Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CAKES & VEGETABLES - PART II - BEETROOT - Nigel Slater's Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beetroot Cake with Crème Fraîche and Poppy Seeds

This is the second cake in of my October Series called “CAKES AND VEGETABLES”. Today the chosen vegetable is the wonderful beetroot. The deep ruby earthiness of a beetroot is surprisingly well suited for bittersweet chocolate cake. No matter how you feel about beetroots in salads or soups, today´s featured cake will not be an acquired taste. Crushed beetroots are a wonderful way to make a moist, nearly molten cake. In this "Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beetroot Cake with Crème Fraîche and Poppy Seeds", the beetroots make themselves known, but only barely, or "elusively", as Nigel Slater says.

If you are pruchasing beetroots, look for small beetroots with the stalks still intact. To store fresh beetroots, cut off the leafy tops and then place to dry in a single layer in a wooden or cardboard box. To cook wash - but do not peel - the beetroot and either boil, steam or bake until tender. Once cool enough, the outer skin should be rubbed off. To avoid stained hands, wash them and anything else you have used as soon as possible. Beetroot leaves and stems can also be eaten, cook them as you would any other spring greens.

Consider beetroot recipes for salads, risottos, dips, tartare or soups with a dollop of sour cream. You can also prepare beetroot chutney, relish or sauce or you can simply pickle them, caramelize or roast them or make pancakes and soufflées with them. The possibilities are endless.

Recipe for Nigel Slater's Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake
(as adapted from “Tender” by Nigel Slater)

Ingredients for the Cake

  • 240 grams (8.4 ounces) fresh beetroots
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) dark chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence 70%)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) freshly brewed espresso
  • 200 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus some for greasing the pan
  • 135 grams (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) plain/AP flour, plus some for the pan
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder 
  • 5 eggs (L), free range or organic if possible, separated
  • one pinch of fine salt
  • 200 grams (1 cup) superfine sugar

Ingredients for the Topping 

  • crème fraîche (I used about 200 grams / 7 ounces of a French crème fraîche) – according to Nigel Slater the use of crème fraîche here “it is an important part of the cake”.
  • poppy seeds (I used about two tbsp) 


  • one 22 centimeter (8 to 8 1/2 inches) spring form pan or other round cake pan
  • some parchment paper (unbleached if possible) for lining the pan

Preparation of the Cake

1. Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the base with a round of parchment paper. Heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
2. Cook the beetroots, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until you end up with a coarse purée.
3. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. NOTE: Do not stir!
4. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the freshly brewed espresso over it and stir but once. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the melted chocolate. Push the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon and leave to soften.
5. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa.
6. Separate the eggs, putting the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.
7. Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture.
8. Fold in the beetroots.
9. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. Take care not to over-mix.
10. Lastly, fold in the flour and the cocoa.
11. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 165 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit). Bake for about 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken.
12. Set the cake aside to cool (it will sink a tad in the center), loosening it around the edges with a thin offset spatula after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its pan until it is has completely cooled.

Preparation of the Topping and Serving

1. Stir the crème fraîche ever so slighty and carefully spread in an even layer over the cake (this is best done with an offset spatula).
2. Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the cake.
3. Serve in thick slices.


  • “Tender Volume I: A Cook and his Vegetable Patch” by Nigel Slater ( published September 14, 2009 or for the US edition (http://,  published April 26, 2011.
  • Baking pan from “Kaiser” (
  • Chocolate from “Lindt” (

If you do not mind showcasing vegetables in baked goods based on their flavor, texture, moisture, or even their nourishing qualities, this "Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beetroot Cake with Crème Fraîche and Poppy Seeds" is one fantastic way to do so. It has a sweet, earthy flavor and a warm color. Chocolate and beetroot are a particularly heavenly combination. This cake was so well received at our house, that I almost did not believe my eyes - except for the very youngest taste tester (who is all of four years old), the kids loved this cake - and they knew before they tasted the cake that it contained cooked and puréed beetroots.The crème fraîche topping is indeed a "must", it adds so much in taste and texture to this cake that I would not dream of serving a slice of this cake without its tangy topping.

If you continue to follow my series, you will notice that there will be one more cake with beetroots but this time they will be raw rather than previously cooked and they will lend a completely different texture to the baked cake.


  1. Oh yes, it does look very moist! And I wouldn't have known if beet is in it unless you mention! Considering that veggies in it, I think I'd be allowed to eat one more slice.. right? :D Gorgeous cake Andrea!

  2. I love the rich simplicity and warmth that this dish seems to promise!

  3. Just lovely, Andrea! I still have not had an opportunity to try beetroots and I love that you can put them in baked goods. I will keep an eye at the farmer's markets to see if I can find some.

  4. I have a book of chocolate cakes and there´s one with beets that´s been bookmarked forever. It always sounded so good to try, and now I know why. The moisture is extraordinary Andrea, and the cheese and poppy seeds are such a perfect layer on top! Really, really wonderful recipe!

  5. What a terrific idea. I would never have thought to add beets to a cake, but I could see where they would add a lovely sweetness and richer color.

  6. am so glad you made this cake Andrea.. I have seen this cake and it has been on my list forever.. and now with your review of it..I am even more convinced to give it a shot!!