The ultimate chocolate beetroot cake

Do you love cake? Then I URGE you to stop whatever you’re doing and make this cake.

Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-With-Caramel-Cream-Cheese-Frosting

The photo isn’t the best – harsh work lighting – but hopefully you can get a sense of what a mighty cake this is. It’s Nigel Slater’s chocolate beetroot cake, taken from his beautiful book Tender (vol 1). It’s quite an involved cake to make – pureed beetroot, melted chocolate, whisked egg whites – but the results are absolutely worth it.

Nigel-Slater-Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-Twitter-Photo

Nigel was right (I can’t believe I doubted him) – it’s probably the world’s best chocolate cake, full of dark, rich, complex flavours. He tops it with creme fraiche and poppy seeds, but because I was making it for our Bake Club I knew I needed to add a little more wow factor. I topped mine with caramel cream cheese frosting, then scattered over some shards of 72 per cent chocolate and some candied purple carrot. I used this recipe for candied carrot curls as a guide, but on my first attempt I ended up with a smoke-filled kitchen and a tray of burnt carrot strips. I’d recommend cooking the carrot in the syrup for a shorter time period and lowering the oven temperature.

The judges loved it enough – I knocked out the competition easily. Most importantly, I got to savour the very last piece. I might not ever experience it again, but I’ve finally tasted success.

Five fab vegetable cake recipes

The 2014 edition of Wellington On A Plate’s Bake Club (‘like a book club, but tastier’) is underway and next week’s challenge is to make a cake that includes vegetables as a star ingredient. I was shocked when one of my fellow bakers remarked she’d never heard of a vegetable cake before – if you’re in the same boat, here are my own top five fab vegetable cake recipes. 

1. Chocolate Potato Cake: To be sure, this is not some kind of Irish joke, but a moist, dense cake slathered in a Baileys-laced cream cheese icing. It’s addictive (and it doesn’t use much Baileys so there’s plenty for the cook to knock back afterwards).

2. Kumara and Cardamom Cake: For something a little more refined and subtle, with complex flavours and a great texture, this cake can’t be beat. It’s also gluten-free (but don’t let that put you off if you’re a gluten fan).

3. Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake: Does cheesecake count? I think so – and this one will convert the most reluctant pumpkin eater. My idea of a good night in is one of these cheesecakes, a sofa and a spoon.

 

4. The Ultimate Carrot Cake: I know carrot cake is a bit ubiquitous, but this is one of my all-time favourites, with lots of carrot, fruit and nuts in a dense, spicy batter.

    5. The Best-Ever Beetroot Cake: This is another winner, not least because the beetroot turns it pink. I’m not normally a fan of pink food, but somehow it works with cake. Anyway, this scores highly on the unusual-ness score (I’m sure that’s one of the judging criteria).

Do you have a favourite vegetable-based cake? Let me know in the comments below – now that I’ve shared my favourite recipes I’m going to have to dig out something pretty special to win!

Have a great weekend everyone x

Treat me: Gluten-free chocolate cakes

Forget war, forget inequality, forget child poverty and the melting of the icecaps, the thing that really gets people riled up is whether or not gluten is evil. Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time moderating comments on a big mainstream news site and the vitriol directed at the gluten-intolerant is intense.

If you believe that people who need to avoid gluten for the sake of their health are attention-seeking worrywarts, look away now. Because the June We Should Cocoa challenge is all about gluten-free chocolate treats, and I’ve got a cracker of a recipe to share. You don’t have to be anti-gluten to like it, but if you are, I hope it becomes a regular part of your repertoire.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cakes With No Refined Sugar

Little chocolate cakes (gluten-free)

This is my adaptation of this recipe, which in turn is a redux of a recipe by Dr Libby. I found the original just a little bit dull and worthy, so have given it a bit of a makeover. This is the kind of chocolate cake you can put in your kids’ lunchboxes and feel all smug about. It’s also a good way to use up that sunflower seed butter I showed you how to make earlier this week. I think those holistic health types call that synergy.

If you want to make it even less worthy, put an extra square of good chocolate in the bottom of each muffin case before you add the mixture. Then you can call it pudding.

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup nut butter

2 Tbsp oil – coconut, olive, whatever you have

1/4 cup honey

3 1/2 Tbsp best quality cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp vinegar

50g best quality chocolate – I’ve used white in the photos, but any sort will do – roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C and put paper cases in a 12-hole muffin pan.

Put all the ingredients except the baking soda and vinegar into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the baking soda and vinegar and whiz again. 

Pour into a jug, then pour this into the muffin cases until they are two-thirds full. Sprinkle each one with the chocolate and bake for 15-18 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Remove to a rack to cool slightly before eating. They will deflate slightly.

These can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for about five days. The flavour intensifies the day after they are made. Makes 12.

Have a great weekend everyone x

Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins

What’s in your kids’ lunchboxes?

Less than two weeks in and I think I’ve cracked why parents get weepy about their child going to school. It’s not the thought of their little darling growing up, it’s the realisation that it signals the start of more than a decade of making school lunches.

