Nigel Slater's Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake

By • October 3, 2012 • 66 Comments

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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 (66)

Topics: Cake

Comments (66) Questions (5)


6 months ago ghainskom

A chocolate cake for adults. Very nice with raspberry sauce.


11 months ago Briana Manning

Could i pour the batter into donut pan?


11 months ago Jing

Is that possible to substute carrot for the beet?


about 1 year 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.


about 1 year ago Tamara

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


over 1 year 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!


about 1 month ago Sarah Hamilton

Thanks for the idea for subbs! Thank you Shauna indeed ;)


over 1 year 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.


over 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.


over 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!


over 1 year ago Alison

You can buy gluten free flour in asda & sainsburys.


about 2 years 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


about 2 years 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


about 2 years 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!


about 2 years 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!


about 2 years 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.


about 2 years ago gingerroot

One more 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.


about 2 years 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


about 2 years ago Leighodo

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


over 1 year ago catalinalacruz

A late reply, but here is the recipe from BBC in metric measurements.


about 2 years 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!


over 2 years 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.


over 2 years 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.


over 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.