Friday, November 12, 2010

You CAN Beet Chocolate Cake (just don't underestimate Flour Power!)

Chocolate Cake - You just can't BEET it.
Or can you?

A recent issue of MORE Magazine featured a gorgeous chocolate cake - made with beets! Can you believe it? A healthier alternative to regular, decadent, moist, chocolate cake. Something that I could love that might be good for me? I was in!

There was no recipe provided (what??) so I was forced to seek one out on my own. That cake looked far too luscious and I was in the middle of a massive chocolate craving, so I dug everywhere, hoping someone would have a recipe for a chocolate cake made with beets.

What surprised me was discovering how many recipes there are out there. Seriously. I thought I would have trouble finding a recipe. Nope. There are dozens. Maybe hundreds of variations.

I culled the choices down to four that sounded particularly good and that got rave reviews on their various cooking sites. From these four, I pulled together my own recipe, figuring that a cake is kind of a standard size, so mixing and matching ingredients shouldn't be a problem.

Mostly, it wasn't. But I did make one tactical error.

More on that in a moment.

Here's the question you're all eager to ask right now... How did it taste?
In a word: Good.

I liked it. Everyone who tried it, liked it (or they lied very convincingly)
The cake was nicely moist and not too dense. The chocolate flavor was strong, but not overly sweet. I think the beets beat back the sweetness a bit - which in my book is a good thing. I'll take chocolate over sweet any day.

I didn't intend to frost it - I planned to dust it with powdered sugar, but I ran into a little problem and was forced to come up with a frosting. For that I followed the instructions on the back of my Hershey's cocoa container. Wonderful, very chocolatey, gooey frosting. For my purposes (which will become apparent in a moment) I needed it to be more liquidy - like a glaze - so I simply increased the amount of milk.

Ready for the recipe?


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used light brown, would have preferred dark, but I was out)
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 can beets, drained - but reserve the liquid (I got about 1/3 cup)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a cake pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg.

Puree beets in a food processor or blender.
Melt chocolate in microwave or over stove. Let cool.
In a mixing bowl - cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time. Add pureed beets. Add cooled, melted chocolate.

When these are all nicely combined, add the dry mixture a tablespoonful at a time. Mix well. Once it's all put together, look at it. Does it seem a little too dry/sticky for a cake? Mine did. If so, add the reserved beet liquid and mix well.

Pour into prepared pan. Place in oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Use the toothpick method to test for doneness. This cake doesn't spring back as bounciliy as some.

Allow to cool, remove from pan, dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Well.... unless you run into problems. Like I did.

I used a Bundt pan and halfway through the cake's baking time I realized that even though I'd greased it well, I'd forgotten to flour it. Oops!! When the cake came out and cooled a bit, I tried turning it over onto a plate. That baby didn't budge. Nope. It wanted to stay.

Yikes! I planned to take it to a Sertoma fundraising event - Trivia Night - that evening. It was supposed to be part of my contribution to the team table of snacks. What to do?

I let it cool a little longer (should have waited much longer, but I was impatient) and finally kinda shook it until it dropped.

Great! Except that really pretty Bundt shape - the very top of the cake - stayed inside the pan. The good part was that it allowed me to steal a piece and taste it ahead of time. If it was terrible, I might have run out and purchased something else to supplement my snack contribution. But it tasted pretty good, so I moved forward. I gently pulled the cake top out of the pan and put it back together like a puzzle. It still looked funny, so -- frosting time. As I mentioned earlier, I just whipped together a quick glaze, drizzled it on top (liberally!) and it didn't look too shabby if I do say so myself!

Just do yourself a favor and don't forget the power of flour! What a difference a greased *and* floured pan would have made!

Here we are at Trivia Night, enjoying the cake (among lots of other delicious appetizers and treats). Do these folks look like they're enjoying the cake? Hope so!

By the way, our team came in third overall! Woo-hoo!

Have fun today! Read a book and play in the kitchen!


