chocolate beet cake
When I discovered beets in my CSA basket this week I figured I had two choices: toss them directly onto the compost heap or bake them into a cake.
I don’t like cake and I don’t like beets, so I’m not sure what made me think I would like a cake made out of beets. Possibly it was the assurance that “even confirmed beet-bashers will love this cake” in the introduction to the recipe or the fact that my foodie friend Katie mentioned that she’d tried it and liked it, but I suspect it was the chocolate. Of all the ingredients on this earth, chocolate seems the most likely candidate for transforming beets from a mouthful of musty dirt into something that people might actually want to eat.
People other than me, as it turns out. Because even though the puréed beets lend the cake a decadent moistness and a market-fresh sweetness not found in ordinary cakes, chocolate beet cake is still essentially chocolate cake, and I just can’t get excited about chocolate cake.
Chris, on the other hand, likes chocolate cake an awful lot, so much so that when this particular chocolate cake refused to vacate the warmth of its pan (because I’d followed the instructions rather than my own better judgment) he suggested we simply scoop it out with a spoon. Cooler heads — the sort more concerned with photographing a cake than with eating it — prevailed and the cake was salvaged. Sort of. I mean, look at that thing. It ain’t pretty.
But if we are to believe Chris — and he’s awfully reliable when it comes to things like chocolate cake — what it lacks in prettiness it more than makes up for in yumminess. We each ate a slice for dessert the other night and I’d have to agree: it’s pretty good. For cake.
I’m aware that that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, so consider this: when I left for work on Friday, work-from-home Chris was eating chocolate cake; when I returned fourteen hours later (after a day at work and a night out with the girls), less than a third of the cake remained and Chris was (ahem) eating chocolate cake. “That cake has beets in it, you know,” I revealed smugly. “No way,” scoffed Chris, taking another bite of chocolate beet cake.
And it was not until I’d shown him the recipe and he’d googled “chocolate beet cake” to confirm the existence of such an abomination that Chris believed me about the beets. “Why must you put vegetables where they don’t belong?” he groaned miserably. Then he frowned at the cake, shrugged in resignation, and cut himself another slice of cake. And not a small one, either.
Chocolate Beet Cake
from John Peterson’s Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables
3-4 medium beets
butter and flour for preparing the pan
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 c. mild-flavored vegetable oil
1¾ c. sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
1½ c. all purpose flour
½ c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
powdered sugar for dusting
1) Scrub the beets with a vegetable brush and trim roots. Trim stems and save greens for some other use. (I’m not sure what other use, but I’m working on it.) Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beets. Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until the beets are tender and the skins slip off easily. Let the beets cool a little, the slip the skins off under cold water and then purée the beets in a blender or food processor. You should have about 2 cups of beet purée.
2) Preheat your oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a Bundt pan and set it aside. (This is where I went wrong — I followed the original instructions to coat the pan with oil (!) and did not abandon ship even when I noted that the oil was pooling in the bottom of the pan rather than coating the whole interior of the pan. Use butter; it sticks.)
3) Fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water and bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set a heat-proof bowl over the simmering water. Place the chocolate and ¼ c. of the oil in the bowl and heat, stirring frequently, just until the chocolate melts.
4) Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly beat in the remaining oil, the chocolate mixture, beets, and vanilla.
5) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Gently stir the flour mixture into the egg and chocolate mixture until just combined.
6) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool completely before sprinkling with powdered sugar to serve.