Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chocolate Beet Cake Revised

1st Chocolate Beet Cake, as mini cupcakes
Last weekend I had made and served little mini cupcakes at an Open House. The cake was an experiment, using beets in a chocolate cake. This was an idea I'd never had before and I made part of the recipe into the mini cupcakes and part into a single layer cake to try here at home. While I am not terribly into chocolate of any kind, occasionally I do not mind making and eating a chocolate cake. As chocolate cakes go, that one was good. Flavors were great, to my palate, though I felt it could have been a bit more moist.

I had questions about this whole beet cake concept: 
  • how much of the beets would be too much?
  • how much sugar is needed?
  • should I try using oil instead of creaming butter and sugar?
On that first attempt, I was cautious, using only 1 cup of beets for what was the equivalent of a two-layer cake. I went the route of what I felt was a normal amount of sugar, and creaming the butter and sugar before adding the eggs and the beets to the mixture. As I looked at the recipe I had created, I decided next time to alter some of these things. 
Chocolate Beet Cake, revised, with Hazelnut Creme Filling and Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache

Meanwhile, this past Monday my son called to tell me he and his wife (whom I just adore) were planning to come for a short visit, arriving Thursday around dinner time. They would stay just a couple of days, while on their way to Glacier National Park. As it happens, both of their birthdays fall in September. As it also happens, they both love chocolate cake, and preferably chocolate cake with hazelnuts added in some way. This seemed to be the perfect occasion to make the second Chocolate Beet Cake with the revisions I was planning, as an early birthday celebration.
A slice of Chocolate Beet Cake, revised, with Hazelnut Creme Filling and Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache

For this second cake, the sugar amount was left as it stated. I added an extra half-cup of pureed beets for moistness, and an extra ounce of bittersweet chocolate. As for oil, since I don't keep any cooking oil except olive oil in my house, if I am looking to substitute something for oil in a cake, it is either melted butter or melted coconut oil. For this second cake I increased the "oil" to 2 melted sticks of butter (1 cup), instead of the 1 1/2 sticks in the first cake. Since I was adding more beets and more "oil", I added an extra egg to help set the cake. The first time I used gluten-free flours and added in guar gum and some powdered egg white for stabilizers. This time i used regular all-purpose (wheat) flour. 

This time the cake was perfect and moist, with a wonderful chocolatey flavor and texture. The added beets still did not come through in the flavor, but only added extra moistness to the cake. Perfect!

Chocolate Beet Cake, revised

makes one 2-layer (8-inch) cake 

3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
2 sticks / 16 tablespoons / 1 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups pureed beets (about 3 medium beets, cooked and pureed)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan over very low heat, melt together the 3 ounces chocolate with the butter, just until the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool slightly. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if on Convection Bake). Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the pan bottoms with parchment. Spray the parchment. Set pans aside.

Sift or whisk together in a bowl, the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Once the chocolate and butter mixture is no longer hot to the touch, beat in the eggs, one at a time until thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla with the pureed beets and mix well. If using a larger saucepan, the whole cake can be mixed together in this pan. Add in the flour mixture, mixing well until just combined. Do not over beat.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake the cakes for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few fudgy crumbs. Allow the cakes to cool in pans for about 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely to fill and frost. 

DO AHEAD: The cake layers may be left in the pans overnight, covered tightly with cling-film or foil, to be filled and frosted next day.

Cake batter in pans              |                 baked cake           |     Hazelnut Creme Filling     |    Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache
Since my kids like hazelnut, I created a Hazelnut Creme to spread between the layers. This creme has no chocolate in it. I wanted contrast in flavor and texture. The recipe yielded 2 cups of filling, though I used only about 1 1/2 cups of it for the cake. The rest would taste wonderful on toast, crackers, a bagel, or anything else you would like with a hazelnut flavored cream. I used "white chocolate chips" as part of the filling for flavor. The term "white chocolate" is used loosely when looking at most store-bought brands, as there is generally no cocoa butter in the ingredients. If desired, find an alternative with real cocoa butter such as Valrhona Ivoire or Guittard for better flavor and actual cocoa butter content. This is what I did:

Hazelnut Creme Filling

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup / 4.4 ounces / 124 grams hazelnuts
1/2 cup / 4 ounces / 113 grams cream cheese
1 cup / 5.5 ounces / 156 grams "white chocolate" chips
2 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur), optional

Set the hazelnuts in a saucepan and just barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and let stand in the boiling water for about 2 minutes, off the heat. Drain and place the hazelnuts into a food processor. Process the hazelnuts until fine. Add the cream cheese and process to combine. 

Place the white chocolate chips into a small microwave-safe bowl and use short 7 - 10 second bursts to melt the chips, stirring after each few-second burst. My microwave took almost 40 seconds to completely melt the chips. Add the melted white chocolate chips to the food processor and process to combine, adding in the Frangelico while processing, to combine and loosen the mixture a bit. If not using Frangelico, thin to spreadable consistency with milk, cream or even water. 

DO AHEAD: This filling may be made up to a week in advance and refrigerated, covered tightly. To use, bring to room temperature and stir well before using.

Use this Hazelnut Creme Filling to spread over the first cake layer. Set the second layer over top. Frost with Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache if desired. I wanted a chocolate ganache for the top of the cake, and realized I had no heavy cream in the house. Wondering if there were alternatives for the cream, I found a recipe for this Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache on a website called The Big Bake Theory. I advise you check out the recipe(s) on this website as she gives many options for making ganache. The only thing I did differently was add in Frangelico and some Espresso Liqueur. The ganache was not too sweet, as I used bittersweet chocolate with the sour cream. A sweeter chocolate may be substituted, if a sweeter ganache is desired. The sour cream tang was very apparent. Since the cake was rich and the filling was rich, I felt that a slightly less sweet ganache would be perfect. And it was!

For this recipe the two main ingredients (chocolate and sour cream) must be measured by weight, as it needs equal weights of sour cream to chocolate.

Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache

makes about 3 - 4 cups (2 pounds) ganache
Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache

16 ounces / 453 grams sour cream
1 pound /  452 grams (milk, semi or bittersweet) chocolate
3 - 4 tablespoons Frangelico, optional
2 - 3 tablespoons Espresso liqueur, optional

In a double boiler, set over (but not touching) simmering water, mix together the sour cream and chocolate. Stirring occasionally, allow the mixture to melt together. Once all the chocolate has melted, remove the pan from heat. If using the liqueurs or other flavorings, add them and mix well.

If desired, the ganache can be used immediately, pouring over the cake as a glaze. If using as a frosting, allow the ganache to cool completely to room temperature. This can take up to 3 hours until it will spread as an icing. 

This amount of ganache was not needed if just using it to top the cake as I did. I had about 2 cups leftover. Once refrigerated, this ganache could easily be rolled into balls for truffles. After assembling the cake, I chopped a handful more of hazelnuts and sprinkled them over top of the ganache, just for looks and texture.  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.