Be warned. What are you going to read is the real life account of murder most foul in my kitchen. This recipe and its subsequent cake spawn are directly responsible for the demise of my blender.
I can’t resist a dish with an incongruous or secret ingredient, so when I spotted the recipe entitled, no word of a lie, “Blitz-and-bake Beetroot and Chocolate Cake” in BBC Good Food magazine, I was hooked and wriggling on the line. Beetroot as the wild card ingredient! What a Trojan Horse to unleash upon all of the unsuspecting beetroot haters of the world! No one ever expected the Spanish Inquisition OR the inclusion of beetroot in chocolate cake! And not only was it a grand old trick to play on small children and grumpy old men alike, it was billed as being DEAD EASY. Dump everything into your blender and whizz it right up, the recipe read. Fifteen minutes of prep and not a single mixing bowl dirtied, it promised. It was all right there in the title – blitz and bake, no fuss, no mess! The accompanying photo of a glossy, dense chocolate loaf, reeled me right in. There was no way I wasn’t going to try this one. Fool.
I pulsed the beetroot into a beautiful magenta mush and then, as per the instructions, proceeded to pile on the remaining ingredients. The blender jug was beginning to look like a cross section of sedimentary rock, and, to be honest, with each new geological layer that I added, I grew increasingly discomfited. There simply wasn’t enough liquid being added with which to coax the dry strata into a homogenous mixture. An experimental flick of the “on” button confirmed my suspicions; the rotors just spun around helplessly, while the layers hovering above them remained implacable and intractable. I opened the lid, prodded the contents deeper into the jug, and tried again. This time, the motor developed a rather alarming, laboured note, so I switched the blender off to let it rest. At this point, I was ready to pack it all in, but the tiny demon on my shoulder playfully tickled my ear with his miniature pitchfork and chided my lack of confidence. Surely the BBC wouldn’t advocate a course of action which would jeopardise the health and well being of my kitchen appliances?! Once more into the breach, and once more to no avail. The blender was now groaning as if in pain.
“Sod that for a game of tin soldiers,” thought I as I tipped the contents of the jug into a mixing bowl to finish the job by hand. Once combined and moistened, the batter looked sufficiently free-flowing and liquid enough to return to the blender for the final step which involved the drizzling of the sunflower oil into the batter, as if making mayonnaise. Granted, the batter was thick and viscous, but I was no longer concerned that the blender wasn’t up to the task. I’d done the hard bit, the blender could now take the checkered flag and reap the kudos as the recipe has originally stated. I switched it back on and the motor roared in protest. Panicked, I grabbed a spoon and attempted to assist by scraping the batter down the sides. This seemed to alleviate the symptoms so, breathing a sigh of relief, I switched the blender off to fetch the final ingredient.
I was poised with trembling cup of oil over the yawning mouth of the jug when I flicked the switch for what was to be the very last time. There was a sudden scream of metal grinding against metal and I realised my mistake. The spoon, left unattended, had quietly sunk into the chocolate quagmire and disappeared from sight. A calm, rational person would simply have switched the blender off in order to retrieve the implement, but I am not that person. No. With a yelp that sent all nearby animals running for cover, I plucked the spoon out of the gnashing machine. Somehow, I managed to catch the rotors at maximum rotation, which wrenched the spoon from my grasp and propelled it into orbit on a collision course with my face, shedding meteorites of chocolate in its wake. Fortunately, I turned away in time, but the chocolate-laden spoon crashed into the side of my head and glued itself into my hair. Dismayed and disbelieving, I turned to survey the damage. There was chocolate EVERYWHERE. The kitchen looked like a crime scene, complete with splatter marks that Dexter Morgan would have been proud to analyse. I looked gratefully at the blender which, at very least, was still chugging away at the thick batter. Right on cue, there was a brief, angry surge of the motor, followed by ominous silence and a lazily undulating tendril of smoke.
Looks innocuous enough, doesn’t it? Well, don’t turn your back on it. Butter wouldn’t melt in this duplicitous cake’s mouth.
I was many things at that moment – mostly just chocolate-covered, but there were also variations and combinations of angered, disgusted and humiliated – but the one thing I was not was defeated. Oh no. This cake was going to see the light of day if only to provide me the opportunity to hurl abuse at it from great heights. I checked the integrity of the spoon and the rotors. Both were fine; there were no nicks or gouges to signal the presence of metal shavings in the batter, which are never welcome additions to any cake. I gave the oil and batter the mayonnaise treatment and resentfully flung the loaf tin into the oven. I waited the token hour, and NOT ONCE did I sniff the aroma of baking cake appreciatively. No way, nuh uh, you couldn’t prove otherwise.
To add insult to injury, the baked cake had the audacity, the utmost gall, to emerge from the oven as beautiful and glossy as the magazine photo had portrayed, and, to my eternal chagrin, it tasted delicious. It had a deep, rich chocolate flavour and it wasn’t cloyingly sweet, lending itself to service with a tart coulis or creams of varying descriptions. H.I. commented that it would make a great base for something fancier – a chocolate trifle or, layered with a good vanilla ice cream, toasted nuts and a chocolate or caramel sauce, a brownie sundae.
Nevertheless, this recipe is scheduled for immediate termination and deleti – oh, who am I kidding. I’m going to keep this blender-killing cake recipe incarcerated in my files, if only to protect the world from its evil ways. Who knows? It might even become eligible for parole later in the beetroot season. Just heed my advice. Do not under any circumstance follow this recipe’s advice to use your blender as a mixer unless, of course, you happen to have one of those iPod-pureeing jobbies. Instead, blitz the beetroot only, and then combine the puree with the rest of the ingredients either in a proper mixer or by hand in a mixing bowl. I beg you, do not overwork the heart of your faithful, trusting blender.
Blitz-and-bake Beetroot Chocolate Cake
Adapted from a recipe in BBCgoodfood magazine, September 2008
1 large beetroot, cooked and chopped. (approximately 1 cup) Make sure that your beetroot is fresh and sweet as the law of silk purses and sow’s ears applies to this recipe. Unpickled varieties only, please!
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs (3 if they’re small)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 scant cup sunflower oil
4 oz chocolate, chopped (I used milk baking choccie, as it was all I had at hand)
(Disclaimer!! Danger!! Here there be dragons!! The following methodology prescribed by the recipe itself resulted in the death of my blender! Do not proceed as written if you have any doubts about the capability of your blender. The cake emerges just fine when hand mixed, so don’t take unnecessary chances.)
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Puree the beetroot in your blender. Add the pinch of salt, followed by the rest of the listed ingredients, save for the sunflower oil and the chocolate pieces. Blend the mixture until smooth, scraping batter down the sides as and when necessary, and then add the sunflower oil in a steady stream as if making mayonnaise.
2. When the oil has been combined, add the chocolate pieces and then pour the batter into a lined loaf tin. Bake for an hour or until an inserted wooden toothpick emerges clean. Allow to cool before serving. This cake cries out for a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of clotted cream.