A lot of visitors have been stumbling upon my site while looking for beet recipes. I guess I should have expected that would happen. I'm ok with it, but while I do appreciate beets, it's not like I'm some sort of fanatic who puts them in everything that I make.
A Google + user named Daro seems to think so. He called my phone several times last month to share with me "exciting information about the God-almighty beet!" At that point I thought, a) I should be careful when putting information about myself on the internet and b) some people really don't get what this site is about.
When I came up with the name for my personal chef and nutrition business, I was looking for a logo. A beet with a heart in it seemed cute, and I later decided that it fit my personality rather well, so the name stuck.
Beets are colorful and quirky. They're sweet and spunky. They're really good, but can take some convincing. Most people stear clear of them in supermarkets because they haven't a clue what to do with them. Poor, misunderstood little things!
Of course, beets are also nutritious. They're great for your heart, your blood, your bowels, and contain a potent anti-cancer compound called betanin; though I can't say the same for myself.
But really, from a culinary perspective, the best thing about beets is that they stain everything magenta. This makes for great fun--and a great mess. If I ever have a choice in the color of my kitchen it will have to be magenta and yellow to match the stains on my dish towels (I also go wild with tumeric).
Ok, I'm starting to sound like a beetnik (beet + fanatik)...
But really? In a cake?
The idea dawned on me after pondering the origins of red velvet cake. I've never actually understood the point of that dessert. All of the standard recipes are basically vanilla cake with a ton of red food coloring added. I know my great grandma didn't have the ingredients to bake that cake...Or did she?
I figured that somewhere down the line beets must have been the primary coloring agent. Sure enough, my research revealed that boiled beets were sometimes added to red velvet cakes during World War II.
But I was surprised to learn that the original red velvet cakes didn't contain beets at all: A chemical reaction occurs when cocoa powder is exposed to acid, revealing a natural red compound called anthocyanin. Vinegar or buttermilk, and cocoa powder are all that's needed to give cakes a red tint.
Of course, this color is actually more of a reddish brown than the firetruck red we're used to. Some bakers discovered later that beets intensified the hue, and lent moisture, so they added them with discretion. Then "food scientists" came along, invented red #5, and made a mockery of culinary traditions. Booo!!
I'd like to think of these cupcakes as my own invention, but as you can see, they are actually quite retro. In case you're wondering, you can't really taste the beets in them. But beets being beets, they do leave their mark--Your cupcake liners will be stained a lovely shade of pink. ;-)
I cut back on butter and opted for yogurt instead, so they're not greasy--Just moist and deep with chocolate flavor. Here they're topped with a savory goat cheese frosting, and for the sake of passion, a sprinkling of red volcanic salt.
"Red Velvet" Beet Cakes
2 cups beet puree (about a pound of beets)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup butter
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe's Pound Plus 72% dark)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup yogurt (full fat)
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
11/2 cup all-purpose gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Boil the beets until tender. Peel them, then puree them in a food processor with the balsamic vinegar until smooth.
- Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler.
- Combine the eggs, sugar, molasses, vanilla and yogurt. Then fold in the beets.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the egg mixture.
- Fold in the chocolate, but don't overmix.
- Divide the batter among cupcake liners and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until they are firm in the center.
Goat Cheese Frosting:
8 oz goat cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Combine all ingredients until smooth.
- Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with something pretty (it doesn't have to be salt, but Trader Joe's pink salt would do nicely)
- Refrigerate the cakes if you won't be serving them immediately.