butter an 8- or 8 1/2 inch (20 cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Boil the beets in salted water with the lid askew until they’re very tender when you stick a knife in them about 45 minutes. Drain then rinse the beets with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the peels, cut the beets into chunks, and grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse, yet cohesive, puree. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a cheese grater.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
  4. In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring as little as possible.
  5. Once it’s nearly all melted, turn off the heat (but leave the bowl over the warm water), pour in the hot espresso and stir it once. Then add the butter. Press the butter pieces into the chocolate and allow them to soften without stirring.
  6.  Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
  7. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter is melted. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir the egg yolks together and briskly stir them into the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the beets.
  8. In a stand mixer, or by hand, whip the egg whites until stiff. Gradually fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula, then fold them into the melted chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix.
  9. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.
  10. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and reduce the heat of the oven to 325ºF (160ºC), and bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the sides are just set but the center is still is just a bit wobbly. Do not overbake.
  11. Let cake cool completely, then remove it from the pan.
  12. Dust surface with powdered sugar, slice, serve, and enjoy


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