When I received Nigel Slater’s vegetable cookbook Tender for Christmas, I wasn’t expecting to discover dessert recipes within its pages. True, the carrot cake recipe didn’t strike me as unusual, but chocolate beet cake? That sounded a little odd—but also intriguing.
For those wary of introducing beets to the dessert hour, breathe easy. The beet flavor is barely discernible, and you could probably fool an unsuspecting eater into thinking there are no veggies here. The beets are an understated yet powerful ingredient, lending both moisture and a subtle depth of flavor to the cake. Make no mistake: though this cake contains vegetables, it does not purport to be healthy. After all, it’s got all the ingredients any decadent cake would have: two bars of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso, eggs, sugar, a bit of flour.
I should also add that besides being an indulgence, this cake is also rather large. When I scooped the batter into the pan, I was a bit stunned by how it reached towards the brim, nearly filling the entire 9″ spring form pan. And when I took it out of the oven and it was still as big, though a tad sunken in center, I knew we had several days of cake eating ahead of us. I didn’t make this cake for any special occasion; I made it just to see how beets and chocolate fared together. I am pleased to report that beets are chocolate get along remarkably well. When you think about it, the earthiness of the beets complements the earthiness of the chocolate and espresso quite well. The cake has a slight red hue, and the deep chocolate flavor and fudge-like texture remind me of flourless chocolate cake and chocolate truffles but without being as sweet or dense.
Nigel Slater recommends serving the cake with crème fraîche, but since I had whipping cream on hand, that’s what we used. I followed his advice, though, for garnishing the cake with poppy seeds, and I’m so glad I did because the poppy seeds create a festive finish. The poppy seeds, whipped cream and honest flavors of the cake strike me as so European. In fact, I find myself wanting to take a four o’clock Kaffee und Kuchen break every day, like Caroline and I did when we visited Germany. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing; after all, there are vegetables in this cake.
You can find the recipe for the cake here, where Nigel Slater first wrote about it for the UK newspaper The Telegraph. I decided not to repost the recipe because I want to abide by copyright laws, and to reprint a recipe I either have to adapt it or get permission. I couldn’t imagine altering this cake at all, so I trust you won’t mind clicking over to the recipe source if it has piqued your interest.