Make Ahead

Nigel Slater's Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake

October  3, 2012
10 Ratings
Photo by Food52
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 8
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 splash 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° 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° 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • titi
  • Nafsin Nasir
    Nafsin Nasir
  • Yayita
  • Michelle de Lima
    Michelle de Lima
  • samanthaalison
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

95 Reviews

3RevRd April 19, 2022
Delicious with a rich bittersweet mood. I can’t emphasize enough how necessary it is to let the cake cool completely. I didn’t and covered it too soon. It turned dense, like a pudding, but no less yummy. Not sold on the créme fraîche topping.
titi January 26, 2019
loved this cake! was lovely just plain with some afternoon tea. putting this one on rotation.
Nafsin N. June 6, 2018
I have frozen roasted beets, would I be able to use that in this recipe?
Kristen M. June 6, 2018
Absolutely (just defrost them first).
moody B. April 17, 2018
here's how i did it:
8 oz beets pureed
2 sticks uns. butter (16T)
1 packet instant espresso
scant 1 cup dark cocoa powder
2t vanilla
1 heaping t baking p.
1/2 cup unsw. applesauce
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs, separated
begin to melt butter over lo. sift flour, baking p., cocoa in med. bowl. set aside. in separate bowl sift powdered sugar. set aside. dissolve espresso in warm butter. remove from heat. stir in vanilla. stir in applesauce. separate eggs and stir in yolks. transfer mixture to large glass bowl. into whisked egg whites add sifted powdered sugar. mix until sugar is completely absorbed. combine egg white mixture with butter mixture. add sifted flour mixture to bowl and stir to combine. i buttered and lined an 8x8 brownie pan and baked for 40 min. in hindsight i should have take it out at maybe 35 for a moister cake, but as is it is very bouncy and has a distinct beet flavor. i like this as i like beets. i'm not sure someone who does not like beets would like it, they might notice the flavor. would be very good with a frosting or whipped cream. personally, i didn't have either. i'd like to make it again and add some chopped chocolate as well. thanks for the interesting recipe. it was great to use up some cooked beets sitting in the fridge.
Fi August 26, 2017
Great cake; it was demolished at work. Easy to follow instructions. Really enjoyed making this. In fact I'm going to make it again today for my mum :)
Yayita February 4, 2017
I was really looking forward to trying this out and my expectations were high based on the comments. Although the end product was good it wasn't the best chocolate cake I have had nor was it amazing. I followed the recipe as written with the following exception: 3oz of the 7 oz of fine chocolate asked for was at 60% instead of 70% (as I had ran out of it). I felt that the Cake needed a tad bit more sugar, or have a sweeter frosting. Like many of the other people said in the comments, it's one of the fussiest instructions I have had to was a bit stressful lol. I am just glad it had photos for every step of the recipe, it helped me gauge if things were going as planned. The coloring of my cake wasn't as dark as the one in the photo, which is probably due to lighting of the photo. My cake was more on the reddish brown side which makes me wonder if 8oz of beets was too much? Should I have measured a cup of puréed beets instead? Anyone else have this problem? My cake was moist but maybe it was more on the denser side.
Michelle D. November 23, 2016
I assume this would store well for a day, untopped, but would love confirmation...
Sadaf November 5, 2016
I baked it. This is so delicious and I'm proud of this recipe. All of my friends loved it and told me we wanted more. Thanks.
samanthaalison February 15, 2016
I loved this, though the recipe is overly fussy. We liked the creme fraiche and poppy seeds, but I think I'd prefer it with ganache. I added 8 oz of the beet puree, since it seemed weird to measure them before you remove the skins and stems. I melted the chocolate in the microwave, because I'm lazy. Warmed up the coffee I used that was as well. I had to rewarm it a bit to get the butter to melt all the way. I can't figure out why he's so insistent about how you stir it - I bake all the time and I've never seen that, and mine turned out great despite my stirring. The order of mixing seems weird, also - once you whip the whites you fold in the sugar, then you fold those into the chocolate, and then you fold in the flour - the whites get folded three times, which seems like a bad idea if you're trying to retain air in them. I might try adding the sugar directly to the chocolate mixture instead next time. Or is there a reason that you fold the sugar directly into the whites?

Seriously, though, despite my complaints, it was really delicious - will definitely make again.
mela March 14, 2018
The original recipe from Nigel Slater calls for 9 oz beets, cooked AND peeled, so your instinct was right on. Here's the link:
mela March 14, 2018
Probably less sugar and butter in the Slater recipe too, though I haven't confirmed that yet.
Alice March 26, 2018
Thank you for the link Mela.
BarnOwlBaker October 30, 2015
Has anyone made this at high altitude? Would love to know your adjustments please! I live at 8200' and want to make this for a birthday cake.
Maureen P. August 6, 2017
Same here. Moved to 6000 ft and having trouble baking. Thanks
Hina K. September 4, 2015
Does it matter if I use Dutch process cocoa or do I need to use regular cocoa?
Stacey S. June 22, 2015
@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!
epicharis June 22, 2015
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.
Hippolyta October 5, 2015
I laughed out loud when I read this review because it's spot on. Stream-of-consciousness works for a poem or short story, but a recipe?!

I like the cake a lot, but I don't think it exceeds other chocolate cakes in deliciousness as much as this recipe surpasses the other cakes' recipes in annoyingness.
creamtea March 3, 2016
The directions sound kinda nutty....
Hanna H. September 22, 2016
I think Nigel's recipe writing style is lovely. He makes cooking a more heartfelt experience and I think you should have been more prepared before starting the recipe.
Denise May 27, 2015
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?
Anahí G. May 28, 2015
Any liquid will do. Coffee is for the flavour but you can use water as well :)
Anahí G. April 8, 2015
janettaube May 27, 2015
How long did you bake them?
Anahí G. May 27, 2015
Around 15 min (2 inches muffins)
janettaube May 27, 2015
Thanks so much
Stephanie D. April 2, 2015
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?
ghainskom October 7, 2014
A chocolate cake for adults. Very nice with raspberry sauce.
Briana M. May 9, 2014
Could i pour the batter into donut pan?
Jing April 30, 2014
Is that possible to substute carrot for the beet?
Marie T. July 22, 2015
But it won't be that beautiful rich red color!
amyinmotion February 26, 2014
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.