Nigel Slater's Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake

By • October 3, 2012 • 64 Comments



Author Notes: Step aside, red velvet. It just so happens that the deep pink earthiness of a beet is surprisingly well suited for bittersweet chocolate. Crushed beets are also an inexpensive way to make a cake achingly moist, nearly molten. And you don't need all that red food coloring after all. Adapted slightly from Tender by Nigel Slater (Ten Speed Press, 2011).Genius Recipes

Serves 8

  • 8 ounces fresh beets
  • 7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70%)
  • 1/4 cup hot espresso
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
  • 5 eggs
  • Scant 1 cup superfine sugar
  • Crème fraîche and poppy seeds, to serve
  1. Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the base with a round of baking parchment. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender 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 purée.
  3. Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir.
  4. 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 leave to soften.
  5. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.
  6. 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 over-mix. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.
  7. Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the hea immediately to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken. Test with a cake tester or toothpick too -- if it is still gooey in the center, continue baking just until moist crumbs cling to the tester.
  8. 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 crème fraîche and poppy seeds.
Jump to Comments (64)

Tags: birthday cake, Red Velvet, red velvet cake

Comments (64) Questions (4)

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4 months ago Briana Manning

Could i pour the batter into donut pan?

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4 months ago Jing

Is that possible to substute carrot for the beet?

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6 months ago amyinmotion

Made this last week and the flavor was great although the texture was not as moist as it probably should have been. But I'll have to make it again when I have more time and patience to follow the directions to the letter, which I couldn't be bothered with the first time.

The butter started separating out as I was mixing in the eggs. So I iust drained out the excess melted butter and added it back into the cake batter at the end as if I were making a genoise.

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8 months ago Tamara

Does this have to be baked in a springform pan? Want to make a larger version for a party.

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11 months ago gingerroot

Made this again for my mom's birthday, subbing my own gf mix (thank you Shauna!) and it was fabulous, as good if not better than w/regular AP flour. I made a mix of 200 g buckwheat flour, 150 g potato starch, 150 g sorghum flour and then used 140 g plus 2 T for this recipe. I added 1/4 t more baking powder. Such a wonderful cake!

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12 months ago Janine race

Just made this cake as we had dug up all the beet root from the bottom of the garden. Didn't have any espresso so used normal coffee in the cake. I can honestly say that the cake was a resounding success and I will deinately bake again. Did produce a lot of washing up however it was worth it.

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about 1 year ago Kmk

I've had NS's Tender cookbook for a while now and was immediately intrigued by the idea of this recipe, which has since lurched in the back of my mind taunting me. Drrrr. Well, I finally made it today and can report the effort is well worth it and that you should not put it off another minute, if you're tempted! My supper club girlfriends were totally wowed as was I! I followed the recipe to the letter except for two changes. Instead of 1/4 cup hot espresso I used 3/4 cup- an accidental change, I must admit. And probably because of this extra liquid I needed to bake the cake 12 minutes over the directed bake time. Despite the mistake, the outcome was flawless. Also, I liked the creme fraiche and poppy seeds topping but can easy imagine any frosting, etc on top. Bravo! Will definitely make it again.

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about 1 year ago sarah bodney

Any thoughts on whether I could make this gluten free? My daughter is newly diagnosed with celiac and I am new to baking in general. Could I just replace the all-purpose flour with ground almonds or would it all fall apart, like the last disaster I made!

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about 1 year ago Alison

You can buy gluten free flour in asda & sainsburys.

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over 1 year ago Hema

Tried this cake.. it came out quite well.. super moist.. tasty (added a couple of spoons of sugar more), beautiful texture... except that it was VERY OILY.. I used unsalted butter n the measurement stated.. but don't know what went wrong.. :(
but other than the oily part.. we loved it.. :)
Enjoying the cake (with help of kitchen towels!) :*
P.S. added a spoon full of vanilla essence.. wanted to make sure the cake doesn't smell eggy! Hope this dint make it oily!:O

