So my little sister Laila is a pretty cool kid. A rockclimbing snowboarding disdainer of daily showers, she is the first of the family to be pubished in a periodical (biology stuff) or to get a tattoo. Last year, she went to Costa Rica through her school's study abroad program. After photographing frogs for several months, she settled into a short stint on a chocolate farm. For a few precious days, she picked and ground cocoa beans, making little packets of pure cocoa powder to bring back for us lucky people in the states who are on her good side.
I was in San Diego at the time, finishing up my degree, and it was very exciting to get a compact brown box in the mail; in it, a letter, a plastic baggy of cocoa powder, and a recipe for Beet Chocolate Cake.
Yes, beet. Now come on, it's not as weird as it sounds - people eat carrot cake all the time, even zucchini bread. Why has the lovely sweet beet been left out for so long? So I made the cake, a whopping cake that used up my whole precious bag of cocoa powder. The housemates approached it with a little fear. But after a little nibble, even Chris, who pronounced beforehand that beets tasted like dirt, kept coming back for more.
And yes, it was oh so more-ish. The beets melted into the chocolate, just leaving little purple flecks throughout the brown cake, along with a distinctive earthy afternote that made this more than your run of the mill chocolate cake. This was good stuff. And since that cake was so huge, I sliced it into small chunks which I stored in the freezer. Warmed in the microwave and then eaten with a bowl of ice cream, they were fabulous. But even straight from the freezer they were perfect: chocolatey, chewy, and special.
Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the cake. I know, lame. I do, however, have a photo of the chocolate cupcakes I made with the last of my parent's portion of Laila's cocoa powder last week. Filled with soft ricotta and flecks of orange, these were also delicious, although I can take no credit. Like many of my favorite finds, they come from a recipe on Orangette. I changed them a bit, leaving out the bourbon and the orange-flower water ( I didn't have any), but I highly recommend them, either way.
Beet Chocolate Cake
from Laila's friend Amy
2 cups white sugar
2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
3 cups shredded beets (about 2 large beets)
1) Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl.
2) In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat, let cool. Blend in eggs and oil.
3) Add half the flour mixture, blend till almost incorporated, then add half the beets, and blend till almost incorporated. Repeat. Pour into two greased 9 inch cake pans or one 9 by 13 inch pan.
4) Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Frost if you like.