Be Still My Beeting Heart: SHF #28

“You put what in the chocolate cake???!!!”

There are those of you out there that can’t stand beets, and those of you who love them. Even those who are passionate about beets may find this recipe a bit, well, freakish. Beets. In Chocolate Cake. But one bite, and I think you will quickly change your mind. The sugars in beets pair exceptionally well with chocolate, bring out the fruity and spicy qualities like nothing else. In fact, I learned when I visited Theo Chocolates last fall that they in fact use beet sugar in their chocolates for this very reason. And, if you’ve tried Theo chocolates, you’ll know there is something to it. The chocolate completely softens and complements the strong earthiness of the beets. And the beets keep the cake amazingly moist.

As Valentines and SHF were quickly approaching, I knew I’d be making something special this week, and I new I had found it when I stumbled upon the Beet Mash Chocolate Cake with Beet Frosting in Dave Lieberman’s Dave’s Dinners. The colors alone were enough to seduce me… brilliant pink frosting and dark maroon-brown cake.

I received the cookbook from the publisher to review. Honestly, it’s not a cookbook I would have gone out and purchased on my own. While the photography inside is quite beautiful, it doesn’t give off that artinsal air that typically draws me to cookbooks. And, in fact, it just sat there for sometime before I even picked it up to flip through. Once I did though, I was impressed at the creativity of the recipes, and I’ll certainly be giving more of them a try. Particularly after making and devouring my beet chocolate cake. As good as I thought it might be (I wasn’t completely convinced that the flavors would work, but intrigued enough to give it a shot), the cake was even better. It’s one of those that you bite into, and then have to close your eyes and just indulge in it’s deliciousness and complexity.

I did have a few issues with the recipe. One due to an error in the book… the ingredient list called for vegetable oil, but the directions left out adding it. I assume it should have been added in with the butter and sugar, but I ended up just leaving it out and not regretting it at all. Also, the measurements for the beets were tricky. The cake calls for one pound of beets, but who knows what that ends up being after they are cooked and trimmed. I decided about two cups was about right for the rest of the quantities given. Also, in the icing, it called for one small beet… is a small beet a baby beet? Or just a small, normal sized beet? I just decided to use a little less than a 1/4 cup of puree, which seemed fine. I also used considerably less powdered sugar than the recipe called for. Finally, I didn’t use a budnt pan, but made cupcakes and a small round cake. So my cooking times varied considerably.

I quite liked the beet icing, but I also wanted to mix it up a bit, so I decided that a beet-infused dark chocolate ganache would be quite nice too. Oh, my. I would have sworn that I had added cardamom and cinnamon to the mixture… it was heavenly, and I’m sure my next truffles will include beet. You can top the cupcakes with the ganache, or maybe even better, use it as filling.

I am sure that not everyone will be seduced by this recipe, as I was. So, perhaps, for a Sugar High Friday whose theme is Sweet Seduction, it is an odd choice. But, perhaps that is a key to seduction. We are seduced by something different, something outside of the ordinary, something surprising. We push past our ordinary boundaries to try something new, and indulge in its novelty and perhaps, if we are lucky, find more than we expected.

Happy Valentines everyone, and a special thanks to Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict for hosting such a great SHF theme!

Beet Mash Chocolate Cake with Beet Frosting and Dark Chocolate Beet Ganache
(adapted from Dave’s Dinners page 195)

2 cups beet puree (about 3 large beets)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

To make the beet puree, you can boil the beets for about an hour… or, do what I did and peel/trim them and bake them in foil with a little dab of butter for about an hour. I didn’t want to loose any of the beet goodness into boiling water, and I’m quite glad I stuck with this approach. However, if you are concerned about the cake being “too beety” feel free to boil them. Once the beets are soft and cooled, mash them with a potato masher or a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs and water, and mix until smooth.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together into a bowl, and then stir in the salt. Then, slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture. When it is smooth, fold in the beet puree.

Scoop the batter into a prepared baking pan. You’ll have to adjust your baking times for the size of your pan. For a small, 4-inch round, bake for about 30 minutes. Cupcakes are about 20-25 minutes. The Budnt cake from the original recipe called for 70 minutes. I recommend checking fairly frequently, and using the tooth-pick test to ensure the cake is set once the top starts firming up. Don’t over cook! You want the cake light but still moist.

Cool the cake on a wire rack before icing.

For the Icing

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup beet puree
1/2 lb confectioners’ sugar (or to taste)

Melt one stick of butter in a sauce pan with the beet puree. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then run the mixture through a fine sieve.

Cream the other stick of butter, and then add the butter/beet mix. Beat until it is fully combined. Then, gradually add the icing sugar until it thickens and is smooth.

To make the ganache
1/8 cup heavy cream
2 T Beet Puree
1 oz dark chocolate (~70% cacao)

In a heavy bottom pan, heat the cream and beet puree on medium heat, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat just before it boils. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Strain into a small cup to remove any beet pulp. Set aside.

Heat water to about 150F and place in a metal bowl, about 1/2 way up. Place another, smaller, metal bowl on top to act as a double boiler. Check the temperature… you should be able to touch the bottom of the top metal bowl. If it’s too hot to touch, add some cold water to the bottom bowl. You want the top bowl to be about 120F when you add the chocolate.

Coursely chop the chocolate and add to the top metal bowl. Set the other chocolate aside for the coating. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it’s completely melted. Remove it from the heat, and slowly pour in the cream mixture, and whisk until it’s smooth and you can see the whisk lines in the chocolate. Don’t over stir! Spoon into a small cup, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Once cooled, the ganache can be spread over or piped on like icing, or used to fill the cupcakes.

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