Behind the Apron: Heartbeet Chocolate Cake

By Mary McCune

finished cake 1


Valentine’s Day is near and nothing beats homemade gifts to express your love for friends, crushes, or partners. This year, my culinary co-pilot and I are planning to stay in for the night and celebrate Valentine’s Day by cooking and baking for each other.


I have made this recipe twice now, so I have included my field notes below:


  1. I have only used unprocessed sugars, such as locally grown beets and honey I found from the farmer’s market on J/20th Streets (held every Saturday).  2015-02-02_0005
  2. Be sure to boil the beets for 45 minutes to easily peel the skin off before baking.  This can be done the day before and can save you almost an hour of time.  Add lemon juice to the water before boiling it to prevent the beets from bleeding less.
  3. Don’t be freaked out that you are adding grated beets to cake batter.  I promise that the cake texture won’t be compromised.
  4. I always forget to sift my flour that can result in a denser cake.  When this (always) happens, simply grab a whisk to aerate your flour so you end up with a lighter cake and eliminate the possibility of getting any lumps.
  5. While the cake itself is not difficult to make, the frosting method is not for the faint of heart!



Heartbeet Chocolate Cake


Difficulty Level (0-10 scale, where 10 is extremely difficult): Cake is 4/10.  Ganache frosting is 8/10.


Prep Time: 45 to boil beets (can be done 24 hours in advance); 10 minutes to prep pans, ect…


Bake Time: 35-45 minute for cake; 30 minutes for icing/ganache covering.


Perfect for: Valentine’s Night In or Galentine’s Day Party.


Cake Ingredients:

  • 4 small beets, cooked and cooled (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup organic, unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Cake Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9” cake pans. (I used a 9” heart pan and a loaf pan for the leftover batter)beets in a row
  2. Grate the boiled beets on a box grater.  Transfer them to a medium colander and allow them to drain of any excess moisture while you prepare the batter.
  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 (or whisk!) together the flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients.  Don’t over mix.2015-02-02_0006
  6. Fold the beets into the batter until distributed, then scrape the batter into the cake pans.batter in pan
  7. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until it passes the trusty toothpick test. Remove from oven and allow to cool, in the pan on a wire rack, for a good 20 minutes.
  8. Carefully invert the pan onto a plate, tap gently, and the cake will drop out. Serve warm or cool. Will keep for up to four days, well wrapped in plastic.


Icing/Ganache Covering Ingredients:


  • Store-bought buttercream frosting.
    (If you have extra time, you can try making your own, here.  I used this recipe for the lettering.)
  • 2 cups dark chocolate wafers (I prefer Ghirardelli dark chocolate over semi-sweet, but either works)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter (this gives the cake a glossy effect)


Icing/Ganache Covering Instructions:


  1. Ice cake with store-bought buttercream frosting (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Frosting).  Make sure to iron out any imperfections with an angled spatula.  Any imperfections in the icing will show up when you pour the ganache covering over it (trust me…)cake icing
  2. Place iced cake into fridge or freezer until ganache is ready.
  3. Pour heavy whipping cream into medium saucepan and place chocolate wafers into bowl with a spout.mixing ganache
  4. Heat whipping cream in medium saucepan until it is about to boil. Remove and pour slowly over chocolate chips.ganache mixing
  5. Stir mixture together until fully incorporated.  If you have chucks of chocolate that don’t want to cooperate, feel free to use an immersion blender (one of my favorite Christmas presents last year).ganache pouring
  6. Pour ganache over the top of the cake first and then continue onto the sides.
  7. Place cake in fridge for 30 minutes and recoat sides of cake with ganache if desired.finished cake 2



Cake recipe adapted from Aimee at Simple Bites.

Ganache recipe and technique discovered at Daisy Lane Cakes.



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