Chocolate Beet Cake with Spiced Creme Anglaise
As any of you locavores living in a cold climate know, the durable beet is one of the vegetables that appears over and over during the frigid winter months. Roasted beets make a weekly appearance in our house, alongside the other hardy roots that arrive in our winter CSA share, but I’m always looking for other ways to use them. Latkes are a favorite, mixed with the carrots we get in our share; Felicia’s Lounge in Ithaca does a fantastic beet cocktail that we’ve enjoyed a few times. I’ve had borscht on my to-make list for a few winters now, though I’ve admittedly never gotten around to it…and my sister-in-law recently tossed roasted beets and shallots with pasta, along with feta cheese, thyme, balsamic, and walnuts: a delicious combination.
But dessert? My mind didn’t immediately go in this direction with beets until I saw this gorgeous beet cake on Straight From the Farm (a great blog to check out if you’re a fan of seasonal recipes.) And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Pureed beets add moistness and a touch of sweetness to a deep chocolate cake — yet any overt beet flavor is masked by the rich chocolate. Plus, I love the fact that I can get a serving of vegetables with my hunk of chocolate cake.
I made this around the holidays and served it with a spiced creme anglaise; a scoop of vanilla ice cream would also be a nice accompaniment.
It might be fun to serve this to people and have them guess what the “secret ingredient” is. The faint rosy color may give it away (as…um…would the stencil of a beet on top, of course!)
Chocolate Beet Cake
1 cup butter, softened, divided
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
2-3 oz. dark chocolate
5 medium beets (2 cups pureed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Make the beet puree by trimming the beets and simmering them for about 50 minutes, until tender. Drain the liquid and cool the beets (you can run water over them to cool them off.) Slide the skins off, then place them in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Let the puree cool slightly before using it in the cake.
Cream 3/4 cup of the butter with the dark brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Melt the remaining butter together with the chocolate, either in the microwave or in a double boiler over simmering water. Cool slightly, then add the chocolate mixture, beet puree, and vanilla into the butter/sugar mixture (it may look separated at this point.)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch springform pan; bake at 375 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (I started checking around 50 minutes.) Cool the cake in the pan 15 minutes before unmolding and removing to a cooling rack; cool completely before dusting with confectioner’s sugar.
Spiced Creme Anglaise
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Set a bowl over ice water and have a strainer nearby – you’ll want this ready so you can stop the sauce from cooking when it’s ready.
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar and set aside.
Combine milk, cream, and spices in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat just until the mixture starts to simmer. Whisk some of it slowly into the egg yolk mixture, then slowly add the rest of it while whisking. Pour the whole thing back into the sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until it’s thick enough to coat the spatula or spoon — this usually takes about a minute or two longer. Don’t boil it or the egg will harden.
Strain into the bowl set over ice water to stop the mixture from cooking further. Chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.