Sunday, September 19, 2010

Beet Cake: Redemption

Last week I made about the worst cake I've ever baked. Except for the first one, baked when I was about 11, which was a crazy cake using Nestle's Quik instead of unsweetened cocoa, and not enough sugar. Seriously, that one was inedibly bad, but this one was almost as bad.

It was a recipe I'd made before, which made it all the more galling. I hate to share the recipe having said it was bad, but really, it's a perfectly good cake--if you do it right. It's this chocolate zucchini cake that I learned about from our wonderful CSA farmers. It's a pretty tasty cake if you do it the way Lisa does, or the way I'd done it before. But I think I made at least two strategic errors with last week's cake. First, I used all beets for the veggies; previously I'd used zucchini, and that was terrific. Second, I threw in a half cup or so of buckwheat flour, which made it heavier than it should have been.

I hate to waste food, so I've been working away at that cake all week. Mark helped some, but Nick flat refused, and I could hardly blame him. Actually, both Mark and I kept eating it in part out of curiosity--was it really as bad as we thought? Maybe it just tasted, you know, like beets--we both like beets, so why didn't we like it? But the fact is, we didn't. Still, I felt that beet cake should work--after all, beets are sweet, right? Otherwise they couldn't make sugar from them!

So I googled around a while, searched out epicurious, looked for vegan recipes, and otherwise explored the possibilities. Most recipes for chocolate beet cake seem to be efforts to create a red velvet cake without red food coloring, but most commenters seemed to agree that it didn't actually work. Jessica Seinfeld had a recipe--and, again, it was hard to find people who were positive about it. And my point wasn't to be deceptive about this at all; I just thought it might be an interesting use for beets (which, again, I quite like), and perhaps a healthier chocolate cake as well.

In the end I took from a number of different recipes and came up with this. It worked, but I'm not sure I can even quite repeat it. One thing about this one is that I had some leftover squash puree in the house so that became part of the veggies in the cake; I think that may have helped reduce the excessive "beetiness" of the first cake while still helping keep the whole thing moist. Another thing is that I cooked the beets and then pureed them with their cooking water, so the beets were a lot moister in this version than the original--and, I think, mellowed by cooking. With those caveats, though, I now give you:

Beet Cake, Redeemed


1 cup cooked pureed beets* and/or squash, cooled. (I imagine sweet potatoes would work, too; your puree can be quite a bit waterier than if you actually meant to eat it)
1/4 cup plain yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream (I had some Greek yogurt and used that)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional


Preheat oven to 350F
Butter or spray a 9-inch square cake pan

Whisk together the first 7 ingredients (puree through vanilla). Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into the liquid ingredients, stirring only until you can't see any more flour. (Don't overmix.) Fold in the chocolate chips, if using, and pour into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top springs back when pressed lightly. Serve warm with ice cream (or plain) and see if anyone guesses what's in it.

*I had shredded beets left over from last week's disaster, so I put those in a microwave-safe bowl with water and steamed them until they were soft, then dumped all into the blender to puree. The squash was cut in half and the seeds, etc., scraped out, then turned cut-side down into a baking pan and baked at 350 for about an hour, or until soft, then scraped out of the skin and pureed in the food processor.

1 comment:

Lisa Moussalli said...

Oh no! Well, it's very good to know that 100% beets may not be the way to go! I've only ever done it with just squash/zucchini, or a mix of squash, sweet potatoes, and beets -- and always with raw veggies.

Thanks for the feedback, for real -- and for your fortitude in working through that cake :)