We grew beets for the first time this year. I started them from seed back in the cold, dark days of early April and watched with amazement as the tiny little sprouts transformed into mighty plants with enormous roots that poked up out of the dirt in the garden. They matured quickly and we've been harvesting them for the last week or two. I think I may end up planting another batch of them so we can have fresh beets in the fall, too.
After a slow start (read: I hated them for the first 30+ years of my life), I am now beets' biggest fan. I like to eat them roasted, braised, raw and more. But I had never tried baking a cake with them until our friend, Lana (the one who turned me on to these amazing cookies) mentioned this cake to me last week.
It sounded good so I googled "chocolate beet cake" and found a recipe. Then I made it and I can tell you that it is truly divine. The almond meal gives it a fantastic crumb – the word "toothsome" comes to mind. The beets make it rich and moist, the orange provides the perfect sweet tartness and the chocolate does what chocolate always does – makes everything richly delicious. Between the dark chocolate, the orange and the almonds, the flavor profile is rather sophisticated.
It's fairly simple to make. You cook the beet until it's quite soft (this can take a while...) then blitz it in the food processor into a puree.
Add the juice and zest of an orange. Such beautiful colors!
Stir in the almond meal, sugar, egg yolks, and a few other bits and bobs. Beat the egg whites and fold them into the chocolate, then fold the chocolate and egg white mixture into the rest of it to complete your batter. Pour into a well-greased springform pan and bake.
Serve with fresh whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate sauce or all of the above, though whipped cream is my favorite. It needs that counterpoint of rather bland but wonderfully creamy richness.
The recipe is adapted from Sarah Raven's book, "Fresh from the Garden." Although she has it listed in the summer section, given how well beets store and that winter is the season of citrus, this would be a perfect winter cake, too. I'll have to dust it off come February, methinks.
Chocolate orange beetroot cake
Adapted from Sarah Raven's "Fresh from the Garden￼"
1 medium beet (about 1/2 lb)
7 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
Juice and zest from 1 organic orange
1 cup almond meal
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Place the beet in a small pot of boiling water, making sure it is submerged and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until soft. Peel and chop coarsely.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8-inch spring form cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. Melt the chocolate in a double broiler.
4. Put the cooked beet in the food processor and puree briefly, leaving some texture. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the orange juice and zest. Add the almonds, egg yolks, sugar, baking powder and melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly.
5. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until firm but not dry, and fold them into the chocolate mixture.
6. Spoon the batter into the lined pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, then allow to cool in the pan. Unmold it and slice. Serve with fresh whipped cream, good vanilla ice cream and/or chocolate sauce.
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