Beets – How Sweet They Are In Cake and Ice Cream
What to do with a 5 lb bag of beets from the farmer’s market? Roasted beet salad…check; Harvard beets…check; Beet, Red Cabbage and Potato Hash…check! Today there were two more experiments on the board: One Ultimate Chocolate Beet Cake courtesy of Nigel Slater and another ‘something’ to go with it. I thought about a sweet beet reduction or jam but then realized that I hadn’t used the ice cream maker in a long time. Beet and Orange Ice Cream sounded like two flavours I could really get behind. It was so quirky that it might just work!
Chocolate Beet Cake. It’s not much of a stretch from zucchini cake or my favourite Chocolate Carrot Cake from Alexander’s Restaurant in Saskatoon. Every time I drive through Saskatoon on my way home to the farm I make a stop at Alexander’s for a slice of this cake. Every time I ask for the recipe they shoot me down. Why do I still go back? Because it’s probably the best cake I have ever put in my mouth. Period.
Beets in a cake may sound like a novelty but it really isn’t. Southern cooks have been using them to make red velvet cakes for decades because they are sweet and turn a great chocolate cake to a lovely red hue. I’ve been wanting to make one for a while until one day this recipe popped up on my twitter feed. I wouldn’t necessarily use a Nigel Slater recipe (though I do love David Lebovitz and he says this recipe is tops so I’m good with that!) and particularly one that has so many gosh darn steps. I felt in some parts like I was perfecting brain surgery. In the end, all the melting, sifting, and folding were worth it.
The cake came out quite nicely, evenly crumbed and very moist with the beets lending a sweetness to the bitter chocolate I used. I just felt so darn healthy eating this cake, I didn’t feel guilty at all especially when I served it with the beet and orange ice cream. The slight tang of citrus really went with the sweet earthiness of the beet, leaving me really happy with the flavour of the ice cream. However, I felt maybe the texture was a little off, even with the added mascarpone cheese. The ice cream recipe did not begin with a true custard, but used cornstarch instead. I felt like it was a bit of a cheat.
Nigel Slater’s Extremely Moist Chocolate Beet Cake (Nigel Slater)
8 ounces fresh beets
7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70%)
1/4 cup hot espresso
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
Scant 1 cup superfine sugar
- Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the base with a round of baking parchment. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until a coarse purée.
- Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir.
- When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir once. Cut the butter into small pieces — the smaller the better — and add to the melted chocolate. Push the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and leave to soften.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.
- Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Fold in the beets. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care not to over-mix. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.
- Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the hea immediately to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken. Test with a cake tester or toothpick too — if it is still gooey in the center, continue baking just until moist crumbs cling to the tester.
- Set the cake aside to cool (it will sink a tad in the center), loosening it around the edges with a thin icing spatula after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its pan until it is completely cold.
Beet and Orange Ice Cream (from Saveur)
2 cups milk
4 tsp. cornstarch
1¼ cups heavy cream
⅔ cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
½ tsp. kosher salt
Peel of 1 orange
3 tbsp. mascarpone cheese, softened
½ cup puréed roasted beets
1. In a bowl, stir together ¼ cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside. In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add orange peel. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
2. Place mascarpone cheese in a bowl and pour in ¼ cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk mixture; stir in beets. Leave in refrigerator overnight.
3. Remove orange peel. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set.