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Chocolate beet cake is topped with blackberry buttercream for a beautiful, fresh dessert.
The past month has been incredibly challenging in a variety of ways. My work is an incredible blessing, but at the same time, filled with many and more stumbles than the traditional 9-to-5 job. Working office jobs meant the job was always done when I went home; as a freelancer the job is never quite actually done.
This tends to mean everything has been blurred, from boundaries to social gatherings to what we’re eating at home. I’d like to think that I’ve mastered balancing this life after a few years working from home, but there’s always a change, always something new cropping up that either throws me into a loop of the downward variety or lifts up my inspiration to the point that the rest of my work seems dull in comparison.
I try to turn to the kitchen in times like this, to lose myself in the process so I can clear my mind. Last summer I waxed on about this process when I shared my black forest cake, and it does seem like I am circling around the proverbial cake labyrinth, hoping that each new cake will solve some of my inner riddles.
The truth of it is that my birthday was last month, and I never had a cake for it. Without time to make my own cake, it slipped by the wayside and then before I knew it, May was over, school was out for summer, and the cake idea that had been percolating in my brain was boiling over.
Call it creative frustration if you like — without an outlet, I was going a little bit stir-crazy.
Thankfully last week I was able to buckle down, focus, and lose myself to the cake process. This particular cake does take a bit of time due to the preparation of the beets, but it’s hands-off time for the most part.
Use that time to read the newspaper or dive into a coloring book like I’ve been doing lately. Cooking and baking should be enjoyable when you can make it so, and not stressing over some roots roasting in the oven helps.
This chocolate beet cake was a winner for the whole family, especially my older son, who was pleased I “finally” made something without cream cheese frosting.
I know some people are so over naked cakes — cakes without frosting on the sides — but I love them for their simplicity. You can always double the frosting if you prefer to frost the whole cake.
I highly suggest you roast the beets a day ahead of when you plan to make the cake. You can also purchased already-roasted beets from the grocery store, if you like.
Don’t skip out on the grated chocolate, as it will add even more flavor to the cake. I like to use Tazo tablets, but blocks from Ghirardelli or even Trader Joe’s work just as well.
Chocolate Beet Cake with Blackberry Buttercream
For the cake
- 2 medium beets
- 1 teaspoon flavorless oil, such as canola or vegetable
- 6 ounces 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons grated 70% chocolate, such as Tazo
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
For the frosting
- 4 ounces blackberries
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 8 ounces butter, softened
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place beets on a foil-lined cookie sheet and rub with oil. Fold up the foil to make a packet, and roast the beets for 1 hour to 90 minutes, until soft. Let cool.
- Once cooled, remove skins and puree beets until smooth, so that you have 3/4 cup of puree. (You can do this a day in advance to save time on baking day.)
- Turn oven to 350°F.
- Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment circles and spray parchment and pan sides with nonstick flour spray, or grease with butter and coat with flour.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs and vanilla, then add the beets and mix until smooth.
- In another bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, grated chocolate, and salt.
- Stir half of the dry ingredients into the batter until just incorporated, then all of the milk, then the remaining flour. The batter will be a bit thicker than typical cake batter.
- Divide batter between pans, smoothing to the edges.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake is pulling away from the edges of the pan. (Note that the variance in time accounts for differing oven temperatures and pans.)
- Let cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.
- To make the buttercream, combine the blackberries and lemon juice in a small saucepan and warm over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, breaking apart the blackberries as they soften. Press the berries through a fine sieve. Discard the solids
- Beat together the blackberry juice and butter until light and fluffy, then add the powdered sugar and whip until the frosting comes together, scraping down the sides and the bottom as needed.
- To frost, place bottom layer on a cake plate, and add 1/2 of frosting on top. Smooth to edges, then top with second cake layer, and add remaining frosting. Decorate with blackberries.
Adapted from Fine Cooking.