Nigel Slater's Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake

By • October 3, 2012 76 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.

More Great Recipes: Beets|Rice & Grains|Cakes|Desserts

Topics: Cake

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Comments (76) Questions (5)


2 months ago Stacey Snacks

@epicharis.......I love the way Nigel writes....and I did not find this cake difficult at all.....I also love the way you write! hilarious!


2 months ago epicharis

Woe betide the fool who assumes this is just a more involved chocolate cake. This recipe isn't just unfriendly, it's downright hostile; I can't believe Nigel Slater wrote it this way. Why not specify the butter and chocolate are to be chopped into small pieces in the ingredient list? Why insist upon a six-bowl balancing act where the chocolate melts (dangerously close to seizure point) as you whisk the dry ingredients together? Why not specify you'd better be hitting the dumbbells pretty hard if you want the egg yolks to mix in properly with the chocolate? When I got to the step about folding in the whites "firmly but gently" I shouted a few choice expletives at the screen.

Terrible writing aside, this cake rewards those brave (stupid?) enough to attempt it. It is good in the best, purest sense of the word. It is diet-busting, devil-may-care good. It's so good you'll want your marriage to break up if only to justify your licking up every last drop of batter before polishing off a slice or two of the amazing cake. It's absolutely incredible, and I will definitely make it again, but not without a top-of-the-line KitchenAid.


3 months ago Denise

Please let me lnow if I can use espresso instant powder (mixed with the 1/4 cup
hot water) as recipe did not specify...will it make a difference if it is instant or regular AND/OR can I use dark roast coffee instead?


3 months ago Anahí González

Any liquid will do. Coffee is for the flavour but you can use water as well :)


5 months ago Anahí González



3 months ago janettaube

How long did you bake them?


3 months ago Anahí González

Around 15 min (2 inches muffins)


3 months ago janettaube

Thanks so much


5 months ago Stephanie Denzer

I'd like to make a layer cake out of this... should I increase the recipe by 1.5 (using two 8-inch springform pans)? Or, would the recipe as-is be enough for two layers?


11 months ago ghainskom

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


over 1 year ago Briana Manning

Could i pour the batter into donut pan?


over 1 year ago Jing

Is that possible to substute carrot for the beet?


about 1 month ago Marie Toler Raney

But it won't be that beautiful rich red color!


over 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.


over 1 year ago Tamara

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


almost 2 years 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!


7 months ago Sarah Hamilton

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


almost 2 years 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.


about 2 years 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.


about 2 years 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!


about 2 years ago Alison

You can buy gluten free flour in asda & sainsburys.


over 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


over 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


over 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!


over 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!


over 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.


over 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.


over 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