Chocolate and beetroot cake sounds like such a bad idea, but it really isn’t. It turns out I own several recipes for it, in fact, though they use tinned beetroot, which doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me. Also, they all used at least three eggs, which was no good, because my Beatrice is allergic to eggs and it would be terrible if she couldn’t eat her own cake. Nevertheless, being rather enamoured of the Beatrice / Beetroot pun, and also being in possession of quite a lot of beetroot, I was determined to make some kind of beetroot and chocolate cake, so I went hunting online to see what I could see.
Where’s The Beef had a rather tempting choc-beet cake on their site, with equal amounts of chocolate and beetroot, and only two eggs in it. It was also dairy free, which is basically an invitation to veganise something, if you ask me. It also had ground almonds, another allergen that I needed to avoid, and coffee, which is not my cup of tea, if you’ll pardon the pun, so I had a bit of scope for change (though I will definitely be making their almondy and eggy version sometime, minus the coffee, because I suspect the texture would be fabulous).
What I wound up with was a very dense, rich, moist chocolatey cake in which you really cannot taste the beetroot at all. The texture is fascinating – moist to the point of muddiness, and the whole thing is incredibly rich. It’s the most chocolatey cake I’ve ever tasted, which is interesting, because I’ve definitely made cakes with more chocolate in them. It’s rather brownie-like in personality, actually.
But you should really try it for yourself.
Your Shopping List180 g beetroot (about 1 largeish beetroot – any colour, mine was stripey) 200 g very dark chocolate – 80% cocoa is great here 170 g brown sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1/3 cup canola oil 1/3 cup apple sauce 2 tablespoons maple syrup (if you want to be super clever, use the 1/3 cup measure for the oil, then the apple sauce, then the maple syrup – 2 tablespoons is 1/6 cup, so just eyeball it and fill it about halfway. The oil will stop the sauce and syrup from sticking) 1/2 cup plain flour 2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda pinch of salt 85 g cocoa, as dark as you can get 1/4 cup hot water (optional: I don’t actually like pecans, but something tells me that half a cup of chopped pecans stirred in at the last minute would be fabulous here)
Now what will you do with it?
Line a 22 cm square tin with baking paper, and pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
Grate the beetroot on the fine part of the grater. I regret deeply that I didn’t take a photo of this, because it was bright pink.
Melt the chocolate. The best way I’ve found to do this is to break it in pieces and put it in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% for 1 minute at a time. Stir after every minute, and expect that the whole thing will melt in about 5 minutes. You do want to check it every minute, because chocolate can burn quite nastily if you allow it.
Congratulations, everything from here is ridiculously easy. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vanilla, oil, apple sauce and maple syrup until everything is nicely combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and bicarb, pinch of salt and the cocoa, then sift them in to the wet mix. Or, if you are lazy like me, skip the separate bowl, and just bung everything in directly, ideally putting it through a sieve, because cocoa will clump rather if you let it. Mix everything together until smooth.
Throw in the beetroot and use a spatula to scrape all the chocolate into the mix, and stir everything together well. You should have a lovely mud-pie sort of batter at this point. Oh, and if you were adding pecans, now would be the time.
Scrape it into the prepared tin and spread it about a bit – this isn’t going to move around much, so if you leave it with a bumpy top, you will get a bumpy top.
Bake for half an hour, then cover with foil and bake for another half hour. Your cake will be very soft but should, just barely, pass the skewer test. Let it cool in the tin to be on the safe side.
I completely un-veganised mine at this point by making a chocolate and cream cheese icing (I had this cream cheese in the fridge just sitting there), but I suspect the path of wisdom would just be a sprinkling of icing sugar. Which you might even combine with a little cinnamon, because why not?
Alternatively, make a chocolate icing topping of your choice – you can make a very good ganache by adding a little soy or coconut milk to melted dark chocolate; my feeling is that coconut milk would be excellent here.
There’s only half a cup of flour in here, which means that going gluten-free wouldn’t be difficult – you might be able to get away with almond meal, though I suspect this would make it too soft; certainly, something like quinoa flour or any packet gluten-free flour mix would work (there is such a strong chocolate flavour to this cake that you are pretty safe even with a fairly depressing gluten-free flour mix – if you have one you don’t much like, this is a great place to use it up).
I am unreliably informed that beetroot is low fructose; if this is so, then you can make this low fructose with a suitable gluten-free flour, as above. I do suspect, however, that low-GI is beyond the scope of this recipe, though there are certainly worse desserts out there.
In terms of flavour variations, this is a very brownieish cake, and it would be fun to add chunks of white chocolate to it if you don’t want pecans. Or anything else you’d put in a brownie. Use your best judgment, and enjoy!