Beet and Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yotam Ottolenghi seems to be everyone’s favorite cookbook author. After meeting him, he became mine, too. (But if I could stay in your top ten, that’d be appreciated.) His previous books focused on the savory side of Middle Eastern cooking, but Yotam was a pastry chef prior to being a restaurant co-owner (with Sami Tamimi) and cookbook author, and anyone who’s walked into one of his restaurants or cafés in London is wowed by the stunning cakes and sweets lined up on the counters.

This time, he shares the spotlight with Australian pastry chef Helen Goh, who met Yotam long before he became well-known, and their decade of collaborating resulted in Sweet, a baking book filled with exciting and sometimes unexpected ingredients used in brownies, cakes, and cookies. Which is why when I hit page 130, I stopped turning the pages, and headed into my kitchen.

I’ve baked with beets before, when they were cloaked by chocolate, a term I may crib as a title for my final memoir, but was intrigued by combining them with candied ginger, nuts, and an especially unusual ingredient: Vitamin C.

As I gathered the ingredients for this cake, I didn’t have any vitamin C on hand but did have some Fruit Fresh, that I bought a while back for recipe testing. Its ingredients are ascorbic and citric acid, and it’s high in vitamin C, which apparently helps “set” the red color of the beets, so I cracked the lid on that, and saved a trip to the pharmacy. (Which is everybody’s favorite place in Paris, including mine.)

One thing I didn’t have was candied ginger. “But David, you can make your own candied ginger,” and yes, I often do. But like growing your own beets, or raising wheat and milling my own flour, if I DIY’d everything, I wouldn’t have time to make and share recipes with you, so I hiked up to Belleville and bought a few bags of it. I found that if I keep it on hand, the candied ginger gets snacked on before I get a chance to bake anything with it.

Being me, I can’t get out of any multicultural market without buying other things, coming back with ingredients that I never heard of. And I have a drawer in my kitchen filled with everything, from ginger-infused brown sugar, to sticky, dark coconut syrup, to prove it. (In my defense – how could I pass those up?)

I managed to get out of the store this time around without overloading my bags too much, but was happy they also had pâte à tartiner (cream cheese) and fromage frais, which is similar to sour cream in texture, and tang, which the frosting called for.

One doesn’t use the word “astonish” when describing cake batter very often – if ever, but when I was mixing it all together, it was, astonishing. The addition of vitamin C really did help set the color of the beets, as Yotam and Helen promised, and I was looking forward to seeing how the batter would bake up.

Turns out, the color mellowed to a more subdued rosy hue after some time in the oven, but the bits of red beets remained bright in the nutty batter, with little nubbins of ginger adding bits of excitement. I loved it.

This cake is decidedly on the less-sweet side, which is fine with me. If an American baker had created it, it would likely have some spices added, as we’re especially fond of cinnamon, etc. But I didn’t miss them at all. And as is often the case with desserts frosted with cream cheese, you could almost say that was the best part.

The two worked perfectly together well, and I don’t mean just the cake and the frosting, but Yotam and Helen, and I’ve got a few other recipes from Sweet bookmarked…once I’ve polished off this cake.

Beet and Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Print Recipe
9 to 12 servings
Adapted from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen GohAlthough I liked the cake just fine without it, a little ground cinnamon or allspice in the cake batter would be welcome, for those who like spices.The original recipe had some fresh ginger juice added to the cream cheese frosting, but I didn't think it was necessary; it was so good on its own. The candied ginger in the cake gave it enough bite. The recipe also called for an 8-inch/20cm round cake pan, which I didn't have in that size, so I used a square cake pan, which worked well.For more on alternatives to certain ingredients (sour cream and cream cheese, for example), check out my post, Ingredients for American Baking in Paris, which may be relevant if you live somewhere where those ingredients might not be available.
For the beet and ginger cake
1/2 cup (100g) finely chopped candied ginger
1 2/3 cups (200g) flour
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup (9 oz/260g) grated fresh, raw beets (peeled)
finely grated zest of one orange
2/3 cup (75g) toasted walnuts, chopped
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60g) sour cream
1/2 cup (125ml) sunflower or canola oil
3/4 teaspoon Fruit Fresh, or 1 (1500mg) vitamin C tablet, crushed to a fine powder (optional)
For the cream cheese frosting
5 1/2 ounces (160g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60g) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or the finely grated zest of one lemon
1. Butter an 8-inch (20cm) square or round pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over the candied ginger and let it sit for 15 minutes. Drain the ginger and squeeze out as much of the excess water as possible.
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the grated beets, orange zest, walnuts and candied ginger to the bowl, but do not stir in.
4. Whisk together the eggs, sour cream, oil, and Fruit Fresh or vitamin C is a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients in the large bowl and use a spatula to mix the ingredients together, stirring just until thoroughly combined
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, even the top, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
(Note: The original recipe in the book, which called for the cake to be baked in a round 8-inch/20cm pan, said to bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes. So it may take longer in another pan, but you should begin checking it at the 30 minutes, or so, mark.)
6. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack, then remove the cake from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and let cool completely.
7. To frost the cake, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon or spatula), until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar until it's completely incorporated. Add the heavy cream and vanilla (or lemon zest) and beat for about 1 minute on high speed, until thickened. The frosting may seen rather soft, as mine was, but spread beautifully.
8. Spread the frosting over the top of the cake.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to 3 days. If not eaten the same day, it's best stored in the refrigerator, although let it come to room temperature before serving, if you can.

