I have to start this post with a foot note, as it were – in my enthusiasm to use my new camera, I completely forgot the wretched things don’t work unless you charge their batteries! So instead of the stunning “final” photos I had planned in my head, Nicky the Nikon fell at the last hurdle and I had to resort to my iPhone. A thousand apologies, if not to you than to my expectations as I envisaged this magnificent cake would look a whole lot better than this…
So, yesterday it was Father’s Day and to celebrate, we had a family BBQ (which my dad is always Chief of the Fire Pit for, regardless of the occasion). He’d been hinting at wanting a chocolate cake as a treat for some time so I took the opportunity to make my very first recipe from this stunning book.
Nigel Slater’s Tender, both Volumes 1 and 2 were recent additions to my book shelf thanks to Hungry Hubby on my last day of medical school. I nearly burst with glee when I Tweeted this fact and the newest member of the famous foodie celebrity crew messaged to directly to say congratulations himself! To say I’m enjoying reading them is too benign a phrase – I’m falling in love with them, with each chapter I slowly devour, a day at a time so to make the pleasure last as long as possible. This chocolatey beast of a cake instantly jumped out of, wait for it, the beetroot chapter and I knew it was perfect for the occasion.
Just look at the transformation boiling then blending this gnarly, dusty looking knobble of a root vegetable produces. A real life ugly duckling make over if ever I saw one. Once it has been transformed into this luminescent almost translucent gel of a purée, we can turn to the matter of melting some dark chocolate, adding some espresso coffee, chunks of creamy yellow butter and simply giving them time to get to know one another in the warm bowl before amalgamating them with a slow but deliberate fold.
Meanwhile, we can set about whisking up a number of egg whites and adding some sugar – I used half caster and half soft brown as I’d finished my golden caster sugar without replenishing the stocks. I can’t see how the addition of soft brown sugar is ever a bad thing though.
Once we have thick, shining, matte white meringue and a large metal spoon to fold it into a red earth toned batter we are moments away from ushering this mysterious beauty into the gently preheating oven. Then a mere 45 minutes (in my oven) later, an intriguing aroma of what I’d describe as “earthy chocolatiness” permeates the kitchen in a familiar yet subtly different manner one is accustomed to with “normal” chocolate cakes. The cake has risen beautifully – a flat red brown top with gently rounded edges and the barest wibble wobble of a freshly baked cloud cake or rich and decadent torte at the epicentre of cake.
At this point in the afternoon of Father’s Day I was all packed up and ready to go. Hungry Hubby had arrived home and we were ready to drive over to Daddums for the BBQ. Hubby cradled the cake still in its tin and retaining substantial heat from the oven in a jute bag for life on his lap as I drove! It stood for almost 2 hours before I served it and what this smart phone picture doesn’t get across is the velvet centre of the cake – very much like a chocolate torte but aerated with the egg whites folded into the batter before baking, it almost but didn’t ooze like Aztec earth coloured lava as each slice was transferred to the waiting plates. We served it with a gently whipped cream sweetened with a touch of vanilla bean paste and agave nectar (as I had some and wanted to try it) rather than the poppy seeded creme fraiche which Nigel himself suggests as an accompaniment.
As for the taste, well we enjoyed our slabs of warm cake and clouds of cream in the late evening and unexpected warming heat from the sun in Daddums beautiful back garden. The torrential down pour of the morning forgotten as swallows and house martins darted between the bushes and a sparrow hawk was spotted in the distance by eagle eyes Daddums himself. Silence interrupted as he spooned mouthfuls of dark cake and white cream into his mouth making yummy noises. I can only assume the sweetness of the organic beetroot humming alongside the 70% Green & Black’s chocolate was as pleasing to him as it was to me.
- 250 g beetroot cooked in their skins then peeled and puréed well.
- 200 g dark chocolate
- 4 tbsp hot espresso
- 200 g butter
- 135 g plain flour
- A heaped tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 5 eggs separated
- 190 g golden caster sugar
Melt the chocolate, butter and espresso together. Stir in the beetroot purée and egg yolks.
Sift over the flour, baking powder and cocoa and mix in.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff then pour in the sugar gradually as for making meringue.
Fold into the chocolate mixture and then transfer to a greased and lined 8 inch round cake tin.
Place in a preheated oven to 180˚C, immediately turning down to 160˚C and baking for approximately 40 minutes - the centre should wobble a little but the edges be fully cooked.
Cool in the tin before unmoulding and serving with creme fraiche whilst still warm.
Adapted from Nigel Slater's book, Tender Volume I