A Chocolate Cake That Can’t Be Beet
words by Lia Pietrolungo; photos by Paul Mangus
I was never one for beets as a kid. In fact, I wasn’t too crazy about them as an adult either until I discovered juicing. Sweet, delicious, pain in the ass juicing! I immediately was taken by their earthy flavor, and I guess you could say they took root in my heart. It totally helps that this complex vegetable is incredibly versatile when it comes to crossing over into baking – my first love – too!
I’ve been an Akronite for a few years now, yet it took nearly three of those years to really discover the rich culture that it has to offer. The Countryside Conservancy Farmer’s Markets helped to make me feel closer to the Akron community as well as closer to Ohio’s soil. By using locally sourced ingredients I started to feel more at home in my environment, which brought even more love to my tiny kitchen.
I wanted to kick off this column with something chocolatey, comforting, and delicious. What better to make, then, than a beet chocolate cake?
The beets that I used are from Morningside Farms. Although beets aren’t in season, the Morningside farmers store them at 38˚F at 80% humidity with very little airflow in the boxes to discourage mold without drying the roots out. The result is a fresh root that doesn’t miss a beet when it comes to quality. When roasted, the sugar in the beets caramelizes and intensifies in sweetness and flavor complexity.
The honey that I used is from Greenfield Berry Farm, where their bees are kept by blueberry bushes. The result is a delicious, light honey with subtle floral notes. Better than any I have ever tasted! Greenfield Farm is a part of the Community Supported Agriculture program. They practice natural, sustainable farming and work with other local farmers to contribute to the CSA passion.
The eggs used in this recipe are from Brunty Farms. The eggs specifically come from Golden Comet chickens that are Pasture Raised and cage-free. Their eggs are fresh, organic, and were the perfect binding agent for the cake. They also contributed to some darn good scrambled eggs.
1 ¾ pounds red beets
8 oz. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
1 ¼ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pan
½ tsp cardamom
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C packed light brown sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
3 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Scrub any dirt off of the beets, halve them lengthwise, prick and wrap in foil. Bake the beets for 50 minutes on a baking sheet, check at 30 minute mark. When they are cool enough to handle, rub off the skin using a paper towel. Puree in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1 ½ cups of puree for the cake.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pan with cocoa powder.
- In a bowl, stir together the flour, ¼ cup cocoa powder, the baking soda, the cardamom, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, both sugars, the melted butter, and vanilla until well combined. Beat in the pureed beets and melted chocolate. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake just starts to pull away from the sides of a pan. The cake is done when a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
- Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then run a metal spatula around the sides and invert onto a serving platter. You may also leave it in the pan as I did.
- To make the chocolate glaze, melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Ensure that the bowl does not touch the water to avoid burning the chocolate. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and honey. Cool, stirring occasionally until the glaze is a spreading consistency. Spread over the cooled cake and top with toasted coconut, or nothing at all.
- Eat every last bite.
Thank you to all of the famers who contributed ingredients!
Greenfield Berry Farm
2485 Major Rd
Peninsula, OH 44264
1075 State Rd
Hinckley, OH 44233
2470 Martin Rd
Akron, OH 44333
Lia Pietrolungo is an avid licker of bowls and spatulas. Her cat, Heathcliff, is also an avid licker of bowls and spatulas. Together they are the perfect pair.