Chocolate Beet Cake with Maple Cream and Fresh Blackberries...for the Big SIXTEEN!

Yes, this is the cake my son picked out for his birthday.  I have this cookbook of very simple but delicious cakes.  Once my children were old enough to form their own opinions, they moved away from the sugar coated ooey-gooey cakes to more subtle flavored birthday options with hints of sweetness and spice.

I decided to take this recipe and swap out the cake portion with a recipe I saw recently on the blog "Simple Bites".  The cake is made with part whole wheat flour.  Instead of cups of sugar...beets, honey, and maple syrup are used as the sweeteners.

To be truthful, as I was grating mounds of beets and their earthy aroma filled the air, I certainly had my doubts. "Could I really pass this off with a 16 yr. old?  Was it going to taste too 'au naturel'?"

Before I delve further into whether this cake passed the "birthday level" cake test, I have to say a warm thank you to all of the wonderful people who give me such encouragement with my ongoing question of whether or not to continue on our homeschooling path.  

The inspiration and acceptance of a diverse way of educating our unique children truly amazes me.  I am truly grateful to the many parents around the world who lend an ear and reach out to let me know "It's going to be o.k.  Your son will indeed turn out o.k."

Because I'll say, I sure had that secure boat rocked a few weeks ago.  When I was out in California, for a memorial, there was a friend of the family who attended.  He had a mouthful of opinions that he just couldn't wait to "share" with me.

Within less than a minute of meeting me he puffed up his chest and spouted, "Every homeschooled child I have met is a social basket case!"  Yes, that is exactly what he said.

Case closed.  The truth was now out there in his black and white world.  Not only was my son (whom he has never met) a social basketcase but, as I regarded him cooly, taking slow soft breaths, I imagined he saw me, as the crazy homeschool mother, who was equally as sociably inept.

When you choose to homeschool, you have to have very thick skin.  You also experience people at their most base selves.  I try to view myself as a "pioneer woman" who must quietly persevere through a slowly changing world of naysayers and fault finders.

As I gazed across the car at this larger than life persona of a man, I realized that many stereotypical thoughts flew into my mind.  I quickly had him racked, stacked, and pegged for slaughter!  

What I wanted so badly to say was, "So, Mr. :$#!+-head, are you telling me were homeschooled as well?"  I just wanted to load up my tongue with sharp nails and spit them in rapidfire succession right into his beady little eyes.

So, I gazed at this man and thought of how difficult it is not to stereotype people.  I looked deeper into his eyes and wondered what events in his life brought him to feel so emboldened to deliver such harsh and derisive criticism.

And then I felt nothing but pity for him.  

I reflected on my son.  He is on the cusp of manhood.  His opinions and outlooks on people, politics, religion, and education are all forming.  We see glimpses at this age as to the young man he will soon become.

I didn't let those loaded up nails fly out in rapid-fire succession, though.  Yes sir, indeedy, it was hard.  I sat quietly and listened to a 5 minute rant about what a horrible decision it is for parents to pull their children out of the mainstream accepted environment and dare to "reinvent the wheel".  

Let's just say that I possess a temper, that when ignited,  could power that latest mission to the, let's choose...Mars.  I imagined during that conversation that there was a glowing halo forming above my head, such was my angelic guise.

I thought of my son.  I thought of his turning the all-important 16 years of age.  

I also thought of this election year.  We've studied election year hype in the past.  It isn't necessarily more shocking than what is going on today, but because we are living through it, it certainly seems more shocking to us now.

So many conversations at home center around AVOIDING choosing political parties.  We are, as a family, caught up in the political and economic issues of our country.  

We are working to stress to our kids that there are no "sides".  There are "issues".  

Each of the issues are neither red nor blue.

Each of the issues shouldn't be colored red nor blue.

...but each involve careful consideration of the implications for the young,old, poor, wealthy, women, gays, immigrants, etc.

I listened impassively to this man rail on about the social ineptness of every single homeschooler that he had encountered.

I considered my son.  I tried to imagine him spouting off such direct criticism to a mere acquaintance, met minutes before.  I tried to imagine him dominating conversations with "red" or "blue" opinions.  

I could not imagine it.  I felt secure in my seat that he would not.  With a cleansing sigh and a steadying of my heart rate, I concluded my son is doing just fine.  

Because if this man before me was an example of how my son could do "better", then I reckoned that I would comfortably stick with the "socially inept" option.

So happy birthday to my young man, Riley.  In one glance, this cake could be pigeon-holed as a super caloric ooey-gooey sweet chocolate loaded cake with sticky sugar frosting.

And, one could take a bite of its moist deliciousness and marvel at the depth of chocolate flavors and hints of maple and honey goodness surrounded by fresh plump blackberries nestled in whipped up cream.

But, what might look one way on the surface (and I am certainly intending to create parallels here...) might have altogether a different make up of ingredients.

"Don't judge a book by its cover"

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them"  Mother Theresa

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

"A man is the product of his thoughts.  What he thinks, he becomes." - Ghandi 

Chocolate Beet Cake with Maple Cream and Fresh Blackberries
(adapted from the food blog "Simple Bites")
(filling and cream topping from Williams-Sonoma "Cake" cookbook)

Dark Chocolate Beet Cake with Maple Cream and Fresh Blackberries
Cake portion author: 
Recipe Type: Dessert
Yield: 10
Cook the beets ahead of time and this cake will come together fairly quickly. You can boil, steam, or roast your beets whole, then peel and grate them. Recipe adapted from the Green Market Baking Book.
  • 3 medium beets, cooked and cooled
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup light olive oil
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup organic, unbleached white flour (I used organic cake flour)
  • 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

For the filling and the cream frosting:
  • 2 1/2 cups (20 fl oz/560ml) heavy (double) cream (I made double this amount to really cover the cake)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon kirsch liqueur (for a bit of a cherry taste)

Sugar Syrup: for sealing each layer so cake remains moist
  • 1/4 cup (2oz/60g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60ml) water

Poached Cherries/Blackberries: for the bottom layer of the cake
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cherries (or blackberries)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter a 9 inch springform cake pan and dust it lightly with cocoa.
  2. Grate the beets on a box grater and measure them; you should have 2 cups of grated beets. Transfer them to a medium colander and allow them to drain of any excess moisture while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, maple syrup and honey until everything is well blended.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Sift together the flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, but do not over mix.
  6. Fold the beets into the batter until distributed, then scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread around until it is even.
  7. Bake for about 35-45 minutes (mine took 50 min.), until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool, in the pan on a wire rack, for a good 20 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove the latch from around the cake.  Leave the metal layer on the bottom so you can move the cake after spreading the whipped cream on your serving platter.
  9. While the cake is cooling, bring the water and sugar up to a boil for the poached fruit.  Add the fruit to the mixture, reduce the heat to low, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Let the fruit cool, then drain, discard the syrup.
  10. Using dental floss, carefully cut cake into 3 layers.
  11. Brush each cake layer with the Sugar Syrup (above) 
  12. Spread about 1/4 of the whipped cream on the bottom layer
  13. Lay the poached cherries (or blackberries) over that layer of cake.
  14. Place the next cake layer on top.
  15. Coat it with the Sugar Syrup (above)
  16. Layer another coating of whipped cream
  17. Place the top layer of the cake...on the very top.
  18. Spread the remaining whipped cream on the top and the sides of the cake.
  19. Decorate the top with fresh cherries (or blackberries) and chocolate shavings (I added crushed pistachios too and a few sprigs of mint leaves) 
  20. Serve  cool or at room temperature

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