It's about that time to bring out all of the hearts and chocolate as we roll into Valentine's Day. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day. I don't have a Valentine's Day tale of terror to tell anyone, but I just never got that into it. I'd rather go out on another night when everywhere is less crowded and I'm not really into trying to buy flowers on the busiest flower day of the year. Does this make me a Grinch? You can be honest. I know that I'm more sarcasm than flowers and sunshine sometimes. That said, there are two things I do really look forward to about Valentine's Day: 1) I look at the day after as the official start of St. Patrick's Day season and that is a holiday I can really throw my weight behind; and 2) there are amazing chocolate sales the day after Valentine's Day. I also apply this second point to the Cadbury sales that hit strong the day after Easter.
Despite my less than stellar enthusiasm about Valentine's Day, I am a chocoholic and I do like an excuse to increase my chocolate intake. This week's recipe is a from scratch chocolate cake with a couple of twists. First, it's completely gluten and refined sugar free thanks to Bob's Red Mill's gluten free baking flour and coconut sugar. The frosting is also refined sugar free but the taste is epic if I may say so myself. I seriously cannot taste the difference between this chocolate buttercream and the same recipe made with regular powdered sugar. My kids couldn't either and they sniff out my attempts to healthify something a mile away. The reason the frosting is refined sugar free is thanks to Joy Food Sunshine's recipe for paleo powdered sugar, which I substituted into my buttercream recipe.
The second twist is a hidden heart, healthy ingredient keeping consistent with the heart theme this time of year. Drum roll....beet puree. If you haven't tried a beet/chocolate combo recipe yet, you might be thinking that this is gross and crazy and I get it, but the beets bake into the cake, making it a fudgy texture. They add a hint of a red/deep purple color to the cake, almost like a red velvet hue, and I promise the cake does not taste like a pile of harvested veggies. If you don't believe me, ask my kids about the chocolate cake they devoured throughout the week last week. Again, they are my harshest critics when it comes to me sneaking healthy swaps into things and they didn't miss a beat with getting this chocolate cake into them. They still don't know about the veggies.
The texture of this cake is a little different than most store bought chocolate cakes. If you're looking for that chocolate cake that feels really light and fluffy, this isn't the one for you. The cake is a fudgy, rich, more dense texture and it is less sweet than many other chocolate cakes I've had (and I've had my share), but the chocolate flavor is deep and rich. Chocolate craving crushed.
Here's what you'll need to get going:
Ingredients for the Cake
- 1 1/2 cups of beet puree (approximately 3-4 small beets or 2-3 medium/large beets + 1/4 cup water)
-1 1/3 cup coconut sugar
-2 cups gluten free flour
-3/4 cup baking cocoa
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp espresso powder
-1/2 cup whole milk
Ingredients for the Frosting
-1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
-3 1/2 cups paleo powdered sugar (recipe from Joy Food Sunshine)
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/3 cup baking cocoa
-1/3 cup + 1 TBS whole milk
Prepare 2 x 6 inch cake pans by lining them with parchment paper, spraying with non-stick cooking spray and dusting with baking cocoa to prevent the cakes from sticking. Prepare your beet puree by removing the stems from the beets, chopping into quarters and adding them to a pot. Cover 3/4 with water and bring to a boil, reduce heat, loosely cover with a lid and allow to steam/simmer until the beats are soft and easily poked with a knife or fork (approximately 25 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow to cool. If you're tight on time, you can run them under cool water. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Add the beats to a high powered blender, add 1/4 cup water and puree until completely smooth.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs, coconut sugar and vanilla. Cream together. Add in the beet puree and stir until fully mixed together. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and espresso powder. With the mixer on a low stirring speed, alternate adding in 1/2 of the dry ingredients, the whole milk and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir until mixed together and there are no dry ingredients not fully mixed in, but do not over mix. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick is removed clean. (Note: the batter does not taste how the cake will taste in case you sneak a bit!) Allow to cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes and then remove the cakes from the pans onto a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
Prepare your frosting as the cakes cool. Make the paleo powdered sugar by following the instructions linked here. Add the 1/2 cup of butter to your bowl of your stand mixer and add 2 cups of the paleo powdered sugar and the vanilla. Cream together. Slowly add in 1/3-1/2 of the milk. Add the cocoa and remaining powdered sugar. Pour in the rest of the milk as you continue to stir everything together. Once the ingredients are stirred together (if you do this while there is still powdered sugar or cocoa not incorporated to the butter, you will get powder everywhere!) and a frosting type consistency is forming, increase the speed of the mixer to medium/high and run the mixer at the higher speed for 1-2 minutes to get some air into the frosting. The frosting should have a consistency that holds to the mixer paddle when lifted out of the bowl but it should still feel soft enough to spread. If it feels too stiff, you can add a little bit more milk 1 TBS at a time. If it feels too soft, you can add a little bit more powdered sugar, 1-2 TBS at a time.
Once the cakes are cooled, you will want to level the tops of each layer by using a serrated knife. I place my cake layer on a decorating turn table and first run the knife lightly around the whole layer where I plan to cut and then during the second turn, I hold the knife steady with more pressure so that it evenly slices off any top, uneven bumps in the cake layer. You can leave the cake as a two layer cake if you choose or you can slice one of the layers in half, horizontally to make a 3 layer cake.
Once your layers are ready, put the first layer down on your cake stand/board and evenly spread frosting on the top of the layer. Add your next layer and repeat. Then use the rest of the frosting to cover the sides and top of the cake. You can use a scraper for a completely smooth finish if you prefer, but I like the look of naturally, rustic frosting for a chocolate cake so I just used my off set spatula and sort of swirled the frosting on the cake. If you'd like a quick video tutorial on frosting a layer cake, check out this fast one here.
Slice and enjoy! I would love to hear any feedback you have about this recipe if you give it a go. Also, if you're interested in a vegan version of a cake similar to this, please check out this recipe I wrote for the Peaceful Dumpling a couple of years ago.
New England wife, mom & home baker. Faith, food, fitness, baking, cooking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.