There is no greater reward for a busy baker after three rounds of chocolate cake experiments than the feedback “you nailed it!”. I’m rather chuffed that this cake has turned out so well and so are my neighbours who have been my regular baking guinea pigs throughout lockdown. (They seem to like me even more now, I wonder why…😊)
I’ve been on a mission to come up with a chocolate cake recipe for a while – the type of cake which is moist, light, not too sweet but still indulgent. First of all I wanted it to be super easy as most of chocolate cake recipes I have tried, however good, are quite time-consuming, require an electric mixer and unfortunately cannot be used in a community baking group type of scenario where time and facilities are limited. I’m so happy I’ve persevered with my chocolate quest – the result is a cake which you can make with a bowl and a whisk and minimum mixing is required. Oh, and as you see in the photos it’s also versatile!
The only thing needed to be taken care of in advance is beetroot. The moisture in the batter comes from nothing else but beetroot which will also add a bit of sweetness and earthiness but, funny enough, you won’t be able to taste the actual beetroot. I highly recommend getting raw beetroots rather than buying a bag of already cooked ones from supermarket. Beets are now in season and fresh British beetroots have simply no rival – ripe, sweet and full of flavour, not to mention their nutritional values. However, if you’re short of time and still prefer the ready-cooked ones, just make sure you’re not going for the salad beetroots which often come with added vinegar.
For this recipe you will need 300g blended beetroot which is 3-4 medium beets depending on their size. You can boil them or cook them in the oven. To preserve all nutrients I prefer the latter. First clean the beets with a brush under running water, pat them dry and wrap in baking foil. Place in a heatproof dish or roasting tin and cook in the oven at 200°C fan/gas mark 5 for about an hour until soft. Sometimes it takes longer if the beets are large. Wait for them to cool, then peel and blend to a pulp using a blender. If you don’t have a blender, use a potato masher but make sure the beets are thoroughly mashed and no bits remain.
If you’re a fan of coconut, try replacing vegetable oil with the same amount of coconut oil and sprinkle your cake with desiccated coconut. Good quality unprocessed coconut oil comes in solid form so you’ll need to melt it and cool it down to room temperature before adding to your batter.
No chocolate cake can go without chocolate icing of some kind. My favourite has always been chocolate ganache which however posh it may sound is basically chocolate melted in double cream. Add strawberries or raspberries on top and you’re in heaven!
Baking tin: either rectangular 20 cm x 30 cm or round, about 27 cm in diameter
For the chocolate ganache:
1. Grease the baking tin and line it with baking paper. Blend or mash the beetroots into a smooth pulp. Don’t worry if it looks quite runny.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/gas mark 4. Into a medium bowl sieve the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add the salt and mix all ingredients well.
3. Place the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla extract and beetroots in a separate, larger bowl and mix with a whisk for about one minute. (There is no need to mix it for longer.) With a spatula or a spoon gently fold in all of the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.
4. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
5. Once taken out of the oven the cake is quite delicate so let it rest in the baking tin for about 10-15 minutes, then remove it and leave to cool. When it has cooled down, prepare your ganache – start off by chopping the chocolate. Make sure it’s chopped finely as it’ll aid quick melting which results in a smooth consistency. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Pour the cream into a pan and on a medium heat bring it almost up to the boiling point. This is called scalding the cream and what you’re looking for is little bubbles forming all around the edges as well as a bit of steam. Don’t let the cream boil, take it off the heat immediately and pour it over the chocolate. Submerge all chocolate bits with a spatula but don’t stir and leave for two minutes. (Put the kettle on or take the bins out 😊 but don’t be tempted to disturb the ganache; the hot cream melts the chocolate and doesn’t need any help!) When the two minutes are up, gently stir the mixture and watch the magic happen – what at first looks like a lumpy mess will in seconds become a smooth and glossy ganache. At this stage it has a perfect consistency to be spread on the cooled cake, it’ll thicken slightly later on. Decorate with the raspberries or strawberries. Et voila!
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