Have Your Cake and Beet It
Updated: Mar 18
It’s a crazy season. Winter leaves slowly, haltingly. Spring crocus and freckled hellebore flowers appear out of nowhere. Chard and kale are popping up in the garden from seeds launched or dropped here and there. Rosemary is blooming in fits and starts. Honeybees are zooming every which way to find the best heather.
It’s time to get creative with the standard winter beets and squash. It’s time for chocolate cake.
Beta vulgaris. What are they? Who are their relatives? What kinds are there? What’s in it for me?
Beet root and beet greens are two parts of the same plant. Originally a leafy plant with a small bulb that lived near the sea. It’s been bred into the large sugary bulbous root with sometimes small greens. I’ll use the root to sweeten my cake.
There are several beet types including thin-skinned, red Cylindria, easily peeled with a carrot peeler. Bull’s Blood covers itself in a thick skin. Either cut off the skin while raw or scrub and roast, boil, or steam to make the skin easy to remove. Golden beets leave hands clean.
Plant beet seeds directly into the soil. They are in the same goosefoot family as chard, spinach, quinoa, and amaranth. Beets will cross pollinate with each other and with chard.
Harvest some Spring beet greens, but don't denude the plant. Leaves store energy to create the large bulb formed later in the summer. If you wait until after the frost, the bulbs and greens will be sweeter due to a change in the plant itself. To protect itself from freezing, it turns its starches to sugars to act as a type of plant antifreeze.
Leave a couple of beets to flower in their second season. The root becomes woody. The bees love the flowers and will pollinate next year’s seeds. If left out, they will plant themselves and show up early spring randomly to provide spring greens for your meals raw or sautéed, in omelets and soups.
Beets boast the most nutrition of most of the vegetables at the local market. Although they are sweet, they will not raise blood sugar the way potatoes, rice, and other starchy vegetables do.
Beet root provides folate, nitrate, boron, potassium, and fiber. The concentration of antioxidants from beets are some of the highest of the commonly eaten vegetables like carrots and tomatoes. Boron is for bone-building. Eating beets or drinking beet juice relaxes and widens blood vessels lowering blood pressure. Studies conclude beet root and beet root juice lower the impact of insulin resistance. Beets get their red color from phytonutrients called betalains which are reportedly cancer preventatives. The “Beet Effect” has been tested on athletes and it has been determined that the nitrates can reduce the amount of oxygen needed by muscles during exercise. The deeper red the beet, the more betalains it contains. The leaves, like spinach, contain enough oxalic to cause trouble for those with a tendency for kidney stones.
Options for preparing beets include grating, roasting, steaming, sautéing, as well as classic borscht and handy wraps.
For cake, I use two of my neighbor’s chicken eggs, a cup of nut butter... Oh...and half an organic orange with no pits but skin and pith just as is. Did I mention the cup of shredded raw beet and the pitted medjool dates? Decorate with a piece of chocolate bar (92% if you're me). Vinegar and baking soda are the rise magic. Oh Ha! And 1/2 a cup of the roasted squash from last night's dinner. My brother would have lost me at "pith" maybe, surely at squash if beets hadn’t stopped him already.
You can substitute carrots for beets, apple for squash, and add more sweetener depending on what’s in your cupboard. I use my Vitamix to make the batter so I peel and chop the raw beet rather than grate it.
How does it taste and where's the flour? The cake is chocolaty (3 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder will do that) and orangey. I used my favorite cara cara orange. No flour.
If the ingredients don't frighten you, try it. See what you think. Here's my recipe.
Chocolate Beet Cake
Rich chocolate and refreshing orange in a moist cake. Full of flavor with the added attraction of being good for your health. It’s easy to put together and can be frosted for fancy flair.
Course Dessert, Snack
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 274 kcal
Author Shaari Unger
8 X 8 X 2 inch pan
1 teaspoon Coconut Oil
2 Eggs, large
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
¼ Cup Squash, roasted* and mashed
½ Orange, Cara Cara or other navel orange, pitted but not peeled
1 Cup Beet, raw, peeled and grated
2 Medjool Dates, pitted
1 Cup Almond Butter, unsalted
3 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, unsweetened
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch of Sea Salt (optional)
1 oz. Chocolate bar, semisweet, finely chopped
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease 8” X 8” X 2” pan with coconut oil.
Combine the Main Ingredients: Eggs, Vanilla, Squash, Orange, Beet, Dates, Almond Butter, and Cocoa in a blender until smooth.
Pour into a bowl and completely mix in Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Salt
Pour batter into greased pan
Top with a sprinkle of chocolate
Bake 35 minutes.
When it’s ready, the sides of the cake are slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan, the top is firm, and the toothpick test comes out clean.
Remove from oven and Cool 10 minutes in pan.
*Directions for roasting squash
Choose a sweet meaty squash such as butternut, hubbard, or kombocha.
Cut in half.
Remove seed section.
I use a glass roasting pan with ¼ Cup of Water in it.
Bake low and slow at 325 degrees F for about an hour. It will be soft inside and caramelized.
Allow to cool and scoop out the flesh.
Substitute This With This
Almond Butter Any Nut Butter
Examples are Sunflower, Cashew, Peanut butters. Watch out for spreads that also include Salt, Sweeteners, or added Fats.
Eggs Flax & Water
For each egg use 1 Tablespoon of Ground Flax meal combined with 3 Tablespoons of Water. Mix and set aside 15 minutes before using. It will thicken nicely.
Squash 1/3 medium Apple, cored
Servings: 8 Calories: 274 kcal
(% Daily Value of 2,000 calorie diet)
Total Fat 21 g 32%
Saturated Fat 3 g 13%
Monounsaturated Fat 11 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3 g
Trans Fat 0
Cholesterol 47 mg 16%
Sodium 46 mg 2%
Potassium 131 mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 17 g 6%
Dietary Fiber 5 g 20%
Sugars 8 g
Protein 11 g 22%
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 8 %