First of all, reassurance: you will not taste the beets in this cake. Your children will not taste the beets in this cake and will (almost certainly) eat it happily, even if they watch you whizz the beets up in the blender and put them into the cake batter. They might refuse the opportunity to scrape the bowl because “it’s got icky beets in it, Mommy!” But this is to your advantage. (Yum!)
- 250 grams beetroots
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 100 ml lowfat yoghurt
- 150 ml vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 225 grams plain flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 300 grams sugar
You can buy precooked beets from the supermarket (great if you’re in a hurry), or you can cook your own. I had some beets in the allotment, so I dug up three of them, twisted the leaves off (and save those leaves!) rather than cutting them, to avoid getting red juice everywhere. I gave them a quick scrub and plopped them into a baking dish with a tablespoon of olive oil put a lid on and bake 40-50 minutes at 400F/200C/gas mark 6. After taking them out of the oven, let them cool a bit, rub off the skins, and chop up your beets.
To make the cake, first preheat your oven to 350F/175C/gas mark 4. Grease and flour two 8-inch layer cake pans.
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and whisk together until well blended. Set aside.
Put your chopped beets, oil, yoghurt, eggs and vanilla into the blender and blend until the beets are thoroughly pureed and everything is well mixed and gorgeously pink.
Scrape the beet mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients, stir all together until complete combined, and divide equally between the two pans. Bake 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack, then fill and ice.
The all-important icing
Option 1: a light and frothy buttercream
- 140 grams (5 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
- 280 grams (10 oz.) icing sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- food colouring
Cream the butter (which just means beat it until it’s uniformly soft and creamy), then beat in half of the icing sugar. Beat in 1 tablespoon milk, then beat in the rest of the icing sugar. Add a little more milk if the mixture is too stiff. Put in a few drops of food colouring to get it to the colour you want. In the pink cake pictured, I filled and iced the cake with a light pink icing, then added a few more drops of colour to the remaining few tablespoons of icing to create a design.
Having tried both varieties of icing, I prefer option 1. Its lighter flavor complements the richness of the chocolate cake. However, if you like your cake super-rich, you can go for
Option 2: chocolate decadence
For the next cake, I used the following chocolate buttercream icing:
- 100 grams (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
- 200 grams (7 oz.) icing sugar
- 50 grams (1 3/4 oz.) good dark chocolate
Chop up your chocolate and put it in a heavy glass bowl (I used a pint-sized Pyrex measuring cup). Bring a pan of water to a simmer and set the bowl carefully in the pan – you should have enough hot water to come a little bit up the sides. Stir the chocolate occasionally with a knife as it melts.
Cream the butter, then gradually beat in the icing sugar.
Remove the chocolate from the heat, drying off the bottom of the bowl to avoid dripping water into your icing, then scrape the chocolate into the buttercream icing and beat until thoroughly combined. There you go.
If you want extra fancy effects, you could remove a couple of tablespoons of icing before mixing in the chocolate. Put this small amount of buttercream in another bowl and add some food colour if you like. Pipe it onto the cake after you’ve iced it with the chocolate buttercream.
What about those leaves?
If you went for the cook-your-own-beets method, now that you’ve got the cake out of the way, you’re left with a dilemma: what to do with the leaves. You’re in luck: beet leaves are the most tender and sweetest of garden greens. Use them in any recipe that calls for spinach. They’re lovely in a quiche or pasta, but here’s a quick way to eat them on their own:
Give the leaves a wash, pop them in some boiling water for three minutes, drain them and cool them quickly by immersing them in cold water and then draining again, squeezing out all the water. Chop the leaves roughly and set aside.
In a dry frying pan, toast 1-2 tablespoons of sesame seeds until they’ve darkened by a few shades and give off a nice aroma. Remove them from the pan and crush them slightly. A mortar and pestle come in handy here.
Mix 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce and 1 ½ tablespoons mirin (or any sweet cooking wine).
In a large bowl, toss the cooked greens with the dressing and the sesame seeds until thoroughly mixed.
Serve at room temperature.