Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nigel Slater's Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Beets are controversial. Like cilantro, people seem to either love them or hate them. Me- I'm in the love 'em camp.

I'd see beet cake recipes pop up every now and then and kept meaning to try making one. I adored this gorgeous video on making a beet cake from the couple behind Tiger In a Jar but even with such an amazing source of inspiration, I never got around to it last year.

I vowed this would be the year- The Year of the Beet Cake. So when I picked up Nigel Slater's Tender, Volume 1, and saw his recipe for chocolate beetroot cake, I took it as a sign. There was no question that, amongst a book filled with many recipes that I've bookmarked, the beet cake would be my first attempt.

I'd wax on about my love of Nigel Slater's books but I won't bore you with a swoon session, other than to say, if you haven't done so already, do add Tender, Volume 1 (all about veggies) and Volume 2 (all about fruits) to your cookbook library. Hell, even if you don't cook, buy these books as food for the soul. The photography is lovely and Mr. Slater is such a charming writer that his descriptions of fruits and vegetables and their varied and myriad uses are flat out delightful.

O.K. I've gushed enough and I promised I wasn't going to.
flyleaf on Tender, Volume 1

Now I realize some of you may look askance at a cake recipe that calls for the inclusion of boiled beet purée. I even thought about mounting an argument on the merits of chocolate beet cake to convince such skeptics. I planned to point out that the crumb of this cake not only looks like velvet but also feels like it on the tongue, how moist and chocolately this cake is, with a hint of sweetly tart beet flavor peeking through and intriguing your taste buds. I could have continued along those lines but you know what? If you don't take a chance on making this cake to see what you're missing, so be it. Beets just aren't for everyone and perhaps this cake isn't either. I've made my peace with it.

Also, that just means there's more beet cake for me. And I like it that way.
Nigel Slater’s Chocolate Beetroot Cake
adapted from Tender, Volume 1

Since Mr. Slater is British, the ingredient quantities for his recipe are in metric. If you haven't done so already, purchase a kitchen scale- you'll find weighing ingredients to be much easier than using measuring cups. Most scales provide weights in both metric and American. I'm really pleased to see more cookbook authors including ingredient quantities by weight and hope the trend continues. The recipe as written called for topping cake slices with crème fraîche and poppy seeds. I decided to sprinkle confectioner's sugar on top à la Tiger in a Jar's approach. Joy the Baker topped her cake with beet and cream cheese frosting- I think I might give that a whirl next time I make this cake. And there will definitely be a next time....

250 grams beetroot (approximately 3 medium sized beets)
200 grams good quality dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids)
4 tablespoons hot espresso (or coffee)
200 grams butter, cut into small pieces
135 grams plain flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons high quality cocoa powder
5 eggs
190 grams light brown sugar
Confectioner’s sugar, lightly sifted over the top of the cake

1. Lightly butter an 8-inch (20cm) spring form pan and line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit (180º Celsius).
2. Boil the beets, whole and unpeeled, for 30 to 40 minutes until they feel tender when cut with a knife. Note that young beets may require less time so start checking early. Pour the boiled beets into a strainer and run cold water over them until they’re cool enough to handle. Slice off the stems and roots, peel, and purée in a food processor to a rough consistency.
3. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler set up i.e. a small bowl that can sit snugly over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir the chocolate as it melts. Toward the end when the chocolate is almost fully melted, pour in the espresso/coffee and stir just until combined. While still over the double boiler, add the butter pieces to the bowl and submerge with a spoon into the hot chocolate to allow the butter to soften.
4. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Crack and separate the eggs- put the whites in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir the yolks together in a small bowl.
5. Work quickly and carefully to take the bowl of chocolate off the heat and stir the butter into the melted chocolate. Set aside for a few minutes and then stir in the egg yolks until thoroughly incorporated into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the beets. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold in the sugar to make a meringue. Next fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture, being careful not to over mix. Last, fold in the sifted flour, baking powder, and cocoa.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and place on a baking sheet before putting in the oven. Immediately turn the oven temperature down to 330º Fahrenheit (160º Celsius). Bake for 40 minutes until the edges of the cake are slightly set but the middle of the cake is a little jiggly when gently poked with a finger.


  1. Oh my, this looks divine. Loved the video. I'll be stopping by the bookstore tomorrow to check out Nigel Slater’s cookbooks.

  2. Oooooh la la! This cake was meant for me, just sayin'. I'm a lover of the beet, and I've combined them with chocolate before, and will do so again. My God that video is hypnotic!

  3. Okay, Shelley, you have totally convinced me that I not only need to make this cake, but also I need to buy Nigel Slater's books. :) I must confess that I glide right past the beetroots in the market just like I have fennel bulbs. Now that I am won over by fennel, I fully expect the same thing to happen with beetroot. I have seen a lot of beetroot recipes floating around blogs, but this is the first one that inspires me to try it. Your cake looks absolutely beautiful. I love the color!

    P.S. I have another confession to make - I have a scale, but hardly ever use it. I know, I know I must mend my ways and get it out of the closet where I stash all my baking supplies. :) Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement to use this piece of equipment that most of us tend to forget about.

  4. Love it! Can't wait to try this. Our friends who live in Dublin brought this book to me when they visited before it was available in the US--so it's one of my favorite, special books. The description of the cake's texture sounds divine.

  5. I love chocolate beetroot cake and my childs too

  6. I have been meaning to try this cake for a year. I saw last year in a cookbook and my first reaction was "yuck!". That was before I tried simple roasted beets. After I made cream of beet soup once, I could not believe how sweet they tasted.
    Looks really moist. I have to check that book out as well. I dont have any of the books you mentioned.

  7. Looks unbelievably moist. I must buy beets this week just so I can make this!