Related Links and Recipes

Nigel Slater’s Moist Chocolate Beet Cake

How to Make Candied Ginger

Gluten-Free Baking and Substitutions

American Baking Ingredients in Paris

How to Tell if Baking Powder is Still Good

 

 

 

Beet and Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting - a delicious snack cake recipe!

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59 comments

  • Alexis
    October 17, 2017 2:39pm

    Thank you Mr. David!

    I was wandering the internet and got pulled here by your photographs on Flickr.

    Here, I am simply mesmerised by this recipe and the photographs.

    Thank you for putting a smile on my face.

  • Sharon
    October 17, 2017 4:07pm

    I love beets all kinds of ways and I always have candied ginger in the cupboard! Looking forward to making this.

    • Sharon
      October 17, 2017 4:08pm

      Oh, and beets always remind me of Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume.

  • Dina
    October 17, 2017 4:25pm

    This looks divine, thank you so much! However, I’m intrigued with the vitamin c tablet – what is there for? Chemically speaking, what is it there to do? Just to set the colour of the beets? I can imagine how with the orange it would not need any adornment Thank you for sharing this with us (& yes, you are in our top 10, top 5 even, high high top 5 – nothing to worry about )

    • October 17, 2017 4:42pm
      David Lebovitz

      It helps set the color of the beets, so they stay vibrant red. (I added something to the post, to mention why it’s there.) Not sure how it works but Yotam Ottolenghi adds it to quince to preserve the color, so they thought it would work here, too…and it did!

  • October 17, 2017 4:35pm

    Using beets in baking is new for me. I love beets and I will try this recipe. I like desserts that are less-sweet but would probably add a little cinnamon and maybe allspice.

  • Eunice Price
    October 17, 2017 4:43pm

    I love receiving your posts and recipes. I cannot wait to try this recipe. Your casual and funny writing style always makes me smile – thanks!

  • Marianne McGriff
    October 17, 2017 4:47pm

    David, you’ve hooked me on beets from the previous recipe with Quiche-delicious! So, in this recipe with beets, you say, “fresh beets.” Do I cook them or if not, do I peel the fresh ones for the cake? I’m looking forward to trying this one. Marianne

  • October 17, 2017 4:56pm

    David I recently purchased Sweet but don’t recall this cake. OMG you make it look incredibly moist and the color is perfect for fall and the upcoming holidays. I can’t wait to give this a try. Indulging in a cake like this requires no guilt! Beautiful!!!

    Oh they’re one of my favorites as well but so are you. I have all your cookbooks too!;-)

  • Vickie Harvey
    October 17, 2017 5:01pm

    Do you think the amount of sugar in the cake can be reduced? I have been trying to cut down when possible.

  • October 17, 2017 5:30pm
    David Lebovitz

    Marianne: Yes, the beets are raw, peeled, grated. Sorry if it wasn’t clear. I edited that in the recipe.

    Vicki: Sugar isn’t just a sweetener but keeps things moist. As mentioned, it’s not a sweet cake but if you try it, let us know how it turns out. For more info, check out my post on Baking ingredients and substitutions.

    Eunice: Thanks! Happy you’re enjoying the blog : )

    • Jamie
      November 2, 2017 11:37am

      For those of us baking in Paris, do you have any recommendations for getting a cream cheese frosting to turn out normally? Ever since moving from the US, I’ve tried to make cakes with cream cheese frostings (a favorite in our household!), but the same frosting that worked so well in Seattle always ends up really lumpy here. Any suggestions you have would be much appreciated! Thank you!

