Top | Tender

Chocolate Beet Cake With Crème Fraîche and Poppy Seeds

(recipe, Nigel Slater)

primary-image, l


  1. 8 oz. beets (about 2 medium beets)
  2. 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
  4. 3 Tbsp. good-quality cocoa powder
  5. 5 eggs
  6. 7 oz. fine dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids), chopped (see Note)
  7. 4 Tbsp. hot espresso
  8. ¾ cup (1½ sticks) plus 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
  9. 1 scant cup superfine sugar (see Note)
  10. Crème fraîche and poppy seeds, to serve


  1. Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife within 30 to 40 minutes. (Young ones may take slightly less time.) Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stems and roots, and process in a blender or food processor until coarsely puréed.
  2. Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder.
  4. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.
  5. Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Don’t stir. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir once. Add the cubed butter to the melted chocolate. Push the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and let it soften.
  6. Working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has fully 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.
  7. 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 overmix.) Lastly, fold in the flour mixture.
  8. Transfer the batter quickly to the prepared cake pan and put it in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy and the inner part should still wobble a little when the pan is gently shaken.
  9. 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.
  10. Serve in thick slices, with crème fraîche and poppy seeds.


Culinate editor's notes: You can get away with cutting the butter amount by as much as half, and still produce a delicious, moist, rich cake. Superfine sugar (also labeled baker's sugar) is available at most supermarkets. If you don't have it on hand, blitz granulated sugar in a food processor for a minute or so — or simply use granulated sugar. Depending on your oven and whether you use the bake setting (slower) or the convection setting (faster), you may find that this cake needs to bake for up to an hour before the center of the cake is just barely cooked. David Lebovitz, in his version of this cake, notes the following: "Although the original recipe calls for chocolate that is 70 percent cacao solids, you can use one that is in the 50 to 60 percent range, depending on what’s available in your area. For those of you who can’t get crème fraîche, I suspect mascarpone would be interesting, or perhaps just sour cream. Or maybe just a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside."