11/6/11

Chocolate-Beet Cake

As anyone who cooks knows, there are moments in the kitchen when you are moving along gracefully, deftly in sync with the timing of the dish. Your garlic is chopped and ready to be added at a moment’s notice, your parsley has been washed and dried so all you need do is give it a quick chop, and so on. But then, there are those moments when your kitchen feels more like you’re playing Scattergories and the timer has just switched gears to that really unsettling engine-revving sound, which any Scattergories player knows is the signal that you better stop trying to be clever and just get those words on the page. (I hate that sound. It’s always startling no matter how many times you’ve played! And I’ve played a lot.) Well, the majority of making this cake was spent in this latter zone.
I had never worked with beets and was a bit shocked by their power in the pigment department. They turned the water I boiled them in a murky purple, my sink a bright magenta, and my hands a kind of orangey-red. My kitchen was such a mess from all the previous steps that by the time it came to purée them in a food processor, the countertop-space deemed it no longer an option. Instead, I mashed them with a fork, which sent off sparks of beet juice in all directions and hardly worked like mashing an avocado does. This step did, however, result in beautiful bursts of magenta throughout the cake that I didn’t mind at all.
Another hiccup was that we had no parchment paper to line the springform pan with. But some tip I’d read somewhere at some point about using the waxy paper that wraps around sticks of butter in place of parchment emerged from the shallow depths of my brain. And what do you know? It worked. And bonus, I knew I’d done my grandma proud.
Apart from the destruction of my kitchen’s cleanliness, this recipe was rather forgiving. As with the pumpkin in the pumpkin scones, I took another guess at exactly what 8 ounces of beet looked like and went with ½ cup of it mashed. With the chocolate too, I had to estimate as I was working from a bar that was 9.7 ounces. And while I’m doing all of this guesswork, I guess I should really invest in a kitchen scale, huh?

But then again, this cake was so delicious I kind of think the money would be better sent on more ingredients to make more recipes from this book as I’m just as obsessed with it as I was three weeks ago when I first bought it. Though, if I make this cake again, I would alter Mr. Slater’s recipe in the smallest way. I felt like the crème fraiche needed a bit of sugar mixed in. Either that, or I would serve it with sweetened whipped cream. Perhaps it’s my American sugared-out palate, but my taste buds were kind of like: what is this savory-leaning cream doing on top of my beet cake? Just a thought, Mr. Slater! Otherwise, perfection.
For those of us keeping score, Tender is two for two. I’m thinking of trying the French onion soup next. Shall we see if it can go three in a row? SHALL WE?!?!?

An extremely moist chocolate-beet cake with crème fraiche and poppy seeds via Tender by Nigel Slater
beets - 8 ounces (I used 1/2 cup mashed.)
fine dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) - 7 ounces
hot espresso - 4 tablespoons
butter - 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
all-purpose flour - 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
baking powder - a heaping teaspoon
good-quality cocoa powder - 3 tablespoons
eggs - 5 (separated)
superfine sugar - scant 1 cup
creme fraiche and poppy seeds, to serve

Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper (or butter wrappers!). Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until a coarse puree.

Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don't stir.

When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir once. Cut the butter into small pieces—the smaller the better—and add to the melted chocolate. Push the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and let soften.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.

Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Fold in the beets. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care not to overmix. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.

Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325 F. Bake for forty minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when the pan is gently shaken.

Set the cake aside to cool (it will sink a tad in the center) loosening it around the edges with a thin icing spatula after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its pan until it is completely cold. Serve in thick slices, with creme fraiche and poppy seeds. (Or with sweetened whipped cream?)
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33 comments:

greenbeen said...

oh i know this recipe well and it is fabulous...so fabulous that i know a cafe that makes upto 6 a week and constantly sells out of it! delicious!!!

Matthew said...

Beets are so weird. This cake is awesome. xoxo

themoveablefeasts said...

I vote for french onion soup next!

And I love how you reused the butter wax paper, so clever.

Mary Anne said...

Grandma and I are VERY proud. Save me a slice??? That looks amazing! Can't wait to check out that cookbook...in 5 days!!!!!!

Rebecca said...

I'm SO GLAD that you both posted this recipe and reviewed it... I've seriously been thinking about it since you photographed that page before. I can't wait to try it!

And I love that photo of the beet stalks on the paper towel.

K said...

I once made a beet cake that called for grating the beets. When they got down to the nub stage, I inevitably grated my fingertips a little. But I could not tell if I was bleeding because all that dang red everywhere. Ah, beets. It was a really really good cake, though. Like carrot, but earthier. Looking forward to trying this one!

keepfeeling said...

what a unique recipe! i used to hate beets until like 2 years ago and now i want to eat them with almost everything - chocolate, perhaps?

bravo for thinking of the butter paper. i never knew that!

Brock James said...

Maybe you could call it Blood-Beet Velvet Cake? (like Blood-Orange) or Technicolor Beet Cake? The Red Cake?

i also love the beet stalks on paper towel photo. & would like to see a pic of your hands/kitchen at the end.

