Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake

chocolate-beet cake

It’s interesting reading some of the talk regarding if the internet is ready to replace cookbooks. Sure, there are people furiously clicking around wherever they can for a chocolate cake recipe. And there are hundreds of thousands of chocolate cake recipes that you can find using a search engine. But to me, that’s not enough. When I want to spend my precious time and funds making something to eat, I don’t want to merely find a recipe. There’s nothing compelling about a downloadable list of ingredients. It just leaves me cold. I want the author or writer to tell me about the recipe, what inspired them to create it, or how it came about.


I want to know why someone chose that recipe, what twists they gave it, what made the cake or casserole they were making so special to them that they wanted to share it. Was it an unusual ingredient? Did they like the description they read of it elsewhere? Were they inquisitive about how a root vegetable from their garden could make its way into a chocolate cake?

When I had dinner with my publisher last spring in San Francisco, we talked about cookbooks, of course. And as I start a new one, I’m curious to how I want to present the recipes. Everyone is searching for recipes online nowadays and the mere mention of a Parisian pastry on Twitter can set off a stream of recipe requests. (I often wonder if people really think someone can respond with a recipe for a complicated French cake in a 140 character tweet.)


Perhaps the internet does make searching, and researching, easier, but it saddens me to see the large aggregator sites simply repositioning content all in the hopes of making a buck, just to create a profitable database. Although I write for a living, everyone I know who writes about food and recipes, from top-selling authors to people who work for small community-based publications, will invariably tell you that the main reason they work so hard to create recipes is because they really do want people to cook and bake from them.

beets chocolate-beet cake

Seeing how this blog has evolved into something more than I thought it would, with conversations running the comments, tips from people from all over the world, and being part of a vast network of other food blogs, which range from expats learning to negotiate the outdoor markets in Egypt to folks getting by in everyday American communities – I find the whole phenomenon interesting and enjoyable.

I read cookbooks and I read blogs (and write both), and the ones that catch my fancy nowadays are ones with an author’s voice in there. A story about something unusual – emotions, open and unguarded, are ingredients for the best writing. The most interesting dishes, the ones that make me want to pull out my mixing bowls, have a story behind them or offer a glimpse into another culture. They’re not a rote list of ingredients, oven temperatures, and cooking times.

chocolate-beet cake

After my dinner with, a few weeks later, a copy of Tender by Nigel Slater arrived in the mail. It was enormous and most importantly, it was exactly the kind of book that I’m talking about. And it a book that I wanted to spend some time in a comfortable chair with, savoring the recipes, the spontaneous, engaging, casual writing, and the gorgeous photos. I have an iPad, and possibly could have read it on that. But then I would have missed the thick, coarse paper, and the delicate lushness of the photographs would have gotten lost behind the shiny screen.

For me, this recipe popped forward as I turned the pages of this 580 page book, and I went with my intuition to make it. A moist, chocolate loaf cake smeared with thick crème fraîche and enlivened by the subtle crackle of poppy seeds. Count me in.

fresh beets chocolate-beet cake

I found the recipe not by scanning the Index looking for a recipe that sounded good. I started reading the book, Nigel Slater’s thoughts about gardening and the vegetables he’s raising behind his home, and that drew me into his world. Some of the gardening lore went over my head (my “garden” right now, in mid-winter, is a pot of dead mint on my roof) but he was writing about food and ingredients that he believed in, and the pictures were imperfect, real food, like the vegetables that come out of the ground of his garden.

chocolate-beet cake

What truly appealed to me most was Nigel Slater’s deep affection for his subject and his recipes, which was obvious in each and every word printed in the book. It’s intelligent and reflective, and makes me want to position myself on the sofa and continue to read through the pages, and the recipes. And perhaps give my rooftop garden another go in the spring. In the meantime, I’ll stick to making cake.

Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake
Print Recipe
Eight to ten servings
Adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater I was attracted to this recipe because 1) I was intrigued but the words “moist chocolate”, and 2) It has beets in it. Because the author is British, superfine sugar (which is readily available there) is called for, which is called castor sugar. In France we have sucre semoule, but elsewhere you can simply whiz regular sugar in a food processor for about ten seconds until it’s fine. I had a bunch of beets I was roasting so I used a couple of those, but for economy’s sake, you can boil the two beets or cook them as you prefer. You’ll need a scant 1 cup (250 g) of grated beet purée. This cake is not overly sweet, which is good for those of you looking for more of a snack cake, rather than a towering, frosted dessert. Although the original recipe calls for chocolate that is 70% cacao solids, you can use one that is in the 50-60% range, depending on what’s available in your area. For those of you who can’t get crème fraîche, I suspect mascarpone would be interesting, or perhaps just sour cream. Or maybe just a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside
8 ounces (240g) beets, unpeeled, rinsed and scrubbed free of dirt
7 ounces (200 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, 70% cacao solids
1/4 cup (60ml) hot espresso (or water)
7 ounces (200g) butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 cup (135g) flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (the darkest you can find, natural or Dutch-process)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 cup (200g) superfine sugar
1. Butter an 8 or 8 1/2 inch (20 cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Boil the beets in salted water with the lid askew until they’re very tender when you stick a knife in them about 45 minutes. Drain then rinse the beets with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the peels, cut the beets into chunks, and grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse, yet cohesive, puree. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a cheese grater.)
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
4.In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring as little as possible. Once it’s nearly all melted, turn off the heat (but leave the bowl over the warm water), pour in the hot espresso and stir it once. Then add the butter. Press the butter pieces into the chocolate and allow them to soften without stirring.
5. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
6. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter is melted. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir the egg yolks together and briskly stir them into the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the beets.
7. In a stand mixer, or by hand, whip the egg whites until stiff. Gradually fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula, then fold them into the melted chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix.
8. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.
9. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and reduce the heat of the oven to 325ºF (160ºC), and bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the sides are just set but the center is still is just a bit wobbly. Do not overbake.
Let cake cool completely, then remove it from the pan.

Serving and storage: This cake tastes better the second day; spread with crème fraîche and sprinkle with poppy seeds shortly before serving. Or serve them alongside.

Related Recipes

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze

Devil’s Food Cake

Upside Down Cake

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Idiot Cake

Chocolate FAQs

Cocoa Powder FAQs

Never miss a post!


  • November 14, 2011 2:00pm

    Nigel Slater has some good recipes and I expect this one is no exception! Does it count as one of your veg servings per day ? :)

  • November 14, 2011 2:15pm

    Perfect: I was just cleaning my kitchen yesterday and found a couple of beets lying around…and I have everything else handy :)

  • November 14, 2011 2:26pm


    These are exactly my thoughts about food and books, ingredients and blogs. Thanks for putting it into words. A recipe is not a list of things but a set of emotions. A promise of something beyond fuel. Maybe that’s why Nigel never fails to grab my heart and tummy! Tender is perhaps the most beautiful book I own. It’s blissful to read through.

    And the cake is lovely!

  • November 14, 2011 2:40pm

    I’m so thankful we now have blogs to inspire us. I love cookbooks, but blogs are a wonderful supplement. Turns out, in addition to blogs and books I also love beets. The poppyseeded crème fraîche is calling my name. Oh sweet root vegetable dessert …

  • November 14, 2011 2:44pm

    I’ve never wanted to own a cookbook more than after reading your post David. Sounds positively charming and I can’t wait to see Nigel’s imperfect photos. On my way to amazon.

  • November 14, 2011 2:49pm

    I´m not a great lover of beetroot, in fact I can´t abide the stuff, but I have to say this cake looks so yummy perhaps I could put that little dislike aside.

    Come to think of it I never liked carrots too much but I loved carrot cake. Funny old life isn´t it!

  • November 14, 2011 2:53pm

    It’s funny how I was just having this thread in mind about cookbooks vs apps (i just saw an article on NYTimes ( about the topic and it got me thinking…I do want to relate to the recipes, I always make something in the kitchen because I feel like it and because I have something to say about it. Funny how a beet cake can inspire – for me beetcake was a first in many aspects cause I never used to eat beet…until I made that cake…

  • November 14, 2011 3:10pm

    Even if I have a food blog too, I rather prefer reading cook books than some reicpes on the Internet. It’s so much better for me to flip some pages and to smell paper. This cake really looks amazing!

