“Now what would you be doing putting a perfectly good beetroot into a cake..?”
A good question from a man who loves his beetroot roasted. Why would you put vegetables into a cake?
I’m not a food scientist in any shape or form but having baked and eaten several courgette, carrot and green tomato cakes over the years, I’ve observed how moist they are, that you don’t need to add as much flour and that there’s no hint of the usual vegetable flavour in them. What better way of using up a glut of vegetables too! Most of us enjoy eating a moist sponge and once someone has been told they’ve just demolished a cake full of vegetables it might perhaps be enough to encourage them to try eating the real thing. It’s worth a try isn’t it?
Once grown and eaten, beetroot becomes a super food, jam-packed full of healthy vitamins. It’s easy to grow too – just pop the seeds directly into the soil about 2cm deep and three months later voilà! We usually bake the roots and steam the tops but now and again it’s nice to try something different and I’ve been really looking forward to baking a chocolate beetroot cake ever since I tried a slice last year.
Chocolate Beetroot Cake
After much searching, the recipe I finally settled on is one adapted from a Nigel Slater ‘Dish of the Day’. This isn’t a cake to be rushed. It’s not just a throw it all together in the food processor kind of cake, it needs some serious concentration to follow all the steps so unless you’re a multitasking domestic genius (which I’m not) this is a cake to take time and pleasure over.
Don’t attempt to start it if you’re in a hurry or likely to get distracted every few minutes. If you can spare the time and don’t mind the mountain of washing up, you’ll be glad you made the effort. And so will your willing cake tasters.
If you’re in the right zone, you’ll discover a pleasure from slowly folding the beetroot, egg yolks and whites together and watching the marblesque colours blend as they in turn are folded into the cocoa, chocolate, flour and butter.
The aromas that fill the kitchen as the cake is lifted out of the oven are mouth-watering and the velvety texture as the chocolate is drizzled over it… well you’ll just have to try it for yourself!
So here’s the recipe…
Ingredients for chocolate beetroot cake
200g (7oz) butter, preferably unsalted
250g (9oz) cooked beetroot* (takes 30 mins to an hour depending upon the size)
200g (7oz) cocoa solids 70% dark chocolate
4 tbsp strong hot drippy coffee
135g (5oz) plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder
5 free-range eggs
190g (6½oz) caster sugar
Ingredients for the topping
100g (3.5oz) cocoa solids 70% dark chocolate
2 tbsp (30ml) maple syrup
Grease a 20cm/8in cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
1. * Cook the beetroot by baking it whole on a foil lined tray in the oven for half an hour to an hour, depending upon the size of your beetroot. Remove the larger leaves before baking, leaving the stalks on the root (see picture above) or it will ‘bleed’.
2. Once cool enough to handle, peel the beetroot then blend in a food processor to a rough purée.
3. Break the chocolate into pieces in a largish bowl and place over a saucepan of hot water to melt. Don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Once the chocolate has melted pour in the hot coffee then break the butter into small pieces and gently stir into the warm chocolatey coffee mix. Once combined remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa together in a bowl and leave to one side.
5. Separate the eggs into two bowls.
6. Whisk the egg yolks until frothy then stir them into the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the beetroot.
7. Whisk the egg whites until still peaks form. Fold in the sugar.
8. Fold the sugar and egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour and cocoa mixture.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
10. Allow to cool in the tin then turn out onto a pretty plate.
Add the chocolate, cream and maple syrup to a saucepan and gently melt, stirring all the time. Once combined remove from the heat all allow to cool a little before pouring over the top of the cake.
Serve warm with custard or cream or allow to fully cool and savour with a cup of tea.
And The Family Verdict (in age order)
“Dark, rich, velvety chocolate cake with a slight nutty taste, not a hint of beetroot.”
“When are you making more?”
“Much nicer than most other cakes, completely different, softer, not dry. It’s gorgeous. Can’t taste the beetroot at all”
“Can I have more please Mum, I only had three pieces”
If you’re into beetroot and would like to find out more about this delicious root vegetable, take a look at this excellent resource from the Love Beetroot crowd and if you’re intrigued by adding vegetables to cake recipes, Dr How’s Science Wows did some series experimenting over on their blog with some interesting results.