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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

red devil chocolate cake (with secret beets)

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a weighty issue

Dan took Meredith along when he bought her first bike several years ago. When they returned with a pink bike with white tires and training wheels, unicorns and rainbows festooning the frame and sparkly streamers adorning the handlebars, I wasn’t surprised. I WAS surprised, however, when I picked the thing up for the first time, and almost suffered a hernia. So this is what the Chinese make with their leftover pig iron!

Ye gods, it weighed more than Dan’s and my bikes together! And tiny three-year-old Meredith was supposed to pedal this miniature single-speed beast around our gravel-roaded, hillside neighborhood? There wasn’t enough hot chocolate in the greater Anchorage area to provide her with sufficient calories to get this thing up our driveway, much less up the hill to the bike trail beyond.

Even when Meredith ditched the training wheels, the weight of the overall bike was not much diminished, especially since Dan was then required to install a kickstand. Because of the impossibility of Meredith pushing the bike up our hill on her own, most of her biking was done by first driving partway to preschool, then biking together from there.

But as Meredith’s skill on her bike has grown (“Look, mom, no feet!!”), her strength and endurance have increased, and she can actually get the leaden pink beast cranking along. When she and I go on running/biking outings together, I only have to help push her up the biggest hills. Since she has outgrown her bike trailer, we decided to order a trailer-bike for her to ride behind our bikes. And for her sixth birthday (rapidly approaching), we ordered her a new gear bike to encourage her biking enthusiasm.

Imagine our consternation when the trailer-bike arrived, and although we’d gotten a nice model (it even has six gears for Meredith to learn to shift), the thing weighs more than the bikes we will pull it with! Ugh! And the gear bike? The lightest one we could find in her size weighs just as much as her pink one.  At least it doesn’t weigh even MORE. I’m sure lighter bikes for kids would be prohibitively expensive, but still… It seems unfair that the littler they are, the heavier the bikes they are expected to ride.

Here’s a funny thought. As Meredith grows, and her bikes get bigger, they will get lighter and lighter, until at last she will have a bike that is lighter than the tiny first bike she ever rode at age three. What doesn’t kill her will only make her stronger.

Even better than hot chocolate for powering stubby legs on bike pedals, this chocolate cake is lovely. No one ever suspects the beets unless I make them guess the secret ingredient—and even then, they can’t actually TASTE the beets. It’s a relatively healthy and very delicious cake.

 

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red devil chocolate cake (with secret beets)

This great recipe is based on one from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. The cake doesn’t taste at all like beets once it’s baked because of all the cocoa powder in it, but the beets add a great depth of flavor and moistness—not to mention vitamins!!

If you have an overabundance of beets like I do (they are very often in our CSA boxes), make a double or triple batch of the cake in small loaf pans, and then wrap them well in plastic wrap and freeze them.  Because of the beets, the cake stays very nice and moist, even after freezing. You can also roast and peel your beets ahead of time and freeze them whole, in preparation for baking this cake later.

If you want to make a Mexican chocolate cake, just add 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon to the dry ingredients for an Ibarra chocolate flavor.

14 ounces roasted, peeled beets
½ cup water
3 eggs, or 2 eggs + 2 egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ to ½ cup oil (depending on how low-fat you want to go)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
optional: ½ to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Roast and peel the beets:

a. Put whole, unpeeled beets in a baking dish or dutch oven and put ¼” of water in the dish. Cover tightly with foil or the lid of the dutch oven and bake them at 400 degrees (or whatever temperature you happen to be baking something else) until tender when stabbed with a paring knife. Usually they take at least an hour, but young beets might be quicker, depending on their size.
b. Remove from the oven and let them cool. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip their skins off.

2. Grease and flour the pan(s): either two 8” round baking pans (for a small layer cake) or one 10” pan, or a couple of small loaf pans, or line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. In a blender, puree the beets and ½ cup water. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Thoroughly whisk in the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, and beet puree until very smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients (except the chocolate chips) to the wet ingredients a little at a time, whisking until smooth. Then stir in the chocolate chips, if using.
5. Pour the batter into prepared baking pan(s) and bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Check the cupcakes after 15 to 18 minutes. The two cakes/loaves might take as little as 30 minutes, and the one 10” cake will probably take at least 45 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting with your choice of frosting, or just dust with powdered sugar. If you add the chocolate chips, you don’t really need frosting at all.


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