  • November 14, 2011 3:14pm

    I couldn’t agree more about cookbooks. Even though I do Google for recipes, it’s for quick fix. There’s nothing like sitting down with a cookbook and getting lost in the adventure. I have tons of old church fund-raiser cookbooks that my mom collected over the years. Filled with great old recipes, yet sadly none tell a story. Just pages of recipe names, ingredients and instructions. I hate not knowing why Betty or Karen submitted that particular recipe. :)

  • Maggie
    November 14, 2011 3:39pm

    Some fifteen years ago I moved. Reluctantly I gave away and donated several hundred cookbooks. Four year later, I moved again…donated several hundred more to a local school. And, I will be moving once more in early 2012—so this weekend I started the culling process all over again. I figure I still have nearly 700-some books, 80% cookbooks and 20% on France! I’m at the point of not wanting to give up more. Enough.

    Oh, and then there is my collection of “Saveurs” magazines (French version) – neatly stacked from the first issue to 185. Weigh a ton, but every single one of them is moving with me!

    I follow blogs, often find great recipes online—but, I love MY books! From my very first Betty Crocker (in high school) to my pricy Alain Ducasse edition.

  • November 14, 2011 3:40pm

    This post is the perfect bridge between cookbooks and what I call “Internet food” — you had the joy and the pleasure of cooking from a gorgeous book, and then you wrote about it to share your own story, your own spin. This makes me want to pick up the book myself, and then to relate my experience with my blog readers.

    Domino effect. Delicious, delicious domino effect.

  • Jack
    November 14, 2011 3:45pm

    It’s funny, I made this recipe a few months ago (very good, I like the idea of putting “vegetables” in “dessert) but I found it on the Guardian’s website! where Nigel has a column with the recipe and his comment on why he is using certain ingredient for the 2-3 recipes of the column. It’s a win-win ! (but ya I do love cookery books, but they take up much space, and so many interesting books are published these days!)

  • November 14, 2011 3:49pm
    David Lebovitz

    Jack: Yes, books do take up a lot of space (which is challenging to those of us who live in small city apartments) but some books just don’t work in an e-format, while others do. I think reference or technical books, or books that are mostly recipe-driven work well on tablet devices. But some books, like this one, really beg to be picked up and read as a book.

  • November 14, 2011 3:50pm

    I totally share your thoughts on the internet and cookbooks. I don’t have the patients to spend anymore time in front of a computer screen than I already do and would much rather sit down with a good cookbook and be transported to some place else, before getting into the kitchen and cooking.
    This cake looks and sounds amazing and something I’d love to try when we grow beets in our garden next.

  • Mary Claire
    November 14, 2011 3:59pm

    Cookbooks aren’t going away. I read mine the same way as you, David, front to back. It’s the stories behind the recipes that make them so interesting. And thank you for your writing, both the blog and your cookbooks. The act of writing is a generous one…giving a part of yourself to the world, and I appreciate getting a glimpse into yours.

  • Susan
    November 14, 2011 4:33pm

    I had a very good red velvet cake once that used beets and this post reminds me of it. I will definitely be trying this soon. Also, as my bookshelves can attest, I agree with you and many here that the physical cookbook in my hands is pure pleasure. A novel to be read in full. I am inspired by the fact that a new cookbook book store has just opened here in Seattle and is often packed with people who also love the real thing!

  • November 14, 2011 4:43pm

    I read a lot but have given all of my even most loved novels away to charity. It’s the only way I can fit my kids in the house. But the kids will just have to shove over when it comes to my cookbooks. I cannot see the point of buying a Kindle version of one. I also agree about those aggregator sites. I admit when I first began looking for recipes on the internet many years ago, I came away with the naive notion that Americans couldn’t cook. Oops, sorry. I know I was very wrong but my research was heavily based on a certain nameless gigantic recipe site with the word “all” in the title.

  • November 14, 2011 4:49pm

    David – I concur with you. There are so many recipes, websites and books out there, but I find myself gravitating to the ones with context. – What prompted the author to create the recipe? Why is it special to him/her? Did the author serve up the dish with a certain type of wine?

    That human quality/authentic voice excites me to cook vs. viewing cooking as a mere necessity to sustaining my pie hole.

