Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chocolate Cake with a Super Secret Ingredient

When I think back on the picky eater I used to be, I'm pretty sure she would have run screaming from this chocolate cake if she'd known what was in it.

In fact, even as a much more adventurous eater now, I was still really apprehensive about the secret ingredient in this cake.

It looks like a regular ol'chocolate cake....
It's just... I don't think I've ever seen it in a dessert before.

Which is weird, because here in North America, most of our sugar is derived from it.

Have you guessed now?

Callebault Dark Chocolate and a Beet
That's right, it's a chocolate beet cake. And it's pretty darned good at that. Now that's not saying that it tastes like your run of the mill chocolate cake. It tastes like there's something different. It gives it a tangier kick, I'd say. My husband says it's one of the most intense chocolatey cakes he's ever had, but that might also be the Callebault chocolate speaking.

I made a half-ish version of the original recipe, owing to the fact that my only springform pan is pretty small (6"). If you have an 8" pan, please see the original recipe in the link.

With this recipe, it's important to set out and organize all your ingredients in advance. Once the chocolate has melted, you've got to move fairly quickly. Not frantically, but quickly.

Chocolate Beet Cake

(adapted from Nigel Slater)


1 medium beet (a little less than ½ lb)
½ cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1½ tbsp cocoa powder
3 egg whites
½ cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
¼ lb good quality dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp hot brewed strong coffee
½ cup (scant) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

whipped cream (or crème fraiche) to serve


1. Line the base of a 6" springform pan with parchment paper. Let aside. Preheat oven to 375º.

2. Cook the beet, whole and unpeeled in a large pot of boiling water until tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on size. Remove, drain and run under cold water to both chill the beet and aid in the peeling process. Trim the top and bottom, throw the beet into a food processor and pulse until you have a rough purée.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.

4. If you haven't done so already, separate the eggs and place the 3 whites into a large mixing bowl and 2 egg yolks into a small separate bowl. Lightly beat the yolks.

5. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler by setting a large, heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Just dump the chocolate into the bowl and leave it be. That's right. Resist the urge to stir. I had a hard time with it, but Nigel is right! Don't stir. When it looks like the chocolate is just about melted, stir in the coffee. Stir to combine then add butter, pushing it below the surface of the chocolate. Remove the chocolate from heat and let the butter melt into it.

6. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites to soft peaks, then begin adding in sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until sugar is all incorporated and you have stiff peaks. Set aside.

7. Once butter is melted, stir the chocolate and test the temperature. You don't want it to be much more than warm, as you're about to add the eggs. Add in the egg yolks, making sure to stir constantly to combine. Gently fold in egg white mixture into chocolate. Once incorporated, add cocoa-flour mixture, again, quickly but gently. Pour into prepared pan and place pan in oven.

8. Reduce oven temperature to 325º, bake cake for 40 minutes. The outside will feel spongy when touched, and the middle will still jiggle slightly when wobbled. Set aside to cool completely (don't attempt to serve this while evenly vaguely beyond room temperature). It will sink in the middle, and I warn you, that part is dangerously fudgy.

9. Serve with whipped cream and amazed taste buds.

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