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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  • deinin

    I made beet brownies once – they were pretty yummy but totally overshadowed by the parsnip muffins I made at the same time. Like you said, the beets give a wonderful earthy, fruity feel to the chocolate. I’m definitely going to try these!

  • Alanna

    Aha. The ganache completely has my attention! The color’s gorgeous bt I’m imagining the taste and beginning, whoops! to drool …

  • Laurie

    These look wonderful! I bet the beets really add something to them! I have tried many things with vegetables hidden as an ingredient and have always loved how they turned out, will have to give beets and chocolate a try now!

  • rachel

    YUM! I’ve been wanting to make a beet cake.

  • Yvo

    Wow, though I’m no fan of beets, the colors and your description and absolutely wonderful pictures seriously make me want to try these. Yum!

  • Dolores

    I love the idea of using the ganache to fill cupcakes. Wonderfully colorful — and seasonally appropriate indeed!

  • Susan at Food “Blogga”

    You don’t have to convince me to try one of these cupcakes. The vibrant color combination is so enticing!

  • e

    wow! fresh beetroots are in season here (australia) at the moment so i wil definitely get some from my grover — my dad — and try this! my mum has made cake with small cubes of beeetroot and when mixed thr the cake everyone thinks they are cherries!

  • cam

    As a beet tolerater at best, the cupcakes with the dark chocolate ganache were damn good – if I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have known….

  • Bekah

    Oh.My.Goodness. I must try this. It sounds amazing! And, I must add, it looks amazing. Thanks for posting this recipe. I love adventures in the kitchen.

  • Kristen

    That looks almost too good to eat! I love those photos…every single one of them!

  • Sherpa

    Question: Could I freely substitute all-purpose flour for the whole wheat pastry flour?

  • L

    Deinin – hmm. perhaps a way I might actually like parsnips!

    Alanna – Thanks. Yes, the ganache was my favorite part too!

    Laurie – I am definitely a fan, although I also love beets.

    Rachel – Thanks!

    Yvo – I think even if you don’t like beets, the cake part is fantastic. The beet frosting though still had a pretty strong beet flavor, so if you don’t like them best to go with a milder icing (or the ganache)

    Dolores – Thanks!

    Thanks Susan!

    e – how nice to have a beet grower in the family!!! I tried last year in my garden, but had no luck. Maybe I’ll give it a shot next year.

    Bekah – Thanks!

    Thank you Kristen!

    Sherpa – You definitely could substitute flours. The origial recipe called for all purpose, so the whole wheat pastry flour was actually the substitution. The crumb of the cake might be slightly different, but I’m sure delicious.


  • Y

    Like Coca-Cola in chocolate cakes, I don’t usually see the point of such additions, but the colour of that beetroot icing is fantastic!

  • Rachel

    This recipe sounds a lot like Red Velvet cake, which is a Southern classic combining chocolate and beets (and sometimes red food colouring). I’ve been meaning to try it, and your post and pictures clinch it – thanks!

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  • Mallika

    Your blog is absolutely beautiful. I love the colours and the photography. My images are taken by my husband, usually just before dinner, under duress!

  • Shaun

    I’m so far behind in catching up with the goings-on at your blog – sorry. I have to say, though, that this is one of the most tantalizing of the sweet recipes that I have come across lately. It isn’t winter in New Zealand yet (where I now live), but this gives me something to look forward too. I like that you are aware too that sometimes cookery book authors dish out too much sugar and butter, especially for icing. I will definitely make this come winter. Thanks for taking the plunge and turning me on to it.

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  • Tracy

    Just made these cupcakes today – they came out great! They are very moist, and have a wonderful color. You cannot taste the beets. I frosted them with a light, fluffy coconut frosting and topped with either coconut flakes or chocolate shavings.

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  • Marisapw

    Are you sure about the quantities posted? I made this cake this past weekend. The top layer completely dissolved when I turned it out of the pan. The second layer I left until completely cooled before turning it out. It held together, but just barely. When I was composing the ingredients, I was amazed at the amount of granulated sugar (I suppose to offset the cocoa and hide the beets). Or perhaps it needed a bit more flour to offset the sugar and the moisture in the beets?

  • Michele @ FoodieView

    Be still my heart is right! This recipe definitely has my heart “beeting” fast :)… We are so excited to have it (and the lovely photo) included in this week’s FoodieView Recipe Roundup! Thank you, Lara!

  • resoneb

    you spelled artisanal wrong…

  • Montpelier cook

    I just made this — the cake seems delicious (have only eaten the crumbs and what was stuck to the pan so far). I used a 10″ springform pan and it took about 90-100 minutes to cook at 325 degrees.

    But the ganache quantities confused me — they seem way too small. I tripled the recipe and still only have just enough to fill the cake, not really to cover it, so I’ll sandwich it in the middle of the cake and put a regular chocolate icing over the top. Wasn’t quite sure what the problem was?