It used to lead to raised eyebrows, but carrot is more or less universally accepted these days as a cake ingredient, however beetroot is less so. Now though, especially following some recipes and publicity in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage television series, where it was used to make Beetroot & Chocolate Brownies, it is now becoming a little more well known. I stumbled across this Beetroot Seed Cake recipe online, when looking for a soup idea. It was on the same page as Parsnip & Split Pea Soup: I got side-tracked and thought I would give it a go. (I did make the soup too and must post it sometime.) The finished cake really didn’t taste of beetroot. My family could not work out the ‘secret ingredient’ in the cake and thought the red splashes might be dried cranberries or cherries. When first mixed the bright pinky-red cake mix was rather unnerving, but the resulting cooked cake was surprisingly un-red. Actually I was rather sorry about that, but the cake itself did not disappoint. It was moist and delicious, especially when still warm and was not too sweet. The grated beetroot had become slightly caramelised, with a lovely crunch from the added seeds. I will definitely be making this again and not just because it is a talking point. It has started me wondering about using other root vegetables in cakes. I wonder what parsnip would be like: it’s already quite sweet so could be a good candidate for an experiment. There is an interesting sounding recipe for Parsnip, Lemon & Walnut Cake on the Good Food Channel website, but I would be pleased to have other recommendations.
The original recipe for Beetroot Seed Cake came from Nigel Slater’s column in the Guardian online (April 2007). The only change I made was with the oven timings, as I found it needed a longer cooking time: about 1hr 10-15 mins rather than 50-55mins. The cake looked rather strange at the stage when the oil, sugar and egg were combined, but became more like a conventional cake mixture when the dry ingredients were added. I used a third each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds but these can be varied according to personal preference. I decided to leave my cake as it came from the oven, however Nigel Slater suggests topping the cooled cake with a drizzled scented icing made from 8tbsp sieved icing sugar combined with either lemon juice or orange flower water and sprinkled with poppy seeds. This should be left to set before serving.
Beetroot Seed Cake
225g/8ozs self-raising flour
2.5g/½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Scant 5g/1tsp baking powder
2.5g/½ tsp ground cinnamon
180m/6½fl ozs sunflower oil
225g/8ozs light muscovado sugar
150g/5½ozs raw beetroot
juice of half a lemon
75g/3ozs sultanas or raisins
75g/3ozs mixed seeds (25g/1oz each sunflower, pumpkin, linseed)
1. Preheat oven 170oC Fan oven/180oC/350oF/Gas 4. Line a 20cm x 9cm x 7cm loaf tin with baking parchment.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
3. Beat the oil and sugar together until well creamed. Separate the eggs and reserve the whites for later. One by one gradually introduce the beaten egg yolks to the mixture and mix in well.
4. Peel the beetroot, grate it coarsely and fold it into the mixture. Add the lemon juice, raisins or sultanas and the seeds. Fold in the dry ingredients.
5. Beat the egg whites until they are light but not too stiff. Gently but thoroughly combine them with the mixture using a large metal spoon.
6. Turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 70 – 75 minutes. Cover the top of the cake with some tin foil after 30 minutes. When cooked the cake should be moist inside but not sticky. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean if it is cooked.
7. Leave the cake in the tin for 20-25 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.