For this Valentine’s Day, I decided to make a chocolate cake, albeit with a few unusual ingredients. Chocolate with cardamom is one of my favourite combinations. Cardamom brings a wonderful aromatic quality to dark chocolate. For me, it makes chocolate taste lighter, almost citrusy with a hint of spice. It’s a great combination to have after a meal, as it leaves a delicious flavour behind. I was determined to make this chocolate cardamom cake. I was feeling a tad guilty however, as I had some organic vegetables lingering in the back of the fridge waiting to be used up. At the very bottom, I spied some forlorn beetroots. Beetroot is oddly a great addition to chocolate cake – it makes it beautifully moist, and it also reduces the need for so much sugar, as beets are naturally sweet. These beets would also give my cake a lovely rosy glow.

The resulting cake was moist, rich, and crumbly, with great depth of flavour. The beets give the cake a subtle earthy sweetness and the cardamom really accentuates the rich dark chocolate. It doesn’t taste overtly of beetroot, so I usually don’t tell people about the mystery ingredient until they’ve eaten it -and they are always so surprised.

One of the main raising agents in this cake is egg whites, so it can be made gluten – free with a little gluten-free flour. So, if you fancy a chocolate cake, that bit different this Valentine’s Day, this is definitely one to try.

Ingredients  

Cake

  • 250g / 2 medium sized uncooked beets, rinsed and cleaned, with stalks removed.
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
  • 200g of dark chocolate
  • 60ml / ¼ cup of strong coffee
  • 8 cardamom pods, shells removed and seeds crush
  • 200g of butter /14 tablespoons of butter, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 135g/ 1 cup of all-purpose flour / gluten free flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 200 g/ 1 cup castor sugar

Topping

  • Pink beetroot juice (reserved from roasting)
  • A drop of vanilla essence
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon of powdered sugar
  • 1 cup / 240 ml of whipping cream
  • Maraschino cherries (optional)

Method

Begin by pre heating the oven to 375 F / 190 C. Rub the oil on the cleaned beetroots and wrap them in tin foil. I like to put them into a dish before putting them in the oven, just in case any beetroot juice escapes. Allow the beetroots to roast for about 45 minutes to an hour. Test with a sharp knife to check if they are tender. Once cooked, remove the beetroots from the oven. Reserve any juice and pour into a cup. Allow the beetroots to cool.

Meanwhile, butter a 20 cm spring form pan and line with parchment paper. It’s important to have the parchment paper high on the sides of the tin to allow the cake to rise. Lower the oven to 350 F/180 C

Once the beetroots are cool, peel them and grate them with a cheese grater on the finest setting, or blitz in a food processor.

Next, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of just simmering boiling water. Once melted, take the saucepan off the heat, and stir the hot coffee into the chocolate. Don’t stir too much, as it will start to congeal. Next, add the butter, and allow it to slowly dissolve into the chocolate and coffee. Meanwhile, remove the shells from the cardamom pods and crush the black seeds in a pestle and mortar. Add the crushed seeds to the chocolate along with the vanilla essence. Stir together to ensure all the butter has melted and is incorporated. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, sieve the flour, cocoa, and baking powder together. Next, add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate and then fold in the grated beets into the chocolate mixture.  

Using a stand mixer/ electric hand beater, beat the egg whites until stiff. Then gently fold the castor sugar into the egg whites. Finally, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, followed by the cocoa and flour. Ensure to use a slow folding action and don’t over mix the ingredients.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and, bake the cake for 40-50 minutes, or until the sides have come away slightly from the edge of the pan. The centre should be still a little moist. Allow the cake to cool before removing from the tin. It’s important to note, that the centre might sink a little -cakes made with egg whites often sinks when cool. Let the cake cool completely, and then remove it from the pan.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Remove a tablespoon of the cream and place it in a small bowl. Place the rest of the cream on top of the cake and smooth over with a palate knife.

Add a few drops of the beetroot juice (reserved from roasting) to the remaining cream in the small bowl. Add the vanilla essence and powdered sugar. The vanilla essence and sugar help take some of the harsh beet flavour from the pink cream. Stir the cream until all the beetroot juice is combined. You should be left with a beautiful striking pink cream. Using a teaspoon, place small blobs of the pink cream in a circle, on top of the white cream. Then, drag a toothpick from the cream through the pink dots to create a heart effect. Garnish with a few maraschino cherries.