  • Fred Mogul
    October 17, 2017 5:38pm

    Aside from everything else revelatory in this recipe, I’m really fascinated with the addition of Vitamin C/’Fresh Fruit.’ I’m going to experiment with it to preserve beets’ gorgeous color in other recipes. Related-but-off-topic question: do you think it would help preserve the purple in cooked eggplant, too? It’s always so disappointing to see those those vibrant colors turn drab, once it’s cooked . .

  • sillygirl
    October 17, 2017 5:45pm

    I am like you – found a new Asian market and couldn’t resist getting rau ram which I had heard of and tia to which I hadn’t. Turns out tia to is like perilla which I have even grown and also sesame leaves. Isn’t it fun getting something new and then trying to find out how to use them.

  • October 17, 2017 6:20pm

    Fascinating. I have been making oatmeal beet muffins for breakfast, and of course love carrot cake, but beet cake? Have you made this for any French people yet? A French friend about passed out when I introduced carrot cake, though now I see it here and there in restaurants.
    So you used both fromage à tartiner and fromage frais to sub for cream cheese? I usually just go with Saint-Môret. Not tangy enough?

  • Sharon
    October 17, 2017 6:34pm

    I like ottolenghi a lot too, but you are definitely on my Top 5, David! Your writing and recipe styles are very different so it’s hard to compare but both of you come across as very personable, I think that’s a major appeal for us readers.

  • Esther
    October 17, 2017 7:06pm

    What type of flour is used, plain, all purpose, self raising. And do you think a GF flour like Doves would work in this recipe. Thanks.

    • Joan B
      October 18, 2017 7:33pm

      This makes me wish beets didn’t disagree with me. It also makes me feel reckless enough to try it anyway. I kinda think cream cheese frosting might neutralize whatever is causing the trouble. Right?
      Also, for some strange reason I am having the hardest time wrapping my head around the fact you don’t have 8in round pans.

  • Mdeline
    October 17, 2017 7:15pm

    I’m an American who speaks fluent French and who also loves Paris. Every time I see one of your recipes in my Facebook feed, I light up. As an older woman who lives alone and doesn’t cook as intensely as she used to, I shake off my sloth and head for the kitchen because of the novelty of your recipes. Merci! Beet cake it is!

  • October 17, 2017 7:32pm

    David,

    Every time I come to your site and read through your post I enjoy it so. Your photos are stunning. I too, love international markets and always come away with more than I probably need. This beet dessert is very tempting. I will have to add it in to our turkey-day party and not let everyone know the “secret-beet” ingredient. Thank you for sharing!

  • Kathleen Mann
    October 17, 2017 8:33pm

    I have had chocolate-beet cake, which was delicious, but this recipe looks even better. Must and will try. We get gorgeous organic beets here in el Bajío. Ginger too. Saludos!

  • Shanna
    October 17, 2017 9:50pm

    The cake looks really yummy, but I’m taken with the dishes, which look awfully like my vintage Pyrex dishes. Are they, perchance?

  • Alexia
    October 17, 2017 10:45pm

    This question seems idiotic but I’m banking on someone else wondering the same: Would Emergen-C work for the vitamin C tablet? Or are we talking a plain old Vitamin C pill?

  • eli k
    October 17, 2017 10:55pm

    Never would have thunk I would drool over beet cake-wow! Perfect recipe for an upcoming birthday I appreciate your explainations of why to use particular ingredients. One of my brothers was once intent on telling my mom he’d be sprinkling her with Fruit Fresh when she died—to preserve her. (He did not…) Thank you always for your recipes/blog/humor.

  • October 17, 2017 11:00pm
    David Lebovitz

    Shanna: They’re French oval plates. I think they may be old bistroware but they don’t have any marks on them, however they are incredibly sturdy and I pick them up at flea markets and thrift shops.

    Alexia: A vitamin C table is pure (or mostly pure) vitamin C whereas Emergen-C likely has a bunch of those stuff in it. I think vitamin C tablets are relatively inexpensive so I’d recommending using one of those, or the Fruit Fresh, like I did.

    Esther: Flour in recipes is all-purpose, unless otherwise specified (i.e., bread flour, self-rising flour, etc.) So you should use that for this cake.

    Mdeline: Thanks! Happy you’re enjoying the site : )

  • Pat
    October 18, 2017 2:12am

    Making it!

  • Rowi
    October 18, 2017 12:10pm

    Thank you for a wonderful post! This recipe is so right up my alley! I have fresh beets, candied ginger bits, and some Vit. C tablets that I could pulverize. I love the intense red beet color so it’s great that it could be maintained with so little effort. I may add cinnamon and cardamom as we like these spices a lot in Sweden.

    I’m also very interested in Yotam Ottolenghi and his innovative way of cooking. Am reading through his Jerusalem cookbook and enjoy his modern interpretation of Jewish cooking.

