This Valentine’s day, I’m going to make something sweet for my sweetie. In this case, my sweetie is my daughter, who has recently learned to write “I LOVE YOU” and spends her days making me I love you cards using any kind of writable material she can find. Four year olds are awesome! (and so good for the self-esteem!) She’s also recently sort-of mastered drawing the heart. Sure, sometimes it’s a little more on the abstract side, but it’s there. And it’s totally adorable. She’s got the whole Valentine’s Day is Everyday attitude going on right now, and it melts my heart in ways that I didn’t think was possible. It’s so honest and innocent, and so unbearably sweet.
So this Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d make it all about her. I knew I wanted to make her some cupcakes. I knew they had to be chocolatey and rich. And I knew, without a doubt, that they needed to have beets. Whoa, what? Beets?? Yup, beets.
Let me start off by saying I adore beets. I love them in almost every iteration. Borsht? Yes, please. Pickled beets? Of course. Roasted beets on a salad, with some awesome stinky cheese? Mais Oui! In a moist and delicious cupcake that suspiciously does NOT taste like beets at all???? Most definitely!
Beets are one of those things: you either love them or you hate them. Most people have strong childhood memories of pickled beets and stained fingers. But beets are so much more versatile than just as part of a pickle tray! If the thought of boiled beets, doesn’t thrill you, consider other ways to enjoy the sweet earthiness of beets. Try a simple roasted beet with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Just a little salt really changes everything. Google beet recipes and you’ll find a ton. And most of them will be delicious.
I like having options with my produce. I get a food share box every week, and it’s fun to play around with vegetables and fruits and turn them into something a little unexpected. Otherwise, I think things would get a little boring. So, when we got beets in our food share box, my first thought was, my poor cutting board…and my second thought was, cupcakes! Who knows how my mind works, sometimes.
Beets are Delicious. And nutritious!
Before we get into the recipe, which I’ve made about a million times and ultimately end up eating most of (I may or may not hide them in the back of the cupboard!), let’s have a little talk about beets. Not only are beets pretty tasty, but they also share a family with some heavy hitters. They belong to the Chenopodiaceae family, which includes spinach, chard and quinoa. The beetroot is a good source of folate (which is great for healthy blood, which really means it’s good for, you know, living and stuff), vitamins C and B (mood boosters), and a good source of fibre (great for digestion).
Beets are really an all-in-one-stop-shop. The entire plant is edible from root to leaf tips. If you’re growing them in your own garden, you can easily pluck a few young leaves here and there to add to your salad. Or if you pick up a bunch at the farmers’ market, save those beet tops! You can sauté them, add them to a soup, or even eat them on their own with a little vinaigrette!
Beets are also great as a sneaky pureed additive. Roast them, peel them, give them a quick mash or puree and you’ve got a fantastic fuchsia tint for pink pancakes, salad dressings, and even some red-hued, delicious cupcakes.
Speaking of cupcakes…back to my recipe! Remember when it was all about the red velvet cake? It was everywhere. Every party I went to, every wedding, had this red velvet cake going on. And more often then not, they were dry, tasteless, and not so velvety. I was not a fan. (sorry). That is, until I had some good red velvet and loved that sort of je ne sais quoi quality where you weren’t sure if it was cocoa or something else but you had to keep taking bite after bite to figure it out.
This beet cupcake recipe is sort of a loose twist on that red velvet. The only colorants are the beets and cocoa, so the end result will not be RED red, which is typically achieved with copious amounts of red food colouring. Instead, the cupcake will have a reddish tint playing through the darkness of the cocoa. But the colour for me isn’t the point. It’s the taste. The hint of cinnamon, the earthiness of the beets, the sweetness of the chocolate chips, and the icing…the icing I could probably put on my toast.
¾ cup organic sugar
¼ cup butter
½ cup greek yogurt
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar
3 beets, roasted and peeled
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup dutch process cocoa powder, preferably fair trade
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, preferably fair trade
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup cream cheese
¼ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Trim beets and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, milk and greek yogurt and mix. Add vinegar and beet puree and mix until well combined.
Hand stir in the chocolate chips.
Portion into a greased muffin tin.
Bake 350 for 20 mins, until cupcakes spring back under light pressure from fingers or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool, then ice.
For Cream Cheese Frosting
Whip butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix on high for one minute. Add icing sugar and mix on high until smooth and creamy.
Yields 12 cupcakes that are really pretty good, if I do say so myself!