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Chocolate-Beet Layer Cake

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Serves 10

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 113

You can’t taste the roasted beets in this recipe—there’s no earthy, beety flavor—but they make the cake moist, dense, and rich. Without them, this dessert would be nowhere near as delicious.

For the cake
  • 2 medium beets, trimmed
  • 1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pans
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 2 oz. (2/3 cup) natural cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the frosting
  • 5 oz. (10 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-1/4 oz. (3/4 cup) natural cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Prepare the beets

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Put the beets on a piece of foil large enough to wrap them. Drizzle with the vegetable oil and turn to coat well. Enclose the beets in the foil and roast until tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.

Make the cake

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans generously with softened butter. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment and coat the parchment with butter. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.

Peel and finely grate enough of the beets to yield 3/4 cup. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-low speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the grated beets and the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and carefully add half of the flour mixture; mix until fully incorporated. Add 1-1/4 cups hot water and the remaining flour mixture, return to medium-low speed and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing the tops.

Bake the cakes, rotating halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool the cakes in their pans on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn them out onto racks and peel off the parchment. Let the cakes cool completely.

Make the frosting

Melt the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and cocoa powder and mix until combined. Stir in the cream, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cool slightly. Refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes, until soft peaks form and the frosting is completely cool, about 1 hour.

Assemble the cake

Place one of the cakes on a cake plate and spread a generous 1/2 cup frosting evenly over the top. Top with the second cake and spread a generous 1/2 cup frosting over it. Frost the sides with the remaining frosting.

Make Ahead Tips

The beets can be roasted up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. The cake can be assembled up to 2 days ahead. Cover with a cake dome and store at room temperature.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 690; Fat (g): fat g 37; Fat Calories (kcal): 330; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 22; Protein (g): protein g 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 82; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 330; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 130; Fiber (g): fiber g 3;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is it - the best chocolate cake ever! I have made this at least five times now and our family (and every one who tries it) raves about how good it is. This is my daughters' choice for a birthday cake out of all the cakes I make, which are many. Thank you Fine Cooking - you have done it again!

My roasted beets were a pain to shred, and only generated 1/4 cup. I enjoyed the cake part, but not more than other chocolate cakes I've made. The icing ended up tasting very dark. I had instant coffee powder, not espresso powder, but I thought that would be a lighter taste? Overall, I'm not impressed, and won't be repeating it.

Delicious cake and best icing ever. I had a lot of beets so I roasted them -- some for the cake and some for salad. Easy recipe and icing is chilling while cake is cooling. Will definitely make again.

This cake is wonderful. I found it faster to put the frosting bowl in another bowl with ice and water. This took 20 minutes to get it to the proper consistency beating it 3 times and I didn't have to keep opening the refrigerator.

Agree with all reviews-- best choc cake ever. I have made it several times. I have to say that I prefer using raw beets over the roasted in the recipe. If you have a juicer, use the beet pulp, plus a small amount of the beet juice, in this recipe. Saves time and the cake is nice and moist.

Oh, now this is a chocolate cake. I am completely smitten. It was pretty easy. My only criticism is the 1 1/4 cups hot water that isn't listed in the ingredient list. This cake isn't dressy. It looks pretty homey, in fact. But I will surely be making this for guests. And I will take my beet secret to the grave.

Extremely rich excellent chocolate cake. If you live by a Trader Joe's they sell steamed and peeled baby beets in the refrigerated section. One package is just about what you need and it saves a big step in this recipe. Serve with a raspberry coulis on the side to make it even extra special. I recommend making it even the two days before needed. The cake gets better with time!

Well, this was so fantastic that my daughter has asked for it for her next birthday cake! It was incredibly moist and the icing was so creamy and tasted more like pudding than icing. I will be sharing this recipe with everyone I know.

Ditto all the awesome comments on this cake. Best. Cake. Ever. Only problem was it was so moist the top layer literally slid off the bottom layer. Think it was due to not letting eggs get to room temp first.

