|Kirsten Veng-Pedersen 2012|
With much bravado, fried eggs are tossed onto everything from artisan pizzas to juicy hamburgers these days. The motto, at least in Portland, isn't so much "Put a bird on it" as it is "Put an egg on it." But while the fried egg takes center stage in unconventional places, the lowly beet lurks below.
Like in Australia, where a slice of pickled beet is quietly nestled inside every standard hamburger. Yeah, yeah, you probably already knew that but guess where else those unassuming little beets have been hiding? In chocolate cake! Somewhere along the line, someone realized a root vegetable could elevate cake to a new level of moistness.
Although chocolate beet cake is by no means new (an early version dubbed Beetnik Cake probably originated in the fifties) my discovery of it is actually a pretty big deal. Maybe I've just had one too many slices of old birthday cake in the break room but I actually dislike most cakes. With their dry crumb and overly sweet frosting, what is there to like? With Chocolate Beet Cake, I find myself asking the opposite question.
Oh, and the frosting? Beets give it that amazing girly-girl pink color without a drop of food coloring. How perfect would this cake be for a baby shower or a little girl's birthday party?
Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake
Original recipe from Joy the Baker, adapted from Fine Cooking November 2001
- 2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
- 4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod
- 1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- pinch of salt
Directions (for the cake)
- Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem. Place clean beets in a piece of foil. Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil. Seal up foil. Place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
- Remove the beets from the oven. Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely. Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.
- Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane. Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting. Set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans, then dust with flour. Next, trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan. Cut it out, butter it, place it inside the cake pan and then dust it with flour. Do this for each pan. Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk. Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter. Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients. Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan). Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.
Directions (for the frosting)
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth. Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in the beets. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky. Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
- To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate. Top with a generous amount of pink frosting. Spread evenly. Place the other cake on top of the frosting. Top with frosting. Work frosting onto the sides of the cake. You will have extra frosting left over. Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice). Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.
- Beets stain. Use rubber gloves if you want to avoid rosy fingers. Also, I'm glad I was wearing my apron, which now sports a bright pink spot.
- My frosting was overly fluffy from whipping too much air into it during the beating process. To avoid this, take it easy and use a low mixer speed.