It’s the weekend. Fittingly, this is a weekend cake. Not that it’s especially difficult. But it is time consuming. There are many steps requiring many tools and many bowls and many stages of beating and baking and frosting and chilling and many, many dishes. And if that weren’t bad enough, there are many calories. Maaaaaany. Do you know how many sticks of butter and cups of sugar you are about to consume? MANY.
But it’s worth it. Particularly if you have someone to impress: a birthday, a neighbor, a mother-in-law, a coworker. It’s gorgeous. It’s indulgent. It’s the perfectly not-too-sweet yet incredibly moist chocolate cake paired with the way-sweet people-will-go-bonkers-for-this icing. (Particularly if they’re fond of grocery store icing the likes of Publix or Giant.)(Looking at you, Ms. Freshy and Mr. Landlord.) It’s definitely a weekend cake. It requires an idle afternoon and a whole lot of caloric justification.
As for the beets? You can’t taste them. Promise. The cake is a standard chocolate cake (fairly mellow, not terribly rich or dark) that is fabulously fluffy and moist. The beets and buttermilk (or in my case, yogurt) are to thank for said moisture and lightness. The icing is rich and buttery and sweet (and hot pink!). An unsuspecting recipient would be none the wiser. If only I hadn’t told the landlord there were beets — we’d be plum out of cake.
Chocolate Beet Cake with Buttercream Icing Adapted from Joy the Baker
For the Beets: 2 medium beets, stems cut and peels intact 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
For the Cake: 6 ounces unsalted butter, softened 1 cup packed brown sugar 3/4 cup granulated sugar 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 cups all-purpose flour 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or 3/4 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup milk, as I did)
For the Frosting: 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened 4 to 5 cups powdered sugar (1 box), sifted 2 tablespoons finely grated beets 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1-2 teaspoons milk or cream 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice pinch of salt
To make the Beets: Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
Thoroughly wash beets and trim stems. Place on a large piece of foil and drizzle with a conservative splash of vegetable oil. Seal foil pouch and place on baking sheet; roast until beets are tender, about 45-50 minutes. (Alternatively, next time you find yourself making beets for dinner, plan ahead. Roast extra beets and refrigerate or freeze until needed. I did exactly this and saved myself a solid hour and an extra step of prep.)
Once cooked through, remove beets from oven and open foil to cool completely. Once cooled, peel beets with a paring knife (or hands; although your palms will be stained hot pink, beet skins slide right off). Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.* Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting. Set aside.
(*Note: My beets were cut into 1/2-inch pieces, as they were left over from a previous dish. Rather than try my temper and bloody my hands with ity bity pieces against a box grater, I popped those badboys into the food processor. Voilá. Done in a blink.)
To make the Cake: Reduce the oven temperature to 350F degrees. Use butter to grease two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan. Cut it out and place inside the cake pan. Butter the parchment paper. (As I said, lots of steps. The double greasing of the pans and the parchment paper is well worth the insurance. The cakes will slide right out. Better still, save the edges of the parchment to wrap around the base of your finished cake to protect your cake stand from icing splatters. Brilliant.) Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars with an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go along. Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beating on low speed, slowly add buttermilk. Once incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Take care not to overmix; manually folding ingredients with a spatula works well too. Batter will be thick and an ugly brownish-mauve color (don’t fret, it will bake into a standard chocolate brown).
Divide batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan). A tester inserted will come out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.
To make the Icing: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth. Add butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined. Scrape down bowl as necessary. Beat in beets. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky. Refrigerate icing for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
To assemble, place one layer on a cake stand or cake plate. Top with a generous amount of pink icing and spread evenly. Place the other layer on top and frost. Work icing onto the sides of the cake. (There will be plenty of frosting and you’ll likely have quite a bit left over.) Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice)(and oddly enough, this cake tastes great chilled). Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.
I keep buying more and more fruit. Every week I scoop up as many peaches, plums, and berries as I can reasonably justify. Most of the fruit is eaten raw, their freshness savored over breakfast and midday snacks. The rest sit idly ripening, earmarked for baked goods. And so these plum crumble bars were born.
The original recipe calls for peaches, but I haven’t been able to muster any self restraint when it comes to peaches — I keep gobbling them one by one rather than baking with them. So plums it was. I also omitted the nuts, because ick. As we’ve well established by now, nuts have no place in dessert. And in the spirit of my recent revelation re: balsamic vinegar and fruit, I added a generous tablespoon of balsamic to the plums. (For the record, balsamic is better with blueberries. I didn’t detect the flavor at all with the plums.)
Part shortbread cookie, part gooey fruit center, part crumbly sweet oat topping, these bars have something for everyone. As Pops would say, num-o!
Oat Topping: 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 2/3 cup old-fashioned oats 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar pinch cinnamon pinch salt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Directions: Heat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8x8-inch baking dish. (I opted for a large pie plate.)