Excellent yummy smooth moist chocolate cake that was a huge hit with my fussy family. I oringally got the receipt in the fine cooking magazine and then have reprinted it several times from this excellent website for my mother, friends, neighbours and co-workers.

Hi there, Would someone please be able to tell me if I can make a sheet cake using this recipe? I would be using an 18 x 12 sheet cake pan or a slightly smaller jelly roll pan. thank you!

I made this for a dinner party and it was a huge hit. Most of my guests had seconds! I used Hershey's special dark cocoa powder instead and the cake and frosting still turned out great. Not too bitter and not too sweet. This will be my standby chocolate cake recipe from now on. Enjoy!

Excellent moist cake.Made them as cupcakes and frosted them with cream cheese frosting mixed with 2 tablespoons grated beets,which gave the frosting a nice pink color.I would definitely make again

Thought I had the best chocolate cake ever until I made this. Excellent, moist, rich chocolate taste. Reasonable cost for ingredients. I now make extra beets and freeze some to have on hand when I want to make one. Every one asks for this, made one for a baby shower for some friends put chocolate leaves and a little baby nestled in the center. Every one including me loves this. Works well making the cake the day before and frost the next, saves time.

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This cake is in our regular rotation; rich, moist, and delicious. If you're averse to beets, the only noticeable addition is a subtle earthiness. Occasionally you will notice their texture, but can always use a more fine grader.

This was by far the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten. The beet flavor is undetectable in the cake but add moistness and a gorgeous color. We loved this. You can read my full review at: http://bit.ly/tzsz3G

BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER! We don't usually like beets but LOVED their addition to this cake. The beets added texture and moisture and a nice taste too. Agree with other reviewers about the hot water missing from the cake ingredient list. Very small irritant in a fabulous recipe. Cake blended up beautifully after addition of h20. I did make 2x the frosting for my DH's birthday cake. Came out very pretty and a HIT with all at the party. This is now our go to chocolate cake. Who would of ever thought beets could be sooooo good? Or that chocolate cake could be so good for you?

Best chokolate cake I have ever tasted. The beets adds a nice flavour. I think you could get away with adding even more beets that what the recipy states. Agree with the recipy beeing confusion in the way it lists the ingredients. I had one problem, after adding the HOT water (which is not listed) my batter turned almost soupy in consistance, so i had to add some extra flour (a hand full or so). Despite this little problem the result was excellent. The cake alone without the frosting is wonderful on its own,

Best chokolate cake I have ever tasted. The beets adds a nice flavour. I think you could get away with adding even more beets that what the recipy states. Agree with the recipy beeing confusion in the way it lists the ingredients. I had one problem, after adding the HOT water (which is not listed) my batter turned almost soupy in consistance, so i had to add some extra flour (a hand full or so). Despite this little problem the result was excellent. The cake alone without the frosting is wonderful on its own,

This cake is a real winner! The presence of the beets is completely inconspicuous both by taste and appearance, but serves to produce a wonderfully moist crumb. We were surprised at how rich and chocolately the flavor is, despite the fact that the only chocolate agent used is cocoa powder. The frosting is amazing, decadent, and compliments the cake perfectly. Salt sensitive tasters might wish to reduce the salt in the frosting just a tad. With the exception of the time spent roasting the beets and checking/stirring the frosting, the cake and frosting were a breeze to make. This recipe is a keeper!

I made this cake for my brothers birthday and it was incredible. Very moist and the touch of coffee in the frosting was great. There is a place in town that sells a beet cake for $52.00 So I was really excited when I saw this recipe. The only thing that I have to add is to make the frosting first as it takes a few hours to get to the right consistancy. I started to panic and put a raspberry filling in the middle when I saw the amount of frosting but I think that it would have been fine. The other thing was that the way the ingrediients are listed. You start by creaming the butter with the sugar and the butter is listed as the 3rd ingrediant and the sugar was down at the bottom. Minor I know but it made me feel like I had left something out. Then later you add 1 1/4 cup of hot water that wasn't listed in the the ingredients which threw me as well.Anyway everyone loved it.

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