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Author Notes: Yes: chocolate. And since you ask, yes: beets.
It was in Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus (one of my food bibles) where I first heard of chocolate and beetroot being paired. I think my head exploded a tiny bit when I saw the two foods listed side by side. Once I’d gotten over my initial shock of the idea, I found it made perfect sense to combine these two flavours (and textures, I might add). To my surprise, Segnit’s critique of the pair was rather negative. She wrote that it tasted like “a cheap chocolate cake that’s been dropped in a flowerbed”. No matter. Nothing could deter me from trying it. I was hooked.
In fact, Segnit’s comments only fascinated me more. I wanted to start a chocolate and beetroot movement. Somehow I felt I had a duty to get the word out, because certainly no one else had the thought of making this sort of thing before…right? A quick web search proved me wrong and revealed that chocolate and beetroot cakes are everywhere. And in all sorts of forms: molten lava cakes, sweet breads, brownies and cupcakes. They looked good and the bakers/reviewers/eaters couldn’t stop raving about how gorgeously the two complemented each other. I felt the need to catch up with these baked goods. The challenge was on. ON!
Did chocolate beetroot cake disappoint? No, it’s only surged my expectations higher. There were no flowerbeds in my kitchen that day. —Habiba Smallen
For the cake
- 2-3 beets ( about 1 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup cocoa powder (or melted bittersweet chocolate)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup black tea (or water)
- 1 cup melted butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 eggs (separated)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the icing
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Peel and quarter the beets. Boil for about 30 minutes. Blend the beets in a food processor (I left a few small chunks unblended for a pleasingly colourful effect).
- Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.
- In a large bowl mix cocoa, tea and butter together until smooth. When it mixed well, add egg yolks and the blended beets.
- In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In yet a third large bowl whip the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in sugar until it combines with the egg whites. Then fold in the chocolate/beet mixture. Once combined, fold in the dry mixture until smooth.
- Pour into a buttered pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. Test your cake by poking it with a fork. If it comes out clean, your cake is done.
- While the cake is baking, combine your icing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add more cream cheese to achieve a thicker consistency. Add more yogurt to achieve a runnier icing. Let your icing set in the fridge.
- Let your cake cool. Then ice it. Then drool over what you just made. Join the chocolate beetroot movement.