So . . . I’m pretty sure “chickpea” and “beet” are not two words you typically see in a birthday cake recipe. But what makes this recipe so interesting is that it looks and tastes like a totally normal chocolate birthday cake!
I baked this cake for Lydia’s third birthday this last weekend, and no one could tell there was anything unusual going on. In fact, our guests raved about how moist and chocolatey it was, and asked for the recipe. It’s dense but springy and rich. It’s a little less sweet than conventional or store-bought cakes, but that was intentional — I usually find birthday cake WAY too sweet, and I didn’t want to serve a really sugary dessert to our tiny guests.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was looking for a cake recipe that was somewhat nutritious, not too sugary, and didn’t contain artificial food dyes, which can make children (and adults) cray-cray. This one fit the bill perfectly.
A Note About the Cake:
The recipe originates from Nigella.com and is full of odd ingredients. I’ve made it many times over the years and have always been happy with it. I’ve doubled it here to make it a double-layer cake.
This cake happens to be grain-free and gluten-free (if you use the right ingredients), even though we don’t generally eat gluten-free. I just think we typically eat too many grains in general, so it’s always advantageous to cut back when we can. Thanks to the chick peas and eggs, it’s quite high in protein.
It works out really well for a double-layer cake because it has a flat top — they stack on top of one another beautifully.
If you just want a single-layer cake for a casual gathering, halve the recipe, add a handful of chocolate chips, and serve with homemade maple-sweetened whipped cream. Decadence without damaging your body.
A Note About the Icing:
I got this recipe from Joy the Baker, but I cut the sugar in half. It was still PLENTY sweet — I could have done even less, if it was just for our own family. And I boiled the beet rather than roasting it, since I only needed one (I wasn’t using beets in the rest of the recipe and didn’t want to heat up a whole oven for one beet.) The beet flavour doesn’t come through at all — just the lovely magenta colour. Who needs FD&C Red No. 40, anyway?
On the the recipe!
Chickpea Chocolate Cake
- 2 cans chick peas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), or 4 cups home-cooked
- 8 eggs
- 1 1/3 cups orange juice (or pineapple)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup coconut palm sugar (or other granulated sugar)
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with cut circles of parchment paper to make sure your cakes come out nice and easy. Preheat oven to 350.
Blend the chick peas and 4 of the eggs in a large blender or food processor until smooth. Then mix in all the rest of the ingredients until well blended. (They may not all fit in your blender at once. You may need to transfer to your mixer bowl and beat it with your mixer, after the beans are blended smooth.) Batter will be very runny, but don’t fret — it’ll fluff up like magic when you bake it.
Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until top is firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.
Beet Cream Cheese Icing
- 1 small beet
- 2 tsp milk
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (preferably corn-free)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of one vanilla bean
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- pinch of salt
Wash and trim the beet, and boil in a small pot of water until you can easily pierce it with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel it and grate it with a microplaner or the finest grating plane on a box grater. Measure out 2-3 Tbsp for the icing; eat or discard the rest.
In a small food processor, blend together the grated beet, milk, and a small amount of the butter and cream cheese. This is just to get the beet ground up really fine. I didn’t want any of Joy’s “beet sprinkles” in my frosting.
Put the remaining butter and cream cheese to the bowl of your mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment until creamy and smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in the beet mixture, powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
Assembling the Cake:
Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. Top with a generous amount of pink frosting and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top of the frosting. Top with more frosting. Work frosting onto the sides of the cake until evenly covered.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving, to make the cake easier to slice.