Powell & Pressburger would be proud!

Carrie said...

Looks delish! I did a post last month about a chocolate beet pound cake I had made. It was AMAZING. So moist an who would have known it had beets in it!

Kelsey / Happyolks said...

You have made both recipes that have been bookmarked in Tender already! I was going to make this for Shaun's birthday a few weeks ago, but when I gave him options, carrot cake won out. I would love to (finally) give this a whirl, par your experience. And I'm with you... I need a kitchen scale too...

cory said...

ive been wanting a copy of tender FOREVER! seeing this broken down is going to finally get me to pull the trigger. this looks delish. ive wanted to experiment with beets in cake for awhile (going back to the red velvet/not wanting to use 9 gallons of red food coloring dilemma) & this looks to be an excellent stand in.

i love your blog! this is the first time ive commented but i read it all the time. kudos on your music video too. very impressive!!!

Heather Taylor said...

LOOOOOOOOVEEEE + Stunning!

SG said...

I love the color! And your tip of using the butter paper- I am sure it will come in handy one day (like the next time I bake and think uh oh, I totally thought I had some more!)

Three! Three! Three!

Kara said...

Brock, thank you for the beet stalk clarification. I was like, OMG, Amelia thought rhubarb was beets!!! I'm an *ss.

Amelia, I cannot BELIEVE you remembered the butter wax paper tip! The mark of a true kitchen maven.

Also, I could not agree more about creme fraiche. I know it's supposed to be elegant and sexy, a real treat, but my taste buds just blink at all its jokes.
xo

Megan Taylor said...

What a unique combo! Beets and sweets!

amelia said...

re: the beet stalks pic - yes, so glad Rebecca clarified what they were. Meant to say as much, but guess I forgot. whooops. soooo typical. :)

anyway, thanks, friends!! so glad you like.

Anne Zimmerman said...

I love Meg's comment: Go beets + sweets!

la domestique said...

Fantastic! What a smart idea to use the butter wrapper in lieu of parchment paper! I must remember that.

Ms.Nožisková said...

amelia, your keep-life-tidy self will *adore* a kitchen scale. fussing with cups is one of those backwards americanisms i don't understand... (a missed love affair with beets is another, but don't get me started...)

imagine: one bowl - then dumping ingredients from their jars and canisters directly into it and zeroing out as you go along - voila! precision measuring & minimal cleanup!

Luisa said...

Yes, get a scale! It will make your a lot life easier (though I still do most of my baking with cups). I bought an electronic Salter one for 39 bucks almost 10 years ago and it's still going strong (just had to replace the battery once).

amelia said...

@Ms. Nožisková & @Luisa: OK, you've convinced me. Scale has been added to my christmas/hanukkah list!

Eggton said...

My dear Amelia, Yes! Please make the french onion soup. I just made and blogged about a french onion soup and now it's all I want to eat. Mine is on EGGTON.COM, but I'm curious about whether Slater uses different ingredients. Anyway--loved the post as usual!

Susan Cooper said...

I love beets therefore this sounds really interesting. I will need to try it. Thanks for sharing
Susan Cooper

jeana sohn said...

ohhhhhhh i love beets!! this sounds/looks so good!

Mark and Marsha said...

Can't beet this recipe and the pictures too.

Sarah at Letters from the Kitchen said...

There's nothing like sneaking one of my favorite veggies (my husband's most hated!) into a delicious dessert. Butter wrappers as wax paper = brilliant! And a nice way to recycle.

Fave said...

This looks AMAZING! I WANT!

Rachel said...

I love your writing - this post is so accessible. have I said that before? And I cannot believe how many tips I've gained from you! Next time I'm doing something that requires parchment paper... whenever that may be.

amelia said...

@Rachel THANK YOU!

Jen said...

I appreciate that something so serious as a Chocolate-beet cake seems so much less serious--and more accessible--when you write about it. I think if I cook with beets I'm going to need double layer latex gloves and a plastic mat to lay down on the counter (we're renters!).

amelia said...

@Jen Thank you! & you could totally make this cake in a much less messier fashion than me. If I had just prepared the beets ahead of time, it would have saved me a lot of trouble in the end!

Rebecca said...

This might have been one of the more complicated culinary endeavours I've ever embarked upon. Between the beets and being out of GF flour- I'll totally do your 'prepare beets ahead' thing, and, in fact, since at the store I didn't know how much I needed I got WAY too many, and might just puree and freeze them now...

BUT. I've been standing at the counter taking little slices off the still-cooling-on-the-rack cake, and I can't get over how bloody delicious it is.

Also, there's so little sugar in it and so many good things (beets, eggs, chocolate) that I think it *technically* qualifies as a health food...

Tara Tubb said...

That beet cake is a dream and since it has vegetable in it, chocolate beet cake is really your daily serving of veggies.