A natural take on a classic bake using seasonal veg.
I like to cook with different ingredients and unusual flavours, and baking with vegetables has become something of a staple for me thanks to Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache. Her recipes are deliciously innovative, and I especially love making them in the Autumn and Winter when all the lovely veg is in season and at its best. This ‘red velvet’ cake is a natural version of the loud and proud cousin; the beetroot adds moistness and an earthy note to the subtle chocolate cake, balanced by the intensely sweet snow meringue icing, and nuttiness from the chocolate spread and almonds. To make it, you will need:
3 medium free-range eggs
80g caster sugar
200g topped, tailed, peeled and finely grated beetroot
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract
180g white rice flour
180g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: 1 tsp red food colouring paste
6 tbsp Nutella or chocolate spread for the filling
Chopped hazelnuts or flaked almonds, toasted, to decorated (about 100g).
1) Preheat the oven to 160C/ 325F/ Gas 3 and lightly brush the base and sides of the tin/ tins with vegetable oil. Line the base with parchment and grease again.
2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar for five minutes until light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla seeds/ extract and beat in the grated beetroot.
Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt, and beat until well combined.
3) Finally, add the buttermilk (I made my own with milk and lemon juice) and red food colouring if using. Beat well until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
I didn’t have red food colouring paste, and didn’t want to make the mixture wetter with liquid food colouring – but it still looked pretty pink when it went in!
Bake for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven, then cool on a wire rack.
4) Meanwhile, make the snow meringue icing. You will need:
170g icing sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
white of one medium free-range egg
pinch of salt
2tsp vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water.
Stir with a cleaen metal spoon for 2 minutes exactly to dissolve the sugar.
When the mixture is warm and the two minutes are up, remove the bowl from the heat and beat with a hand-held electric whisk for 9 minutes (!) or until it cools.
The mixture is ready to use when it looks like snowy peaks (in hindsight I think mine could have been a bit stiffer and snowier, but it did the trick!). Be careful not to beat for too long or it will start to harden into royal icing! The icing is ready to use when just made, as it sets quite quickly.
5) When the cakes are cool, spread the Nutella/ chocolate spread on top of the cake to sandwich the layers together.
6) Cover the cake with snow meringue icing and decorate with toasted flaked almonds or hazelnuts for some extra texture.
A lovely natural ‘red velvet’ cake that’s perfectly seasonal too. Not the boldest or brightest, but I think in this case it’s nicer to keep things as nature intended and let the beetroot do all the work. Beetroot season finishes in October so hop to it!
What are you baking this weekend? Have you baked with veg before?