    And yes, you’re on the top 5 on my list of cookbook authors that matter! I enjoy reading your side and sometimes snide remarks that I sometimes forget what the blog is about. Your comment on the pharmacy being a favourite place in Paris cracked me up! – have you been to the one on rue Monge? I was there once and the sun was still shining and I left the place, and it was dark outside…

  • October 18, 2017 2:07pm

    Nice job! I’m in love with this cake. I’ll have to purchase a couple of Yotam’s books :)

  • Cecília Almeida
    October 18, 2017 2:10pm

    Hello David! The candied ginger you used was the one coated in sugar? I need to make my own, and I was wondering if I could boil it but not coat it in sugar. What do you think?
    Thanks!

    • October 18, 2017 3:07pm
      David Lebovitz

      Sure. If you make your own, you don’t need to roll it in sugar. You can certainly use that.

  • Audra
    October 18, 2017 4:15pm

    This cake sounds fabulous! Do you think it would freeze well? I’m planning ahead for the holidays…

  • Amanda
    October 18, 2017 4:57pm

    As someone who loves candied ginger, what is the effect of soaking in hot water? Does it mellow the ginger? Is it likely necessary for texture? Much obliged!

  • txu
    October 18, 2017 7:06pm

    In addition to being in my top five chef list (and those five have no order,) you have to be the most generous-spirited writer-chef I’ve encountered in the blogosphere (and that’s saying a lot!)
    Thank you for your warm embrace of other cultures, supporting the work of other chefs and purveyors and just generally focusing on the positive in our increasingly grim and scary world, while treating the negative with as much empathy and good humor as possible.
    Your little kitchen light brightens our world.

  • October 18, 2017 8:04pm

    David: From cheese-making experiments, I have a bag of Citric Acid (powder). How much would I use in this recipe? Also, I will be seeing you in Los Angeles at SLT in November. Anything you need from Oregon… besides Jacobsen Sea Salt?

    • October 19, 2017 9:34am
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t tried it with citric acid, but it’s pretty tangy. I would use 1/2 teaspoon. If you try it with that, let us know how it works out. And I’m excited to be in L.A. on book tour : )

      • October 21, 2017 8:32am

        I went out and found Fruit Fresh and made the cake today. I am 62 and this is the first time ever to grate raw beets (I did not wear a white shirt!) I followed your directions exactly and must say this cake was a huge hit and absolutely worth all the work. It is also a very pretty cake! Our guest loved it as well, and I like that it isn’t a massive cake – and not overly sweet. I wonder why a vegetable oil was used instead of melted butter? Since the icing has dairy, I realize it isn’t a Kosher issue. Would it be better with butter? (Most things are.)

    • Jayne Berggren
      October 19, 2017 10:44pm

      I used a bit more than half a teaspoon of citric acid. The cake stayed very red! It was perfect!

  • Nadyhun
    October 19, 2017 1:26am

    Hi, love your posts. I couldn’t resist trying this..and it just baked :) Wonderful, the smell the dough soooo moist, even will still hot…. tomorrow I am frosting it, thanks!
    Ohh, I used juice of half a lime for the beets to stay pink…. it always works to balance any ph.

  • Louise
    October 19, 2017 4:06am

    Bonsoir David. I have some beets in my fridge and their destiny is now clear. I listened to your conversation with Geri on Comme une Française and
    enjoyed seeing your mix of sincerity and charm in person.

  • October 19, 2017 5:00pm

    What a perfect holiday-ready treat! I’ve baked with beets before and loved it – their earthy sweetness is so nice – but would have loved a brighter fuchsia hue. The Vit. C totally makes sense, like adding lemon juice or vinegar to borsht to keep it bright.

  • Jayne Berggren
    October 19, 2017 10:41pm

    I made this as soon as I saw your post. It’s a keeper. Mine stayed very red. I used citric acid instead of vitamin C. I also used my own ginger in sugar syrup – very spicy! I would even add more ginger next time. Maybe some powdered, too. Thank you for this.

    • Jayne Berggren
      October 19, 2017 10:45pm

      (And I made it gluten free, too!)

  • Poppy
    October 20, 2017 2:38am

    Why on earth is the pharmacy one of your favorite places?

  • Martha W.
    October 22, 2017 12:35am

    I made this today and it is delicious and gorgeous. Brought friends and kids in to taste test and it’s a keeper. I did add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and some grated nutmeg. I would even add more cinnamon next time – there will be a next time.

