Beetroot in a chocolate cake?
I would call this moist beetroot chocolate cake a sturdy and dependable cake. While it lacks the elegance of a delicate cream sponge or a beautiful fruit tart, it is absolutely delicious.
What’s more, it tastes just as good a couple of days after baking. And, it holds up to transportation to picnics in tins and in school lunchboxes.
Beetroot seems to marry well with chocolate. In fact, I found a number of brownie and cookie recipes which combine the two ingredients. Beetroot gives the cake a lovely deep pink hue, and helps to keep it moist. However, it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the chocolate.
In other words, my kids don’t know it’s there if I don’t tell them.
Beetroots: a little history
Beetroots have been used historically for both medicinal and culinary purposes. In fact, as a plant that grew along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, they were initially cultivated just for their leaves.
During the mid eighteenth century, the German chemist, Andreas Margraff, discovered that both white and the red beetroot contained sucrose. At that time, sugar was a luxury that few could afford. Most sugar was obtained from tropical sugar cane grown in the West Indies.
During the Napoleonic War, supplies were cut off by the English blockade of continental Europe, which increased the demand for sugar. Napoleon encouraged more research into sugar beets (as they’re called in the USA), a variety of beetroot. As a result, thousands of acres were put into sugar beet production, and factories were set up in France.
After Napoleon’s fall, sugar from the tropics became readily available again, and the price of sugar beet collapsed due to excess supply. The majority of the factories closed, and new development proceeded slowly.
With the decline of slavery in the West Indies, the European industry became increasingly competitive with the tropical source of sugar. By the mid nineteenth century, the now well-established sugar beet industry operated over most of the continent.
Pomegranate molasses is one of the those ingredients that I buy for a particular recipe, but then it languishes on my pantry shelf for a while. I love the taste of it in this moist beetroot chocolate cake.
Pomegranate molasses is a tart and tangy syrup, though to have originated from the Middle East. It’s made from pure pomegranate juice, and is typically used as a condiment to balance fatty foods, especially meat dishes. I’ve used it many times in savoury dishes, such as roasted vegetables and this roasted onion and beetroot dip, but I wanted to try using it in this cake.
It is readily available in most supermarkets, but if you can’t find any, here are some alternatives: cranberry juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar with sugar, grenadine, or tamarind paste with a little honey.
Edible rose petals
My kids are not big fans of icing, so instead I decorated my moist beetroot chocolate cake with grated chocolate and edible rose petals. It looks rather pretty, don’t you think? You could also dust the cake with icing sugar if you prefer.
You can find edible rose petals in most large supermarkets, but I do rather love visiting Gerwurzhaus in Sydney’s historic Strand Arcade for its beautiful spice blends.
Rose petals can be added to any number of sweet dishes. Think syrups and jellies, pannacotta and meringues. They can also be frozen in ice cubes for use in cocktails.
The kids and I enjoyed sharing this moist beetroot chocolate cake for afternoon tea on a recent rainy weekend. It was a good excuse to set the table with my vintage silverware and pretty plates.
PS: If you’ve tried this Moist beetroot chocolate cake or any other recipe on At Amanda’s Table, please let me know how it turned out in the comments below. If you’d like to read more, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter for stories, recipes and tips for simple, nutritious meals.
Moist Beetroot Chocolate Cake
- 125 g unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
- 220 g brown sugar (1 cup, firmly packed)
- 80 ml maple syrup (1/3 cup)
- 4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 200 g raw beetroot, grated (approx 1 large beetroot)
- 100 g good quality dark chocolate (reserve 20 g for the top of the cake) I used Lindt, 70% cocoa
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 225 g wholemeal flour (1 1/2 cups)
- 25 g cocoa powder (1/4 cup)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp edible rose petals
- Preheat oven to 160℃ (140℃ fan-forced).
- Grease and line a 24 cm round spring-form tin with baking paper.
- Break 80g of chocolate into small pieces. Melt the butter over a low heat, then stir in the brown sugar and chocolate. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the chocolate has melted.
- Remove from heat, stir in the grated beetroot and set aside.
- Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then pour in the beetroot mixture.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt into a separate bowl.
- Fold the flour mixture into the beetroot mixture, then pour into the prepared tin.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
- Before serving, grate the remaining 20 g of chocolate on top of the cake and sprinkle with rose petals. Serve with Greek yoghurt or a dollop of cream on the side.