As it happens when I pick up a new cookbook, I am instantly drawn to the all the baked goods listed inside. They may be preceded by succulent roasts and amazing vegetables, but when I see preheat your oven to 350° my eyes light up. So when my sister gave me Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater for Christmas this year, the first recipes that made a dent in my brain were things like pumpkin scones! and, a moist beet-chocolate cake! Then one day at the store the beets looked particularly pretty, and it happened. I made a beet-chocolate cake.
January 25, 2012
Name of Cake: Beets, not Chemicals!
Occasion: Curiosity and Opportunity
Constituents: one 9x3 inch beet-chocolate cake with caramelized cocoa nibs frosted with creme fraiche and decorated with poppy seeds
The cake is wonderfully moist, and smells freshly tangy. Seeing a reddish cake and smelling a chocolate tang made me think it was a raspberry-chocolate cake before I reminded myself that it was beets that colored the cake and maybe even gave it the tang. But I'm just saying, if you have to go with raspberry-chocolate to get skittish folk to eat it, do it. The cake will be a soft, moist, rich chocolate cake and there won't be a weird beety flavor lingering on your palate. It might be good to alert your guests before they go home for the night that it was beets, not raspberries, as eventually the beets will make their way out of their system, and beets are just as red coming out as going in, and if your guests aren't prepared for that they might think they have some sort of perforation in their large intestine.
As I looked around the internet I noticed that my cake came out so much redder than everybody else's. I weighed my ingredients (and a BIG THANK YOU NIGEL SLATER FOR THE GRAMS); I couldn't figure it out until I remembered I omitted the espresso and subbed caramelized cocoa nibs. That was the only difference between my cake and the original recipe, so write that down in your notes, people. If you want this to be a true red velvet cake experience, OMIT THE COFFEE.
This cake, while being pretty easy to make, has several steps.
Step one: boil the beets until a knife goes through them easily. Then cool, peel, and puree in the food processor.
Step two: meanwhile, separate your eggs.
Step three: melt some chocolate in a double boiler. Nigel is not a fan of the stirring of the chocolate, which I don't understand. So I didn't really pay attention to that part.
Step four: stir into the chocolate your coffee, or in my case (and yours, if you want a red cake) some hot water. Tuck the butter under the chocolate and let it melt away undisturbed while you...
Step five: ...sift the dry ingredients together into a small bowl. I think I skipped that part and whisked the dry ingredients together once they were in the bowl.
Step six: remove your chocolate from the heat, stir it up until combined, and add the egg yolks. The mixture is hot, so stir well and with vigor to combine the yolks and keep them from cooking. Fold in the pureed beets.
Step seven: time to make a meringue. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks; while beating, slowly add the sugar and continue whipping until very stiff peaks. (Nigel actually says to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks then fold in the sugar. I think that is just crazy.)
Step eight: Fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture. I did this in three parts, using the KitchenAid whisk attachment to fold.
Step nine: fold in the dry ingredients. If I was thinking, this is when I would have sifted the dry stuff to make it easier to incorporate into the batter.
Step ten: bake the sucker, and pull it out when the edges are dry but the middle has a slight wobble left to it. I probably could have left it in a bit longer, but it was so nice and mushy-chocolaty in the middle as it was.
The cake needs to cool completely in the pan, and the middle will eventually let go and sink down into a soft, rich, heap. Nigel suggests serving this cake with creme fraiche garnished with poppy seeds for crunch. I love the old-school riff on frosting and sprinkles it creates. The cake isn't very sweet, and if you go with creme fraiche it won't be very sweet either. Which makes it deceptively easy to go back for seconds and thirds.
And fourths and fifths.
David Lebovitz posted the recipe last November, but that is no excuse to at least check this book out of your library. It is sooo pretty.
Or...you could buy it from Powell's and support a local bookstore, and an evilcakelady. Click on the book over there to the right. (I'm part of their affiliate program which means if you buy a book via the link I get 7.5% of the sale as a thanks.)
At any rate, this is your cake for Valentine's Day. And every day before and after that as well.