Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

by Laura FrerichsTastemaker in Residence -- Recipe used with permission from Chris Schlueter, and she adapted the recipe from Fine Cooking, November 2001.

Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake

For the cake:
2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens
1 tsp vegetable oil
6 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans 1 cup packed brown sugar
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄4 cups buttermilk

For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
4-5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp finely grated beets, mashed with a fork
1 tsp pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod
1-2 tsp milk, depending on desired consistency
1⁄2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt


To Make Cake:

  1. Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim any leaves, leaving about 1⁄2 inch of stem. Place clean beets in a piece of foil. Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil. Seal up foil. Place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove the beets from the oven. Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely. Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.
  2. Using a box grater, or food processor, 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. Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees F. Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking 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 cake pan. Butter parchment paper. Add dusting of flour to coat the pan. Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
  3. In a bowl with electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, (or use hand mixer), cream together butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Add buttermilk. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once eggs and buttermilk 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.
  4. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients. Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until wet and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix batter. Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with spatula to finish incorporating ingredients. Cake batter will be on the thick side...not pourable.
  5. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes (for 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for 8-inch pan). Cake is done with skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.


To make Frosting:

  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitten with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth. Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined. Stop the m ixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in the beets. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and sildy. Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
  2. To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate. Top with a generous amount of pink frosting. Spread evenly. Place the other cake on top of the frosting. Top with frosting. Work frosting onto the sides of the cake. You will have extra frosting left over. Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice). Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.