PS - Take a look! I've changed the book cover opposite my name -->
Buffalo West Wing comes out in January and I'm already getting excited. Berkley does such a magnificent job with covers. I love this new one!

* * *

And don't forget Krista's Christmas Cookie Contest!

Krista's Christmas
Cookie Contest!

Krista Davis is celebrating the upcoming release
of her new holiday mystery, The Diva Cooks a Goose.

She's holding a delicious contest! Send Krista your favorite cookie recipe
at Krista at KristaDavis dot com and you might win!

Find out more
clicking here


  1. Cute picture, and congrats for winning 3rd place!

    I love the idea of a healthier alternative to a chocolate cake...and I don't think you can beat beets! Thanks for sharing this!

  2. White House Chef Ollie's newest mystery looks great! :) You're right, that cover is amazing. Congrats on the upcoming release. Really fun post today -- I always love the idea of sneaking nutrition into treats and that cake looks delicious. I think it's safe to say we *all* have a flour power stories! But, boy, you recovered beautifully.

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth. We definitely had fun. Can't wait to try for second place next year.

    Cleo - it's hard to ruin chocolate, even by adding nutrition, which is why I thought this recipe would be worth a shot. And it was. I'll make it again. Thanks!

  4. Julie, good morning. Trivia night. What fun. I have to admit, I can't do beets. Just can't. so I'll have to figure out something else to substitute in your recipe, but the cake LOOKs magnificent. I make a gluten-free dump cake that looks the same.

    I LOVE your new cover. The band across the top simply pops! Great, great!

    Congratulations and I've ordered my copy. Cleo and Krista, yours too. My, but this group writes a lot of good books. Can't wait to read!


  5. Oh, Julie! I've been through that horrible moment when the bundt cake finally gives and the top remains in the pan. I like your clever solution, and I bet it added to the taste of the cake.

    When I went through my marathon effort to make Red Velvet cupcakes without using food coloring, beets were one of the foods I tried. They're sooo red, you'd think they would make the dough red. I found that, sort of like the carrots in carrot cake, they taste very good in cakes.

    All your tasters look very happy!

    ~ Krista

  6. You clever woman, you! Terrific way to cover a boo-boo (which we all make - some of "us" just panic though). BEETS?! You women keep surprising me with alternative cooking and baking ingredients here! always a mystery what might pop up next at the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. and ANOTHER great cover - Yay! can't wait to read it!

  7. Avery - I've become a relatively recent convert to beets. My mom used to make me try "just a taste" from time to time - and, wouldn't you know, I actually began to like them. Moms are so smart! (Are my kids reading this?? Pay attention!)

    Krista - I was just reading an article about how to make extra-flavorful red velvet cupcakes without the dye, too. Fun stuff. And you're right, the glaze did add to the flavor of the cake. Not to mention giving it a little different texture, too.

    Kay - LOL It's fun to try new things, even when they don't work out exactly as planned. My dad used to always encourage us to improvise... You should see some of the interesting things that we come up with around here (not just food!). LOL

  8. Love the new cover! As for beets, people seem to love or hate them. I'm one of the former, and have a pile of recently harvested gems. So glad to see a unique way to use them. I'll definitely be giving your recipe a try!
    Hearth Cricket

  9. Hi Cricket (gosh, I just love your name!) - let me know how it goes with fresh beets. I bet it'll be great!

  10. Oh, that recipe sounds delightful. I love beetroot, and I love chocolate, so this sounds good to me!

  11. Hi Julie:
    That looks fantastic. Congrats on 3rd place, too!
    Early version of red velvet had beets as a sugar substitute. That and the reddish cast cocoa powder used to have were likely how that cake got its start. I have many friends who swear by beets in cake. I just haven't had the nerve...

  12. I love the cover and I know I'll love the book. Chef Ollie is one of my all-time favorites. I can't wait for this one!

    I'll have to try this cake. If the one with mayonnaise and the one with sauerkraut are lovely, I bet the beet one it, too.

  13. I'm a huge fan of weird food, so I have to try this. :-)