Joy the Baker

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

January 24, 2012


Hey Dude (that I’m currently dating),

We need to talk.  It’s about your mother.

Mostly… it’s about how I need to meet your mother.  We’ve been carrying on for a while now… and I need to meet the lady that birthed you, clothed you, slapped you upside the head, and made you the awesome man you are now.  If I don’t meet her soon, she will surely think me some sort of hussy harlot who was born in a barn and doesn’t much care for other people’s mothers.  This is not the case.  I care about most mothers, often.

It’s a lady thing that perhaps you don’t understand.  I need to be nervous.  I need to bite off all my nails.  I need to agonize over the perfect outfit that will make me look sophisticated, but sweet and approachable, womanly without being more womanly that her.  I need the outfit that says I can damn well take care of myself, and keep her dear and darling son in line for the rest of his life.  It’s a fine fine fiiiine line.

I need to let your mother look me up and down in examination.  I need to stand there and let her envision me as her daughter-in-law.  I need to eat her casserole, express my desire for the recipe… then I need to do her dishes.

I need to let her tell me how to do things that I already know how to do, like make a pie, and pluck my eyebrows.  We need to watch 60 Minutes together.  She in her recliner, me sitting on the floor.  I need to offer to bring dessert.  She’ll make a face when it’s being served, and enjoy it despite herself.  It’s all a dance.  Every moment of it.  It’s all a test… because mothers do not let their sons go quietly… they let them go passive aggressively.

Lastly, she needs to see that I make you happy.  That’s where you come in.  Don’t act weird.  Well, don’t act weirder than you usually act.  Be natural… and put your arm around me once in a while.  It’s your job to make sure that no one gets a third glass of wine.  That’s when things get weird.

It’s also your job NOT to tell your mother that there are beets in the cake I’m serving for dessert.  That will be our little secret.  Unless she loves it… then I’m taking all the glory.






Quite right.  This chocolate cake is chocked full of roasted beets.

Beets are trimmed of their greens (which are delicious sauteed) and roasted whole in foil and just a touch of oil.  You know… like you’re making a beet salad, but you’re totally making cake.


Besides beets, this cake also has the usual cake- y suspects:  flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, powder, and salt.


I love preparing cake pans for baking.  Something about the ritual just calms me.

Parchment paper rounds (that are cut by hand) totally ensure that the cake will come out of the pan in one piece.  It’s an extra bit of work, but I love the insurance.


Roasted beets are cooled and peeled (which is easy… not to worry), and grated on the fine side of a box grater.

If you’re wondering about beet stained hands… yes, I had two.  They eventually wash clean.

Beets add moisture and sweetness to the cake.  Beets do not make the cake taste like a salad.  That’s an important thing to know.

The cake batter will be a purple color, but will bake into a moist chocolate cake with no trace of beets.


Let’s talk about frosting.  Butter and cream cheese are left at room temperature until soft.  They’re beaten with powdered sugar, vanilla, and a squeeze of lemon.

Beets, too!  Beets, shredded and mashed add a slight sweetness and intense color to the frosting.  It’s all you need for food coloring.  It’s delightful and delicious.  And again… it does not taste like salad.



You may have a few beet strands in your frosting as you decorate the cake.  Think of it as nature’s sprinkles.

… I can’t believe I just typed that.

I’m sorry.


I want you to fall in love with this cake.  I did.

The cake itself is moist and chocolate-y.  It’s not too sweet either!  Bonus.  The frosting is bright pink, speckled with beet bits, and creamy sweet.

No one would ever know this cake is chocked full of vegetables.  We can just keep that little bit of information between us.  Secret ingredient power!

Pssst… Valentine’s Day Cake!  I’m just sayin…

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake

adapted from Fine Cooking November 2001

Print this Recipe!

For the Cake:

2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans

2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

For the Frosting:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened

4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod

1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem.  Place clean beets in a piece of foil.  Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil.  Seal up foil.  Place on a baking sheet in the oven.  Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Remove the beets from the oven.  Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely.  Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.

Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.  Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting.  Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.  Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan.  Cut it out and place inside the cake pan.  Butter the parchment paper.  Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan.  Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition.   Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Try not to overmix the batter.  Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.  Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan).  Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

To make the Frosting:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth.  Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the beets.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky.  Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.