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over 1 year ago millicent

YUM YUM YUM. This cake took forever to make, cost a mini-fortune and used so many bowls, whisks, pots and pans but was definitely worth the wait. This cake was phenomenal as it was so moist and rich. It disappeared within a few hours which is always a good sign. As I have chickens that lay too many eggs, and grow a lot of beetroot I spent my money on quality (and expensive) chocolate and cocoa. I am always one to eat off the land but when I do buy something... always buy the best. Good quality chocolate and cocoa definitely give this cake its extra edge. Thanks

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over 1 year ago Indrani

I love this cake! What a great recipe. I had to bake it an extra 15 minutes or so like some of the other commenters but it stayed really moist. I had been thinking of my mother's Sacher torte, so I sliced it into two layers and sandwiched it with apricot jam. Then, just because, I frosted it witha a slightly sweetened whipped cream and cream cheese frosting. It may be my favorite cake ever -- as chocolatey as a flourless soufflé type cake but not as dense and heavy. Thank you!

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over 1 year ago Stacey Snacks

I posted this cake on my blog yesterday........I didn't do the creme fraiche, but Martha's chocolate ganache icing.
It was wonderful and moist! We loved it!
http://staceysnacksonline...

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over 1 year ago gingerroot

Fussy as promised, this cake really delivers on flavor and texture. What a lovely chocolate cake! I made it for a goodbye party for friends moving to London. After all the oohs and ahhs my 5 yo son announced the secret ingredient with a big grin. I used a 9 inch springform and had no trouble with the cooking time - it was perfect at 40 min (though my oven runs a touch hot). Thanks for another fabulous genius recipe.

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over 1 year ago gingerroot

One more thing...one of our friends recently learned he is lactose intolerant (though he can have butter) so we skipped the creme fraiche for a simple dusting of confectioner's sugar - it was perfect.

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over 1 year ago steph battershill

the most heavenly, divine, scrumptiously delicious cake EVER. WITH creme fraiche and poppy seeds, an absolute must. My partner, my 11 and 13 year old and myself had a piece and then stared reverently at it for about 40 minutes - desperate to tuck in but afraid to make it disappear. I didn't add the extra couple of tbsp of butter and used 3/4 of a cup of sugar - a sacred cake to us

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over 1 year ago Leighodo

could you help me with the cup measures... do you know what they are in grams or ml's? thanks

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9 months ago catalinalacruz

A late reply, but here is the recipe from BBC in metric measurements. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food...

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over 1 year ago Anna H

I just wanted to say thank you for such a great recipe! I made it tonight and it was lovely - rich, but not too rich; moist and dense without being heavy; the perfect amount of sweetness. I used a 9inch springform since that's all I had and it took 45 minutes to bake. I'll definitely be making this again!

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over 1 year ago jillianleedy

I love this cake. Made it with cream cheese frosting instead of the creme fraiche. It wasn't as healthy but it sure was yummy! Beets are delicious. This cake has changed my entire concept of what I now look for in red velvet cake.

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over 1 year ago mschrank

Very good...almost like a flourless chocolate cake, but more cake-like with the small bit of flour. Nobody tasted beet at all...not sure what dickensthedog did to make theirs so overpowering. The recipe is a bit intimidating, with the "as best you can," "firmly but gently" (say what?) and "transfer quickly" phrases. I may have over-baked a bit...the toothpick tester still showed wet batter several minutes after the inner part no longer wobbled when gently shaken. I ended up baking it almost 65 minutes. Still, quite moist and will make it again.

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almost 2 years ago dickensthedog

I am sorry to say that this was not a winner for us. The flavor of the beets overpowered the chocolate flavor. We served it to guests last night, and no one liked it; no one even finished it. And, as my dear Aunt Muriel would have said, it was "a patchke" (Yiddish for a lot of work to make), and between the cocoa, beets, and melted chocolate, there was a lot of clean up to do as well.

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almost 2 years ago pcairic

Yummy!!!
It's crème fraîche, not crème frâiche. The little hat (circumflex accent) goes on the i.
You can also do without, according to the 1990 orthographic reform.
(full disclosure: my mother tongue is French, and no, French people didn't invent the fries)

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thanks for letting us know! Not sure how that hat went rogue, but it's fixed now.

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almost 2 years ago Rick's Favorites

Made your cake yesterday for the first time taste good but is very dry. What causes it to be so dry? I expected it to be very moist with all the beets and chocolate. Made exactly to your directions.