  • Andrea
    October 22, 2017 2:11am

    I made this today. Oh man, it was so good. I used Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour and it worked perfectly. I also used a 10” springform pan as the 8” pan seemed way too small for my batter. This lovely recipe will be replacing my favorite carrot cake recipe from now on!

  • PW Waite
    October 22, 2017 5:49am

    Im not sure how I ended up on your page but found it entirely enjoyable. I want to make this cake. We cook with ginger every day for it’s flavor but I remember a pancake mix from Trader Joe’s that had pieces of ginger in it. We didn’t like biting into chunks of the ginger and didn’t eat it. The way your recipe’s ginger is prepared makes me think the flavor would be there but not the chunks. Whomever has made this – please let me know.

  • sbrawley
    October 22, 2017 5:57pm

    I made this cake yesterday – it was absolutely delicious and beautiful – huge hit. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  • Gloria JB
    October 22, 2017 10:27pm

    I made this cake yesterday, iced it this morning, took it to a lunch party today. Everyone loved it: I left the last piece for the hostess/birthday girl.

  • TinaG
    October 23, 2017 12:15am

    Can’t wait to try this – one question, re: the frosting: are the vanilla extract or lemon zest intended to be interchangeable here? (They weren’t mentioned in the actual instructions which left me wondering if they’re to be included at all….)
    Thanks!

    • October 23, 2017 4:35pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, they’re added into the frosting. (I’ve offered up that folks can use either.) I’ve made sure they got added to the instructions. Thanks!

  • Catherine
    October 23, 2017 4:16am

    Made this cake last night. We loved the texture and the bright beets. But the ginger was too underwhelming, rather washed-out after soaking. Next time I will add at least half the ginger unsoaked. Otherwise, a brilliant recipe. Merci, David!

  • Erica
    October 23, 2017 4:47pm

    David –

    Found your blog a few months ago and hands down, you are now my go-to dessert guru. This was fantastic! The flavors were balanced, the texture superb. I didn’t have a vitamin C tablet – so dumped a packet of Emergen-C. The beets were bright red and the cake looked pretty when cut. I worried about the slightly runny frosting, but as you said – it worked out great. I baked it in the 8″ round pan, so it was much taller than in your pictures. It baked for about 55 minutes in a gold-colored pan. Overall – fantastic! Thank you. p.s. the comments were closed on the other recipes, but I wanted to say how much I love your french apple cake, carrot cake, and zucchini cake. These are my top 4 now. Still waiting to make beet/chocolate cake.

  • Brenda Prowse
    October 23, 2017 10:38pm

    Bonjour David, I made the cake this afternoon and we ate some for dessert this evening. It was delicious. Not sweet at all! I am glad that the vendeur at my market aksed me what I was using the candied ginger for as he had several strengths for sale. If I had used the really strong one it would have been overpowering. It was quite strong even with the milder, sweeter type. My cake turned out very golden, not red at all-I guess the crushed vitamin C tablet worked! And the frosting was very soft and easy to spread like you said. Great recipe. Merci!

  • October 24, 2017 11:20pm

    Hi, like everyone else, I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. Jerusalem, co-written with S. Tamimi, is a jewel. Beets and ginger are among my favorite ingredients. This recipe looks fantastic. I have made another beetroot, ginger (and possibly chocolate) cake following another great recipe. I thought it was by Nigel Slater, Y. Ottolenghi or yourself (from you lovely book Ready for Dessert. Unfortunately, I cannot find it anywhere. So this recipe will have to become my new go-to recipe for beet and ginger cakes! Beets do add a nice color too!

  • Jinni
    October 25, 2017 6:19pm

    Thank you David for so much inspiration! Yesterday I made a Beet with Ginger soup (which was wonderful). I will make this cake next now as I have extra beets!

  • Don
    November 3, 2017 9:14pm

    I made this last weekend and everyone agreed that carrot cake can move over. Now what to do with all of that Fruit Fresh.

  • Jane
    November 10, 2017 12:28am

    My husband who doesn’t cook much made this cake at my request for my birthday. I wasn’t home when he made it so I can’t be sure of his method. The cake was very tasty but very dense and the doily he used on the plate (under the cake) was oil soaked the next day. How dense is the cake supposed to be? Thanks for any tips my novice baker!

  • November 15, 2017 6:00pm

    Hi I live in the Czech Republic and have recently made this cake. Instead of using the vitamin C tablet (which I didn’t have) i used the juice of half a lemon. The cake was delicious and was gone in a day. I also omitted the ginger from the cake and substituted raisins. All the rest was as the recipe. Great one thanks
    Dave

  • November 15, 2017 6:01pm

    PS I did leave the ginger juice in the frosting and it was great

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