I might have unintentionally sabotaged my friend Shelby when she embarked on a pre-wedding juice cleanse.
“Some of the juices have beets? Oh, those drinks will be the best because beets are sweet and really good.”
Guess what? She learned at probably the worst possible time that she hates beets. And beets were supposed to be a good chunk of her food intake that week. I think the cleanse lasted three days but I swear, it wasn’t just the dreaded beets that did her in. Chewing is a joy people take for granted!
Now every time I make beets I send her a pic and tell her the beets are coming for her. Inspiring root vegetable nightmares isn’t helping my cause to get her to like the damn things so I pivoted.
When you’re on a pre-wedding cleanse, dessert you can chew is like manna from heaven so I wanted to jam sweet roasted beets into dessert and convince her they’re not evil. The idea of beets in a dessert pushed me toward Red Velvet cake. Corners of the internet bemoan about red food coloring in the barely chocolate cake and suggested using beet puree to color the cake naturally. But hiding the beets or using them merely as coloring wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted shards of roasted beets tossed into batter, like how carrots proudly announce themselves in carrot cake.
Joy the Baker grates roasted beets into her chocolate beet cake and continues to pound the beet drum with an electric pink frosting. I made the cake but skipped the neon topping. While it was good and I ate it most days the next week for either breakfast or a late night bite, it still wasn’t what I was looking for. The batter was fuschia but when it baked up I couldn’t taste enough of the beet. The amount of cocoa powder in a red velvet style cake isn’t a ton but it was still the flavor that dominated my tastebuds. And if I’m going to eat chocolate, I want it to be chocolatey and this was more delicate than robust. Good cake, but not right for this mission.
Since I wanted beets to act like carrots in a carrot cake I decided to just make a carrot cake with beets subbed in for the orange shreds. David Lebovitz’s recipe for carrot cake is simple and straightforward, perfect for a little Frankenstein experimenting. I was happy to follow along with whipping eggs, butter, flour and a few other ingredients together but went a different direction with the flavor profile. Since I was switching roasted beets for carrots I didn’t think cinnamon and nutmeg were going to play as well as they would with the original ingredient. Beet and orange salads are on endless menus so a slip of zest made it’s way into the batter. I didn’t have any oranges but a few clementines were able to pinch hit with their skins.
When I finally stirred the beets into the batter I was shocked and delighted by the deep purple hue. These beet cakes were in no way hiding their root vegetable status. But when I pulled the tray of cakes out of the oven the bright color had faded, replaced by regular looking cupcakes. I guess I further hid the vegetable by slathering cream cheese mascarpone frosting on top, I couldn’t resist.
But taking a bite, even with the plain crumb color and pile of frosting, the roasted beet flavor was front and center. Without the frosting the beet flavor is almost overwhelming but the familiar flavor of cream cheese keeps things in check. I’m still not sure if Shelby will sign on to a beet cake because she recently told me she wants to do Whole 30.
- 3 roasted beets, 2 cups shredded
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup sugar
- 1tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 cup flour
- 4 oz cream cheese or neufchatel cheese, softened
- 4 oz mascarpone cheese, softened
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 2 tbs butter, softened
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill a cupcake pan with liners or butter and flour each cup
- Toss raw beets in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place the package in a shallow baking dish, in case the foil leaks, and roast beets in the oven until they're fork-tender. This will take between an hour and 80 minutes.
- Once the beets have cooled, grate them on the largest side of a box grater. You want long shreds, not short stubby pieces.
- In a large bowl mix the eggs, butter, 2 tablespoons of oil and vanilla extract. Then stir in the sugar, baking soda, salt and orange zest. Then gently mix in the flour and shredded beets, being careful not to overmix.
- Divide the batter between the cupcake liners and bake for 16-20 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking process. You'll know the cupcakes are done when the tops of the cakes are no longer wet and spring back when touched.
- Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and butter together until they are a cohesive mixture. Slowly beat in the confectioner's sugar and a pinch of salt. Take your time adding in the sugar or you will end up with it everywhere except in your frosting.
- Once the cakes are cooled you can frost them. The cupcakes and frosting taste best at room temperature but can be stored in the fridge for several days.