When your fridge is still fully stocked with your CSA bounty but you can’t bear to eat another salad, this is the recipe to put your summer beets to work. Their earthy flavor pairs surprisingly well with bittersweet chocolate, and their water content lends itself to a lusciously moist crumb. It’s red velvet’s older, more sophisticated cousin, and your new seasonal classic. Slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender (Ten Speed Press, 2011).
8 ounces fresh beets
7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70% cacao)
1/4 cup hot espresso
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
Scant 1 cup superfine sugar
Confectioner’s sugar, to serve
Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling water. Depending on their size, they will be tender within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less time. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until a coarse purée. Lightly grease an 8-inch spring form cake pan with the two tablespoons of butter, and sprinkle evenly with flour. Heat the oven to 350F. Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir once. Cut the butter into small, evenly sized pieces and add to the melted chocolate. Leave the butter to soften. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the egg whites from the yolks, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together. Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Fold in the beets. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture; work in a deep, figure eight movement but take care not to over-mix. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa mixture. Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy; the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken. Test with a cake tester or toothpick. If it is still gooey in the center, continue baking just until moist crumbs cling to the tester. Set the cake aside to cool (it will sink a bit in the center), loosening it around the edges after half an hour or so. Wait until the cake is fully cooled before unmolding. Serve in thick slices, dusted with confectioner’s sugar.