Chocolate Beet Cake
When I look back on the years when my boys were all still at home, it strikes me how little I recall the small details of most days. I don't remember what we had for dinner each night, who I spoke to when I picked the kids up from elementary school each day, or what time Kevin came home from work each evening. But sprinkled in were those precious few days I thought about long after they were gone, about which I remember every detail. When a friend invites me over for dinner, for example. Now that's a day I remember. There is something so personal about being invited into someone's home, glimpsing into their private sphere, and then proceeding to share the evening with them.
About twenty years ago, our friends Suzanne and David invited me and Kevin and over for dinner. Even though it was such a long time ago, I still remember sitting on the porch in their backyard, eating a fantastic seafood dinner, and sharing stories from our day-to-day lives with each other. But the most memorable moment from that evening came after dinner, when we were sitting at the kitchen table as Suzanne made a chocolate ganache at the stove. She was talking away, but I was watching in awe as she generously poured the ganache all over a large chocolate cake. I'm no chocoholic (I do love it, as I love all desserts, but I don't always go for the chocolate option), so I was nervous. However, that cake really spoke to me. It was so moist, dense, and earthy. I remember eating it in a state of wonder. Kevin and I were still reminiscing about the cake the next day, and when I called to thank Suzanne and David for a great evening, I of course raved some more about the cake. Now here comes the best part, the part that elevates Suzanne from the realm of 'good' friend to the realm of 'special' friend. No more than thirty minutes after the phone call, my doorbell rang. It was Suzanne, holding not only a huge wedge of the leftover chocolate cake, but an extra copy of the recipe for me as well. As I came down from my state of shock, Suzanne went on to tell me that she had received the recipe from a friend (who had also probably received it from a friend). Many thanks to Suzanne and David, who are wonderful enough to still have us over for dinner all of these years later. XO
But enough reminiscing, it's time to get on to the nitty-gritty. This recipe contains beets, which stain and can be a bit messy, so dress appropriately when baking this cake. The beets can be pureed up to three days ahead of time, but in that case the puree must be refrigerated and covered (in glass, not plastic, because of staining). The beet puree should also be slightly warm when added to the batter, so if it's been in the fridge, warm it slightly before adding it to the batter. This is very important, as the chocolate and the beets won't blend properly if the puree is cold.
Before baking, the batter will be a dark maroon color, but it becomes a chocolate color after baking. The batter also doesn't taste great, and that's coming from someone who always licks the leftover batter on the whisk. On top of that, the aroma of the cake as it bakes isn't very pleasant either, but rest assured that the end result is delicious. After the cake comes out of the oven, I let it cool for about fifteen minutes before using a large serrated knife to level off the top. This is so that it will sit squarely when I flip it onto a cake plate, but also so that I can nibble on warm scraps of cake before serving it to guests.
Adapted from the recipe I received from Suzanne many years ago...
~ 4½ pounds fresh beets
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 large eggs
2½ cups granulated sugar - 1 pound 1.5 ounces
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar - 1.875 ounces
1½ cups grapeseed oil (or other mild tasting oil) - 10.5 ounces
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour - 15.75 ounces - see note on accurately measuring flour here
4 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Wash and trim beet stems to within an inch of beet. Place in a very large pot of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook beets until very tender when pierced with a knife (~1—2½ hours, depending on the sizes of the beets). Drain and cool slightly. Cut off beet tops and rub off the peel with your fingers or a paper towel. Cut beets into chunks and place in food processor (process in batches). Puree until smooth. Measure 4 cups of the puree to use in the cake.
Position the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 12-cup tube pan (I like a one piece tube pan, but a two piece pan works as well), line the bottom with parchment paper cut into the correct doughnut shape, then butter parchment.
In the top of a double boiler, melt chocolate over lightly simmering water. Remove from heat and stir into the 4 cups of reserved warm beet puree.
Beat eggs and white sugar with an electric mixer until combined. Beat in brown sugar followed by oil. Gradually beat the beet/chocolate mixture into the batter. Combine the dry ingredients and slowly mix into batter. Add vanilla extract. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place in preheated oven and bake for 85 minutes to 95 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 190°F (cake tester should come out clean). Cool completely before removing from pan. The cake will crack if removed warm (I learned this the hard way). As the cake will sit upside down on the cake plate, trim the top of the cake before removing it from the pan.
I increased the quantity of the glaze as I love when it pools on the plate so that I can scrape extra onto my piece.
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream - 8 ounces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over lightly simmering water. Add butter, corn syrup and cream. Stir until it comes together and is smooth. Remove from heat, cool slightly and pour over completely cooled cake.