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I'm very sorry (and surprised) to hear that the cake was dry! What type of pan did you use? And what did the tester look like when you pulled the cake from the oven? Thanks for letting us know.

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almost 2 years ago Rick's Favorites

Made your cake yesterday for the first time taste good but is very dry. What causes it to be so dry? I expected it to be very moist with all the beets and chocolate. Made exactly to your directions.

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almost 2 years ago HFog

like a previous poster, i had to bake it an additional 20 minutes and even so still it was a little goopy.

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almost 2 years ago T. Renea

I made this recipe this weekend for my sons 21st birthday. I have an garden and have beets pretty much year round. I made cup cakes and it was wonderful. One of the most involved cakes I've made but Wonderful! Of course everyone loved them too until they found out the secret. I plan on making them again but next time I may use one 70% and one 50% chocolate bar. Thanks for the great recipe and I cant wait to try another one.

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almost 2 years ago T. Renea

I made this recipe this weekend for my sons 21st birthday. I have an garden and have beets pretty much year round. I made cup cakes and it was wonderful. One of the most involved cakes I've made but Wonderful! Of course everyone loved them too until they found out the secret. I plan on making them again but next time I may use one 70% and one 50% chocolate bar. Thanks for the great recipe and I cant wait to try another one.

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almost 2 years ago dina2470

i got 4 beets at the farmer's market but had no way to weigh them. about how many/what size beets is 8 oz of beets? and can i measure them (1 c.) after they are cooked and pureed? don't want to mess this up! thanks ( :

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I always ended up with 2 1/2 to 3 smallish beets -- 1 cup of puree should work!

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almost 2 years ago Barbara Linville

Now do you make CremeFraiche and poppy seeds frosting?

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

You can buy creme fraiche at the store (or substitute sour cream -- lightly sweeten it if you like): just spoon it on and sprinkle poppy seeds on top! Easy, right?

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almost 2 years ago Barbara Linville

Now do you make CremeFraiche and poppy seeds frosting?

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almost 2 years ago kenneth.kohnen

I like the idea of this recipe but I should be able to substitute egg beaters for the eggs, splenda for the sugar and possibly other lower calories items.

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I wouldn't recommend using those -- just use the real ingredients and have a smaller slice! And share the rest -- it'll go fast.

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almost 2 years ago Donna Venette

I cannot print e-mail this recipe??? Tis site is a nightmere.

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almost 2 years ago mdnyc

Would it be ok to use a non-springform type cake pan and just line the botton with parchment paper? thanks!

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes, just butter it well! and use parchment, as you said. Hope you like it!

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almost 2 years ago foodlover101

I love this cake idea, but I was wondering if you could give us a creme fraiche recipe because I tried looking some recipes online, but they were all so different. Thank you!

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almost 2 years ago Tokyo Yum

I think the standard is 2 tablespoons buttermilk to 1 cup whipping cream (preferrably not ultra pasteurized). Let stand overnight at room temperature. Epicurious has a recipe (http://www.epicurious.com...).
I served the cake the first time with creme fraiche but felt it just really weighed down an already very rich cake. The second time, I served it with very lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream which I preferred. It added a nice lightness. The cake is fantastic regardless!

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thanks Tokyo Yum! Here's a great tutorial too: http://www.food52.com/blog...

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almost 2 years ago Jiotee

I loved the suprised ingredient and I would like to try the red velvet cake but I am a vegetarian I cook my birthday cakes without using eggs. Do you have the veg version for this one?

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

A standard baking substitute for 1 egg is 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water -- here's a great post about it: http://dinersjournal.blogs...

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almost 2 years ago theresa56

I'm with Judy Ehlers, but I do need the calorie intake on both cake and frosting Also need to know how to make the frosting

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

theresa56, please see my response to Judy Ehlers below. The frosting is actually a ready-made product that's very similar to sour cream, though you can also make your own at home. Here's how: http://www.food52.com/blog...

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almost 2 years ago Judy Ehlers

Since I'm getting older and it's harder to maintain my weight, I'm always curious about the calorie count of things. Any idea on this cake? Calorie count without the frosting is OK too, since I'm not overly fond of really sweet things. Thanks!