To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate.  Top with a generous amount of pink frosting.  Spread evenly.  Place the other cake on top of the frosting.  Top with frosting.  Work frosting onto the sides of the cake.  You will have extra frosting left over.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice).  Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

430 Comments Add A Comment

  • I don’t know if you will still read comments from this post, but I saw that you cut out your baking paper by hand, and there is totally a better way.. a magic trick that my dad taught me!
    If you start with a square of baking paper, fold it like you’re making a paper snowflake (so you have a wedge of paper folded on itself many times) then hold the point of the wedge over the centre of the cake tin and cut off the excess at the edge… BAM, perfect paper circle every time, in ten seconds flat!
    This is reeeeally handy when you’re cutting baking paper to line a ring tin. Just snip off the point of the wedge to make a hole in the centre of the paper to go over the raised part of the tin.
    Hope this all makes sense!

    Also, this recipe looks delicious!! Duh. you are so cool.

  • Just for the record, this cake and frosting freezes beautifully in slices and tastes excellent frozen! I’m making one for my husband’s birthday (right now); we love this recipe. Thanks Joy :-)

  • DEELICIOUS! Even my picky, picky brother in law loves it! Thanks for testing and sharing a fabulous recipe.

  • I made this cake into cupcakes this weekend for my sis-in-law’s block par-tay. They were so delicious. The cake is moist and the frosting is pretty & tasty. I’m loving the “veggies secret ingredient” recipes like this cake and black bean brownies, and would love to see more.

  • I made this cake today and absolutely loved the cake part (sans frosting). The large amount of cocoa powder really gives it a nice, deep chocolate flavor. I did have to bake it longer than written (about 10 minutes more). The frosting gave me a bit of a problem. It was just TOO sweet! I’m not a real fan of powdered sugar frostings so that should’ve been a flag for me in the beginning. I used less than 4 cups of the powdered sugar and am glad I stopped there. I ended up countering the sweetness with more lemon and greek yogurt (a spur of the moment idea that actually worked – and hey, “healthier” frosting is getting no complaints from me) but if I make this again I would use a different cream cheese frosting (I do like that it’s a cream cheese based frosting – pairs nicely).

  • I made this cake yesterday. I couldn’t find any fresh beets in my area so I used canned. I drained cut beets for a good while to get most of the excess liquid out of them and then omitted the salt. The cake is wonderful and reminds me of a red velvet cake. Beware! It’s rich and addictive!!!

  • I made these into cupcakes for valentine’s day… that frosting is AMAZING! The cupcakes burned on the top and the bottom after 10 minutes in the oven :-/ I think it was my oven, but i will def. try these again! My boyfriend and I cut off the bottom and added the frosting, it was still yummy ;-) Thank you!

  • See. When I have made this for folks in the past (a chocolate beetroot cake that is), they either loved it, or looked at it in a peculiar “whats gone wrong with your chocolate cake” kind of look. Love the cream cheese frosting idea. Yum.

  • i love beetroot in cakes.- it just seems cool and like you have put in SO much effort into the cake…which , by all accounts you have. Any mum would be well impressed! x

  • I don’t know whether I’m more excited about the cake or the boy with a mother…

    The last “first parent-meeting” I had was with my (now former) fiancé’s father. Unfortunately his father’s favourite brother was in the process of dying and he excused himself to speak to the dying brother for the last time during dinner.

    What the hell do you say?? Especially when there are only tough, emotionless men there?? Not. Awkward. At. All.

  • Too funny, and I really want to try this beautiful cake!

  • mina kaliakoudas February 10, 2013 at 4:11 am

    love what u wrote….love the pixs….n great ideat for Heart Day!!! thnx!

  • Joy! I made this cake into cupcakes and brought them to work yesterday… Fooled everyone into thinking they were just some amazing chocolate cupcakes. They were shocked when I announced the secret ingredient. Thanks for helping me trick my boss :) if you’re interested, I posted them on my site today.

  • I’m currently making this cake! The batter tastes delicious and I’m waiting for the actual cake to come out of the oven! I’m sure it will be a hit!

  • I love beets, but not chocolate cake, so if it doesn’t taste chocolatety, that would be great.
    However, there is just way too much sugar in this cake, beets r supposed to be naturally sweet.
    I am diabetic & can’t tolerate sugar. Is there any way to substitute for it?

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