Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chocolate Beetroot Cake - Nigel Slater

I'm a fan of the barter system. A big fan. I would much rather pay in cake for something than hand over cash, I find it really impersonal. Sometimes its necessary, sometimes though, someone gets to have their cake and eat it too!

I recently needed a measuring cylinder for some home brewing, and some copper sulphate for my fish tank (pesky algae!). Being that I'm a science teacher I  have access to these things, and I asked my head of dept what would be required for me to borrow the cylinder and have some CuSO4. After a staff room discussion it turns out that the price for these things was a chocolate beetroot cake. I'd never made one before, and so this was the price we agreed upon!

While I was at Coventry Markets in Morley, I was hunting down some  pretty purple beetroot, when I saw that one of the market stalls has both golden and purple beetroot in stock! This was pretty great, as I had wanted to try baking with the golden beetroot before as a taste test with a friend had decided that the golden ones were less earthy and slightly sweeter. They looked so pretty, bright yellow orange amongst abundant green leaves, flanked by the dark ruby purple beetroots. I couldn't help but buy both! I ended up making a electric pink dip with the purple ones, blitzed up with danish fetta and seasoned with dukkuh, it went a dream with toasted freshly made turkish flatbreads I picked up from Sevims from the same market.

I came home and had a search for recipes and ended up finding a David Lebovitz post about a choc beetroot cake, which was inspired by Nigel Slaters recipe from Tender Vol 1, which I have. I'm always looking for reasons to use my cookbooks, and so I went and grabbed it, and decided that this was the one! I read the recipe, and saw that it followed the same method as Maggie Beers recipe for a rich chocolate cake with figs that I completely killed a couple of weeks ago, as the chocolate split - THREE TIMES that weekend. I was apprehensive about having to do this again but figured that I'd better just get back on the horse! I'm glad I did, the cake turned out great.

When I added the coffee to the chocolate, it did begin to split, and I almost stirred it too much, but them remembered Slater had specified to stir it ONLY ONCE! I added the butter and left it, as instructed. I came back to it and gave it a stir and it looked like it had split. I almost didn't trust Nigel anymore! But I read the recipe again, and he had specified to mix it firmly (I had just been using a spoon previously), so I got out my whisk and gave it a firmer beating and it came together beautifully. How could I have doubted Mr Slater?! He has proven that I can trust his recipes!

I have also learned something new about melting chocolate - Don't overstir it, just leave it to melt on a gentle heat. This will be my method from now on!

Heres the recipe below, which I got from the Telegraph UK website.

250g beetroot
200g fine dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)
4 tbsp hot espresso
200g butter
135g plain flour
a heaped tsp baking powder
3 tbsp good-quality cocoa powder
5 eggs
190g golden caster sugar
crème fraîche and poppy seeds, to serve

1) Lightly butter a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment. Set the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

2) Cook the beetroot, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be knifepoint tender within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice out their stem and root, and blitz to a rough purée.

3) Melt the chocolate, snapped into small pieces, in a small bowl resting over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot coffee over it and stir once. Cut the butter into small pieces – the smaller the better –and add to the melted chocolate. Dip the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and leave to soften.

4) Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs; put the whites in a mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.

5) Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Fold in the beetroot. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but tenderly fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. A large metal spoon is what you want; work in a deep, figure-of-eight movement but take care not to over-mix. Fold in the flour and cocoa.

5) Transfer quickly to the prepared cake tin and put in the oven, turning the heat down immediately to 160C/gas mark 3. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken.

6) Leave to cool (it will sink a tad in the centre), loosening it around the edges with a palette knife after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its tin until it is completely cold. Serve in thick slices, with crème fraîche and poppy seeds.

I decided to make 2 cakes with this mix, and while the cake was lovely, it would definately be much better made as the larger cake, much more moist and dense. I didn't adjust the cooking time enough, so the cake was a touch drier than it should have been, but through no fault of the recipe! Note to self... Don't cook stuff too long!

Will make this again, following Nigels instructions to the letter!


  1. Gorgeously moist. I've always wanted to try a beet cake!

  2. Its really good, well worth it! Good way to get some more veges in your diet!

  3. Hi! Was searching for a beetroot choc cake and chanced upon your blog. There's no mention of the amount of beetroot in the recipe. An overlook?

    1. Cheah THANK YOU for letting me know!! How could I have missed that?! Its 250g of beetroot - but I will fix it straight away!