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Hi Judy, we don't provide calorie information on our recipes, because we're fans of enjoying all food in moderation without worrying about numbers, but there are tools online that can help -- this one for example: http://recipes.sparkpeople...

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almost 2 years ago JennyF

I'm making this beautiful cake for my book club on Thursday. I only have a 9" springform pan. Will that work? Should I just bake it for less time?

Thanks! Can't wait to try it!

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes, it should work fine -- just start checking it earlier, using a cake tester or toothpick to be safe. It shouldn't be gooey in the middle. Hope you like it!

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almost 2 years ago Goodcop

Just made this. I had no problems with the bake - even texture throughout. Baked about 35 minutes all told. Nicely not-sweet flavour and very moist as advertised. I think some candied orange peel chopped and added during the final mix might make a nice textural and flavour contrast, but then I tend to be a maximalist when it comes to baking. This could also be very good as cupcakes, possibly with an orange-cream cheese frosting.

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almost 2 years ago CentralCoastContessa

I baked this on Sunday. The flavor was excellent, but the center of my cake was quite mushy. I followed the recipe exactly (I thought), then baked it 10 minutes longer when the tester came out so wet. Any ideas about where I went wrong?

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

The only thing I can think of is that it still just needed more time. Did you test it again after baking 10 more minutes? What did it look like? Hope you were able to enjoy all but the very middle!

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almost 2 years ago Katrina Yeaw

I am currently attempting to make homemade crème fraîche. Would you recommend sweetening it?

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Good for you! And no, I wouldn't sweeten it, unless you're serving it to people who you think would strongly prefer it that way.

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almost 2 years ago lambchop

Do you think that "white" chocolate and an extra three tablespoons of flour could substitute for both the dark chocolate and the cocoa powder so the end result would be a brighter red cake, more like the color of an old-fashioned red velvet? Maybe even keep the hot espresso to enrich the red a bit? This would be such a great alternative to all the artificial red food coloring called for in a red velvet cake. What's your opinion on substituting white chocolate for dark? I have no experience in this area. Thanks for your wisdom!

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Hi lambchop -- I think it might be possible, but the cake would be quite different. White chocolate is very mild, so it might not balance the beet flavor as well as the stronger-flavored bittersweet chocolate. Flour and cocoa powder wouldn't be exact substitutes either -- different pH and absorption rates; flour has gluten, cocoa doesn't, etc. It's worth an experiment (and if you do, please report back!), but I wouldn't try it for the first time on someone's birthday cake.

Here's a great blog post about the science behind beet red velvet cake, with a recipe that might be better for a brighter red: http://bigbaketheory.com...

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almost 2 years ago Mcalvosa

Is the te any substitute for the flour in orden to make this cake gluten-free?

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

You could try using a packaged gluten-free flour mix, like Bob's Red Mill's, or you could mix up your own, using a formula like the one Shauna Ahern (a.k.a. Gluten-Free Girl) published here: http://glutenfreegirl.com...

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almost 2 years ago 1234cake

I'm going to talk with a friend but I was thinking that experimenting with a substitution of teff flour with some other flours to mellow it could work really well in this recipe. I'm hopeful since there are so many eggs in the cake that it could work nicely. If I do I'll make sure to post how it goes.

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almost 2 years ago Tokyo Yum

The beets were so beautiful at the farmers market. I bought far too many. Made a great roasted carrot and beet salad for a bookclub meeting. And saw this recipe on the front page - just had to try it! While the beets were roasting for the salad - started on this recipe. Prepped all ingredients and then melted chocolate in microwave - very carefully. And through it in the oven. A much easier cake than expected.

The cake was unbelievably good. Was able to bring a quarter of the cake back from book club and it was better the second day. It was like a chocolate pudding cake! The creme fraiche was good, but I think next time, I will serve it with a lightly sweetened whip cream.

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almost 2 years ago Skylor Powell

Beets are such a versatile food! The color makes everything beautiful - they are sweet and earthy so they can go in so many different recipes. Your pictures are awesome. I would love to make this cake - to make it dairy free, do you think it could be done with coconut oil?