As much as I know I should aspire to be the kind of ‘perfect mother who turns her kid’s lunchboxes into art’, it’s not going to happen. Especially because I am determined that lunchbox duty is a job to be shared by other members of this household who are old enough to handle a knife and go to the shops unaccompanied.

Here we have peanut butter, cream cheese and broccoli sprouts in a flatbread, some carrot sticks, a little parcel of Brazil nuts, a homemade chocolate muffin that’s much more nutritious than it looks (recipe coming soon!) and an apple.

But, crumbs, it’s hard to get my head around. I remember from my own childhood that all I wanted for a long period was luncheon sausage and tomato sauce in my sandwiches (the tomato sauce was Mum’s homemade one, in my defence). I recall my mother inserting all manner of ‘interesting’ things in my lunchbox: a pork pie (unsuccessful), nut-flavoured yoghurt (a disappointment) and – very occasionally, those triangles of plastic cheese (then, my idea of heaven). Nearly 35 years later, I still remember the shame at finding two used teabags in my teal-coloured lunchbox. My little friends Bernie and Jean-Anne ran to the staffroom for help – where the kind Mrs Wilson pointed out that, in fact, they were dried figs. Such things were rare at Atiamuri Primary, where other kids got little packets of crisps and shop-bought biscuits, or sandwiches wrapped up in the blue and white paper that the Sunday bread came in. Some even went home for lunch, returning with slabs of freshly baked Maori bread slathered with butter. There were probably others who had little for lunch and even less for breakfast.

Of course, that’s a far cry from what kids eat today – at least, if you believe everything you read. Pinterest is full of weird charts, which seem mostly designed for dieting adults (‘this snack is only 100 calories’ etc) and I feel thoroughly depressed at my culinary and parenting skills whenever I read Amanda Hesser’s Food 52 blog on what she puts in her twins’ school lunches.

Obviously I spend more time worrying about the contents of their lunches than I do about the weeds in my garden…

So I’m very grateful for Nicola Galloway’s advice on healthy school lunches, which is just about the most useful thing I’ve come across in the last couple of weeks is (and there’s a great cracker recipe in the post too). The basic message is not rocket science – kids need a balance of ‘good’ carbohydrates, protein and fibre to keep them sustained and alert, just like adults do.

I’m not sure what the magic ingredient is that makes them actually eat all their lunch at lunchtime (“I didn’t eat it Mum, I was too busy”) but it is getting eaten (and then some) for afternoon tea so I must be doing something right.

So tell me, please, what do you put in your kids’ lunchboxes? There are only so many more peanut butter and sprout sandwiches I can make this week…

UPDATE: I’ve just created this Easy Tasty Lunchbox Ideas Pinterest board to collate some ideas. Check it out – and let me know if you’d like to contribute!

The ultimate chocolate cake

This month the We Should Cocoa challenge has been all about making a chocolate cake for less than £1 (NZ$1.97). I have to confess I didn’t even try.

Instead, I can share with you the way to make your favourite chocolate cake taste – and look – like a million dollars. It’s this – a cloud of chocolate meringue buttercream that will make people close their eyes in bliss as they eat it. It defies all current trends in that it is resolutely full of sugar, butter and eggs. And it is worth every single mouthful.

The ultimate chocolate meringue buttercream
If you find ordinary buttercream icing – the sort you make with icing sugar and butter – too sweet and somewhat gritty, then this is the icing for you. It’s still sweet and quite rich, but incredibly light. It’s stable enough to pipe, spreads like a dream and keeps well in the freezer if you don’t use it all in one go. I have to leave the house to stop myself eating it straight from the bowl before it reaches the cake. It’s THAT good.

320g caster sugar
170g water
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
350g butter, at room temperature, sliced into 2cm chunks
2 tsp pure vanilla
150g good quality dark chocolate, at least 60 per cent cocoa solids, melted and at room temperature

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir well, then boil until the temperature reaches 118C. While the syrup is boiling, put the egg yolks and eggs in the bowl of a freestanding mixer and whisk until they are light and fluffy. When the syrup has reached 118C, carefully drizzle it into the egg mixture (beating all the time). Beat on high until the mixture is thick and pale, and the sides of the bowl are cool to touch. At this point, switch from the whisk to the paddle attachment and start adding the butter, a piece at a time, until it is all mixed in. Don’t fret if it starts to look a bit like mayonnaise, just keep beating it.
When the butter is all in, and the buttercream is very light and fluffy, add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Beat until well mixed in. You can use this straight away, or leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours (as long as it doesn’t get too hot or cold). It also keeps in the fridge for a week, though you’ll need to beat it again.

Best Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Cake Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
If you want to make the ultimate chocolate cake, make two batches of this easy chocolate cake. When the cakes have completely cooled, chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Spread the surfaces of three of the cakes with good boysenberry jam, then a layer of chocolate meringue buttercream. Stack them on top of each other, then cover the lot with a thin ‘crumb coat’ of buttercream. Return to the fridge for 30 minutes to set, then cover in the remainder of the buttercream (you can go crazy here with a piping bag if you like). The cake can be left in the fridge overnight, but let it come to room temperature before serving.

Have a great weekend, everyone x