Of all the root vegetables, the humble beet, or beetroot is one of my favorites. Beetroot (sometimes called table beet, garden beet, red or golden beet, or just beet) is the taproot part of the beet plant. It is used for nourishment, but the beet also has use in food coloring and medicine.
The ancient Greeks cultivated beetroot around 300 BC, although they didn’t use the roots of the plant and only ate the leaves. The root, considered to be worth its weight in silver, was offered to the sun god Apollo in the temple of Delphi. Hippocrates used leaves of beetroot for binding and dressing wounds. Romans ate beetroots mainly for medicinal purpose as a laxative or to cure fever.
As anyone who has ever cooked beets knows, they can be messy. Their rich, red pigments called betacyanins are potent cancer fighters. Beets also are rich in fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties. But unless you enjoy bright pink –stained hands, wearing gloves when handling beets is recommended.
The earthy, sweet taste of beets is delicious raw in salads. The flavor of beets also marries well with the flavors of sweet and sour, producing tasty, old-fashioned pickles. And when combined with chocolate and baked, beets make a delicate, moist and addictive cake.
The recipe for Secret Chocolate Cupcakes is adapted from “Simply in Season”, a community cookbook with recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods. Of course, the secret ingredient is beets, which are pureed with cocoa and applesauce before adding to the batter. Unless you tell folks about this “secret” root vegetable, they probably won’t be able to guess.
When frosted with a maple-buttercream frosting, these cupcakes won first place in a cake-tasting contest. They are also delicious plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or served up in a bowl with applesauce. I enjoy bringing these delectable morsels to family gatherings and potluck suppers. Once everyone knows the secret ingredient they agree these cakes can’t be beet!
Secret Chocolate Cupcakes
- 2 cups cooked beets
- ½ cup applesauce no sugar, no spice
- ½ cup baking cocoa unsweetened
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup canola oil or melted butter
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 3 eggs
- 2.5 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Assemble ingredients and tools.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 muffin cups (2 – 12 cup pans), or a 9 x 13 inch pan.
- In the bowl of your food processor, puree the cooked beets, applesauce, baking cocoa and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
- Add the sugar, yogurt, melted butter or oil and eggs to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Beat until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the pureed beet mixture to the mixer bowl and beat for 90 seconds, scraping down the sides as needed.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Gently fold into the beet batter. Stir in the ½ cups chocolate chips.
- Spoon the mixture into the greased muffin tins.
- Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 - 25 minutes.
- Let cool on a rack.