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Beet it! Use this veggie to make desserts pop

Though the jewel-toned color of a ruby red beet calls to mind decadent sweets and gorgeous dishes, the fact that it’s a root vegetable has regulated it to soups, stews and salads paired with goat cheese. But not any more! Many chefs are highlighting its sweetness in delectable desserts.One popular way to use beets is in cake form: New York’s Rosa Mexicano makes an awesome roasted beet and choc
Cola cake from Herons in North Carolina.
Cola cake from Herons in North Carolina.Herons / Today
Rosa Mexicano's chocolate beet cakeToday

Though the jewel-toned color of a ruby red beet calls to mind decadent sweets and gorgeous dishes, the fact that it’s a root vegetable has regulated it to soups, stews and salads paired with goat cheese. But not any more! Many chefs are highlighting its sweetness in delectable desserts.

One popular way to use beets is in cake form: New York’s Rosa Mexicano makes an awesome roasted beet and chocolate cake, for example. And close by, at the vegetarian hot spot Dirt Candy, chef and owner Amanda Cohen reimagines the classic molten chocolate cake with beets. Cohen developed the cake as a way to put chocolate back on her menu, but with a fun twist to make the dessert her own. Beets add a natural, vibrant red to the molten chocolate, making it look more like lava. The cake also comes with a side of pear sorbet and delicate dots of beet caramel.

Cola cake from Herons in North Carolina.Herons / Today
Beet pomegranate panna cotta.Summer Winter / Today

But those two restaurants aren’t the only ones pairing beet with chocolate. At Vedge in Philadelphia, co-owner and pastry chef Kate Jacoby makes beet-root fudge that she dusts in powdered beets and couples with black velvet cake. The cake also utilizes beet juice in the batter to help give it a solid red color.

In Chicago, chef Derek Simcik of Atwood Café makes his red velvet cake with beet puree. But the cake doesn't get its red hue from the beets; the color actually comes from a chemical reaction between cocoa powder and buttermilk (food coloring can also be used).

Laura Sawicki, recently named Best New Pastry Chef by Food & Wine, makes an out-of-this-world beet cake with smoked hazelnuts, pickled beets, chocolate mousse, crispy ginger and coconut sorbet at La Condesa in Austin, Texas.

Candied beets are used as a garnish on Daniel Benjamin’s cola cake at Herons in North Carolina. You can also use beet juice to spruce up other spring desserts, like the beet and pomegranate panna cotta that chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier serve at the Massachusetts restaurant Summer Winter.

How would you incorporate beets into your dessert? Here's a recipe to get you started. We can’t call it guilt-free, but hey, at least you’re getting some veggies.

Roasted beet and chocolate cake from Rosa Mexicano

  • 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 6 eggs at room temperature
  • ¾ cup 55 percent chocolate pieces (they use Valhona)
  • 4 cups beet juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/5 cups cake flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Beet puree:

Make beet puree by trimming beets and simmering them in a large pot of water for about 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain the liquid and cool the beets by running cold water on them for 1 minute. Slide the skins off, and then place them in a food processor and puree until smooth. Let the puree cool slightly before using it in the cake.

Cake:

Cream together 1½ cups of butter with the dark brown sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, blending each completely. Melt the rest of the butter with the dark chocolate over a simmering pot of water until melted and smooth.

Cool slightly, then add the chocolate mixture, beet puree, and vanilla into the butter-sugar mixture (it’s OK if it looks slightly separated at this point).

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients bowl and mix well.

Line a shallow, full-sized hotel pan with parchment paper, lightly spray with a non-stick spray, and pour in batter. Smooth the top and bake at 350º for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool to room temperature, then wrap and refrigerate for about an hour or until completely cooled down.

Using a 2-inch-round cookie cutter, cut out as many cakes as you can (about 32) and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Wrap and refrigerate until ready to glaze.

Hot chocolate glaze:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup whole milk warmed
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup 55 percent chocolate, chopped
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

In a small pot over medium-high heat, melt together the butter, whole milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract. Decrease heat to low and add the chopped chocolate, whisking until completely melted. Turn off the heat and add the powdered sugar, whisking until completely smooth.

Set the mini roasted beet and chocolate cakes on a wire rack, with a sheet pan underneath to save the unused glaze. Using a small ladle, pour the glaze over the cakes, coating the cakes as much as possible.

Let the glaze set for 30 minutes before transferring the cakes to a hotel pan lined with parchment paper.

Wrap and refrigerate. Bring the cakes out to room temperature before serving.