In a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Turn off the mixer and manually fold in the flour, salt, and ginger. Take care not to overmix; incorporate dry ingredients just until the dough comes together. Press the dough firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and refrigerate while preparing the filling and topping.
Roughly chop the plums into 1/2-inch pieces and toss with the sugar, flour, balsamic (if using), and salt. Set aside. Using the same bowl as for the dough, mix softened butter with oats, flour, cinnamon, and salt until crumbly. Spread the chopped plums over the chilled dough base. Evenly crumble the topping over plums, and drizzle with melted butter.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned. Cool (or chill) for at least an hour before slicing and serving. I do recommend chilling these, as they slice much easier when cool. Bars will stay fresh for about 5 days when stored well-covered in the fridge.
Most people like chocolate. Some people like dark, some people like milk. So people like their chocolate with nuts, others like theirs uninterrupted. Yet chocolate and peanut butter is one of those combinations everyone seems to be able to agree upon — smooth, creamy, rich, nutty, balanced. It’s like the yin and yang of sweets. Who doesn’t like Reeses?
Reeses, meet brownies.
Fudgy brownies swirled with creamy peanut butter and crowned with crunchy pretzels. Unf. Sweet, savory, moist, rich — an instant fan favorite.
For the Brownie: 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chips) 1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional) 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3 large eggs 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Peanut Butter Swirl: 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1/2 cup powdered sugar 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
coarse sea salt for topping large handful pretzel sticks or crisps
Directions: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper so that it overhangs on two sides and grease the parchment paper as well. (*Note: I skipped the parchment paper/extra greasing step and now understand why Joy recommends to do so. These babies stick. Big time. Definitely go the parchment/extra grease route. If not, they’re really tough to coax out of the pan.)
Boil two inches of water in a medium saucepan. Combine butter, chocolate, and coffee powder in a heat proof bowl and place over the simmering water. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted. Use a pot holder to remove the bowl from the double boiler and let mixture cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla extract.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk granulated sugar into the melted chocolate and butter. Make sure the chocolate mixture isn’t too hot and whisk in the eggs one at a time. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and spoon into prepared pan, making sure brownie is evenly distributed.
In another bowl, whisk together peanut butter, melted butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter and use a butter knife to swirl the two together. Top with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Arrange pretzel sticks/crisps on top of the brownie batter.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean(ish). Allow to cool for about 30 minutes before slicing and enjoying.
I love me some pie. LURRRRRRVE. Me and pie, we’re besties. Very few things can replace pie in my heart. But this balsamic blueberry crisp? Whoa baby. This crisp is a serious contender.
I don’t even know where to begin. One minute you’re thinking you’re not that much of a crisp girl and the next you’re three-quarters deep into the pan, greedily shoveling as much deliciousness into your face as is humanly possible. Blueberries and balsamic? HO-LEE COW.
*Note: I followed the recipe as-is and the resulting crisp is pretty sweet. As in just this side of hurt your teeth sweet. Which means that the landlord liked it, even though it is a fruit dessert and not a chocolate dessert (and therefore not a “real” dessert by his definition). If you don’t like your fruit desserts quite so sweet (I usually don’t), you may want to tone down the sugar a bit. That being said, this crisp is delightfully sweet without clobbering you in the face. And wildly addicting.
Ingredients: 2 cups of blueberries 3 tablespoons of sugar 1/2 tablespoon flour 1/8 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup oats 2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar 1/4 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 stick softened butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1-2 tablespoons raw sugar for topping
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
In a bowl, mix blueberries with sugar, flour, and salt. Pour blueberries into greased pan. Once the blueberries are in the pan, toss them with balsamic vinegar.
In a bowl (I re-purposed the same bowl from above), combine oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add softened butter and vanilla, and mix thoroughly with a fork or your fingers until it becomes clumped together. Layer crumble mixture on top of blueberries and sprinkle raw sugar on top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve warm, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
This is a simple, buttery cake. Visually, it’s a summer stunner. Taste-wise, it’s more autumn. Both the use of cinnamon and Deb’s comment that it was more a late summer/early fall cake should have clued me in, but somehow I was still surprised by the spice.
While I probably won’t make this cake again with the temps soaring well into the hundreds, I will certainly file it away for when the air is crisp and the body craves warm cider and spice.
Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar 2 large eggs 1/3 cup canola oil zest of 1 lemon 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 4 purple or red plums, halved and pitted
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a large (9 or 10 inches) pie plate or 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.
In a larger bowl using an electric mixer (or stand mixer), beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each. Beat in the oil, lemon zest, and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Using a spatula, scrape down the sides and under the batter, to make sure everything is incorporated. Scrape the batter into greased pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up (I arranged mine in a circle around the edge of the dish), pressing them so they settle into the batter.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and cool. Serve at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar or served alongside vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Cake will keep at room temperature for up 2-3 days, during which time it will get softer and moister. This is a cake that gets better with age.