2 large beets (enough for 1 1/2 cups puree)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, but not quite room temperature
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened slightly
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons natural (not dark or dutch processed) cocoa powder*
cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (165 degrees celsius). Place beets in a small baking dish and add a 1/2 cup of water. Cover with parchment paper and foil, and roast until quite tender, about 60-90 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
2. Butter 3 8 inch cake pans. Cut out parchment paper circles and place in the bottoms of the pans. Butter the parchment paper and dust with flour. Set aside. Peel the beets and cut into large chunks. Place in a food processor (or a very good blender) with the lemon juice, and pulse until smooth and pureed.** Stir in the vinegar.
3. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and cream cheese. Pour in sugar and mix until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing well until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
4. While ingredients are mixing, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder in a separate bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the beet puree mixture, and fold into the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Tap pans on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Invert cakes onto cooling racks, and allow to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to frost.
*Some people have commented and said that their cake has turned out maroon in color, instead of the red like the picture. I just tested the recipe again, to see if I could recreate what happened. It could be the cocoa. In the photographs, I used only 2 tablespoons of cocoa because the red color was my main objective, not the chocolate flavor. So, if you’re more concerned about the color than the chocolate flavor, then just use 2 tablespoons of cocoa instead of the 1/4 cup.
**The other thing I discovered while testing it today, is that I didn’t make my puree as fine. In the pictures from last time, you can see that the texture of the beet puree is very smooth, almost like baby food. I think that may have affected the color. Each tiny piece of beet adds to the color, and if there’s more surface area surrounding each teeny tiny piece, then you’ll get a stronger red. I think.
cream cheese frosting
2 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Switch to the whisk attachment, and mix until smooth and slightly fluffy.