It was hate at first sight. Beets and I haven’t gotten along since the first time my mother coyly slid them onto the dinner table. Everything about them was repulsive. Why would anyone, I asked myself, want to eat a food that tastes like soil, that dyes your …wastes… red, and turns your kitchen into a crime scene when you cook with it? I couldn’t come up with a good answer. But they didn’t stop showing up on the dinner table. In fact, over the years, they made rather frequent appearances on both my family’s dinner table and at larger family gatherings. Some days I wondered if I was switched at birth–I surely felt an outsider in my beet-obsessed family. At least I have won countless rounds of Apples to Apples through strategic and repetitive play of the “beet” card. It’s an automatic win with my clan.
And as hard as I tried to ignore beta vulgaris (I mean, vulgar is even in its name!), my aversion couldn’t last forever. I started to sneak an occasional pickled beet onto my plate, and wasn’t completely grossed out when I did. I tried beet soup–it was ok. What happened eventually is that my experimental nibbles turned into familiar, maybe event slightly tasty, flavors.
And now, things are starting to spiral out of control. I bought three beets at the farmers’ market last weekend. I made a wild rice salad with beets earlier this month, and added roasted beets to my salad a couple days ago. I think I’m finally ready to admit it: I’m falling in love with beets. And as an official declaration of my blossoming passion, I’ve made an edible Valentine in which my new love shines. Beets give these cakes their vibrant color and a very subtle, pleasant (yep, I said it) flavor. Considering the ancient Romans considered beet juice an aphrodisiac (it’s true), this choco-beet concoction is a guaranteed winner.
Please, fall in love with me:
Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from joythebaker.com
Makes ~2 dozen cupcakes
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 cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
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
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. Grease or place baking cups in cupcake pans. 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.
Fill cupcake cups evenly, about 3/4 full. Bake for about 25 minutes. Cakes are done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Place on cooling rack to let cool completely.
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.
Top cupcakes with a generous amount of pink frosting. Spread evenly. Cakes will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. But why would you ever let them sit there that long?