Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beets in Chocolate Cake Oh My

Chioggia Beets, ready to go in the oven
What next? Beets used in chocolate cake may not be a new thing for many people, but for me the first I ever heard of it was last week when I was given many bags of beets from someone's garden. I love beets. Mainly, I would pickle them and either eat them that way or make my Grandmother's Horseradish with beets for Easter (or any time there is ham around the house). There is another way I have eaten beets in recent years, since finding a recipe in an ad in Food and Wine Magazine. It was one of F & W's Grace Parisi recipes called Lemon and Garlic Roasted Beets, and was created to pair with Folie a Deux's "Menage a Troix" red wine. The recipe does pair excellently with the wine, but just the beets alone are like candy to me; I just can't stop eating them. I made them a couple of years back using Chioggia Beets from the Farmers' Market. They were the prettiest things you've ever seen. Well, if you like beets.
Chocolate Beet Mini Cupcakes

So, you must get the idea - I love beets. Yet in all my years, I never heard of or thought of using them in cake. I don't know why, really. After all, we make carrot cakes and zucchini bread. Why not use beets? They would provide the same moistness as these other vegetables. I asked the woman for the recipe she used, as she said it was her family's favorite chocolate cake. 

That day I came home with all those beets, I first washed, trimmed and peeled all the largest beets, wrapped them individually in foil and baked them. Smaller ones were done at 55 minutes; larger ones took up to 75 minutes in a 400-degree oven. I pureed the whole batch and got quite a bit of pureed beets, for use in cake or for anything else. I kept a couple of cups, in separate freezer baggies in the fridge, to use for a cake. I looked up "Chocolate Beet Cake" on the internet and found many recipes, with many variations. As usual, I compared those recipes to my idea of a chocolate cake or another similar type cake using a vegetable and created a recipe of my own.

A Slice of Chocolate Beet Cake
I was going to be making appetizers for the Open House this past Sunday, and thought to add in a few mini cupcakes to the agreed-upon foods. It is often the case that someone requires a special diet. Around here it seems gluten intolerance is one of the biggest difficulties. Since the fillings I created for the cherry tomatoes and endive leaves were both gluten free, I thought to give this cake recipe a try using gluten free flours.  I have found that gluten free cakes and dessert loaves seem to be more moist in general, so I proceeded with this in mind.

The recipe is large enough to make a 2-layer (8-inch) cake or a 9 x 13-inch pan. I used slightly less than half the batter and made 24 mini cupcakes. The rest of the batter I baked in a 9-inch round cake pan. I am sure the batter could be divided into two 9-inch pans, but the cakes would be far thinner; less lofty. The cake and the cupcakes turned out absolutely delicious. Again, as with the Maraschino Cherry Cake I made for my husband's birthday, it seemed the cake was done before I noticed, and it was a little more dry than I wanted. Not as dry as the cherry cake, mind you. This one is really nice. It could, however, have taken a few minutes less in the oven. 

I want to make this cake again, using a few different ideas. I do not keep cooking oil in the house, except for olive oil. I would like to try using melted butter or melted coconut oil instead of creaming the room temperature butter. I would also like to try using more of the beets than I did. I went conservatively for this first cake, using only 1 cup of beets. More would make a moister cake, and as there was absolutely no "beet" flavor in this cake, I have more confidence going with a larger amount. Here is my recipe as it stands today:

Beet Chocolate Cake (Gluten Free optional)

makes two 8-inch round cakes, or one 9 x 13-inch cake

1 cup cooked, pureed beets (about 2 medium)
2 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (or use regular all-purpose flour)
Unbaked batter left                 |                Baked cake on right
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
(If using a GF flour blend
add 1 1/2 teaspoons guar gum, and 2 tablespoons of powdered egg whites)
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan over low heat melt together the 4 tablespoons of butter and the 2 ounces of chocolate. Once just melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). Grease two 8-inch pans and line them with parchment. Grease the parchment. Set aside. IF using a 9 x 13 inch pan where the cake will remain in the pan, it is not necessary to line the pan.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. If making the cake gluten free, ass the guar gum and powdered egg whites to the bowl and whisk well to combine.

In a mixer bowl, cream together the 8 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add in the pureed beets and mix to combine. Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Divide the mixture equally between the two 8-inch pans, or pour all the mixture into the 9 x 13 inch pan.

If making regular cupcakes, I estimate about 1 dozen. If making mini cupcakes, the minimum yield will be 48.

Bake the 8-inch cakes for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few fudgy crumbs. The 9 x 13 will take a few minutes more. The mini cupcakes took about 12 minutes.

Allow the 8-inch cakes to rest in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely before frosting.

For this cake I made a frosting using 1 part cream cheese to two parts butter and flavored it with green tea powder and a little pistachio flavoring. For this frosting the butter and cream cheese MUST be very soft, at room temperature, or it will not whip properly. The flavors were a wonderful match:

Pistachio Green Tea Icing

enough to frost top and sides of a two layer cake
Pistachio Green Tea Icing

2 sticks / 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 teaspoons Matcha Green Tea Powder, optional

a few drops of pistachio flavoring, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 - 2 tablespoons heavy cream, as needed

In a stand mixer, beat the first two ingredients on medium or medium high for 8 minutes, until nearly white and very soft. Sift together in a separate bowl the confectioners' sugar, salt and green tea powder if using. Stop the mixer and add these dry ingredients all at once. Turn mixer on to very low speed for about one minute, until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the flavorings. Increase mixer speed to medium or medium high and beat for 6 minutes more, adding the cream if necessary to make it spreading consistency.

This makes a very pale green colored icing. If more color is desired, add in a few drops of green food coloring. I grated a little more of the bittersweet chocolate to sprinkle over the icing.

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.