What I love about beetroot is its colour. A brilliant, deep crimson that instantly puts a smile on my face. The taste of beetroot? Well, I'm not a huge fan. Nevertheless, I make sure that I include beetroot in my diet from time to time because of its healthful properties.
So when I bought this month's quota of beetroot, I had a cake in mind. I had no recipe at hand but I was sure I could find one and improvise.
Using vegetables in cakes isn't such a radical idea. Take the most famous vegetable-based cake: the carrot cake. It is a much loved cake now but when it was first introduced in the US in the 1960s, it was very much a novelty. However because the cake is so flavourful, moist and delicious, it caught on pretty fast and is now pretty much a standard dessert fare. Carrot cake and cream cheese frosting can be found in almost every cake shop.
For some reason though, other vegetable cakes haven't quite become so popular. I can't understand why because I am a huge fan of vegetable cakes — I made a chocolate avocado cake some time ago that was just lovely and a couple of months ago I tried a zucchini and walnut cake that was also great.
This time around: a Vanilla Beetroot Cupcake. Beetroot in cake is usually paired with chocolate. Some bakers even substitute rhubarb with beetroot when making the infamous Red Velvet Cake. I didn't want to go the chocolate way and instead I chose to make a plain vanilla cake with the beets.
To be honest, I was hoping the crimson from the beetroot would make me a pretty pink cake. Didn't turn out that way though: apart from the little flecks of crimson here and there, the cake was a pale yellow that is typical of a vanilla cake. (I have since researched at length to find a way of keeping the pink of the beets and have learn that roasting the beets BEFORE pureeing them into the batter may help hold the colour in. Will try this the next time).
The texture however was not disappointing. Nice and moist (but not soggy or wet), with little chewy bits here and there courtesy of the grated beets.
The frosting for the beetroot cupcake is the standard cream cheese frosting but to add a light shade of pink, I added a tablespoonful or two of beet juice.
Vanilla Beetroot Cupcakes
175g Castor sugar
175g all purpose flour
11/4 tsp baking powder
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g beetroot, pureed (you can try roasting it first: wrap in foil, bake for 30-40 mins or until soft, peel and roughly puree).
3 eggs, separated
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolks, flour, beets and vanilla and mix till well incorporated (about 2 mins). Set aside.
Whisk the egg whites until it starts to form peaks. Using a metal spoon, fold in the egg whites into the batter.
Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for about 20 mins or until the cakes are firm to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
Set aside to cool on a rack.
Cream Cheese Frosting
150g cream cheese (at room temp)
75g butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp beet juice
1 tsp rose water
Blend the cream cheese and butter till smooth and free of lumps. Add the sugar and mix till light and well incorporated. Add the beet juice and rose water and mix for a minute or two. Remove and refrigerate for at least 30 mins or until ready to frost.