    Thanks for doing what you are doing and allowing us to tag along for the ride;-)

  • November 14, 2011 5:13pm

    I love nothing more than sitting down with a new cookbook and reading the entire thing through. I like connecting with the author and relating to their cooking history and stories. Long live the cookbook!

  • November 14, 2011 5:33pm

    What a unique and inspirational recipe! I will forever treasure my cookbooks.

  • November 14, 2011 5:37pm
    David Lebovitz

    Jen: I think you’re right-on about “context” – like those chef restaurants in Las Vegas, and elsewhere. There’s something a little uncomfortable about them – it’s like they were just set up as a business, whereas most restaurants (at least the ones I seem to enjoy best) are started by people who love to cook.

    Those big recipe sites feel that way and unless they’re curated, like Epicurious, I’m skeptical of them. You know there the recipes are vetted by a test kitchen whereas on those large, aggregator sites, they just find recipes online and cut and paste them, or they invite readers to do it for them by having “contests”. It’s irksome.

    Mary Claire: I like doing both and each is different. The blog is more spontaneous, whereas the books take a longer time and more production is involved. But the longer-term process is interesting and I get to work with some talented people and editors, who often prod me with different ideas.

    (Just a note for others who have chimed in, I like the concept of e-cookbooks and do think they work for some books. I wrote about them a while back in E-Cookbooks. They don’t go out of print either. I also think there’s a future in apps that teach cooking classes, demonstrate recipes, etc…and it’ll be interesting to see what happens as tablets become more common and affordable.)

  • Maja
    November 14, 2011 5:39pm

    my garden looks exactly like yours: a pot of dead, currently frozen mint.:)

  • November 14, 2011 5:45pm

    Small apartments and moving keep my cookbook collection small, but well-loved. I don’t see that changing. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ll always have an affinity for print.

    Thanks for the recipe – not too sweet and a little unexpected. It made me miss having an oven, and think about an addition to my collection :)

  • November 14, 2011 5:47pm

    I recently read Nigel Slater’s memoir “Toast: the story of a boy’s hunger” and was instantly enchanted and engaged. I’m in school right now so I’m afraid to buy “Tender” because I know I won’t be able to put it down once I get started. “Tender” is my book of choice for winter break reading and I can hardly wait to turn in my last paper so I can get started. Thanks for sharing the beet cake recipe and giving me a taste of what lies ahead.

  • Kristin
    November 14, 2011 5:49pm

    I’ve got Ready for Dessert, not my laptop, sitting next to my bed.

  • deborah
    November 14, 2011 5:56pm

    Rather like the Chamberlain’s articles in the Gourmet’s of the 60’s and 70’s. There was always a story to tell. Not simply a litany of recipes.


  • November 14, 2011 5:57pm

    What a delightful way to detox. I shall try it. Beets are one of nature’s ways to clean our bodies of impurities. I am unsure if I should leave my website url. I do not make income from my site or take donations for my work but have worked on changing laws in over 30 countries. There is certainly a wealth of information to keep you safe including while gardening. Feel free to remove it.
    Thank you for teaching me.

  • MaryAlice Denson
    November 14, 2011 5:59pm

    I hope no one has forgotten the little stains that get on the page of the cookbook to remind us of the recipe’s smell, texture, maybe even taste. I love my cookbooks, make pencilled notes in them for changes I make, additions, and put a little mark in the index of all the recipes I’ve tried so that should I want to repeat one, it will be a bit easier to find.

  • November 14, 2011 6:05pm

    I love Tender. Whenever I leaf through the pages, I get all nostalgic for a real garden. and also angry at myself- since I do have a backyard, and could actually plant things, and all I have to show for it are a few pots of herbs (at least that, right?). I do search for recipes online, but now that my favorite blogs have accumulated such vast repertoires, I usually will just search those 3-4 blogs. But to curl up with a cup of coffee on the couch? nothing beats a cookbook!

    • November 14, 2011 6:07pm
      David Lebovitz

      A good site to use for searching food blogs is Food Blog Search, which is a list of curated blogs. (I often use it when I’m looking for blogs to link to here, that have complimentary recipes, which I’ll put at the end of posts.) There’s thousands of blogs to choose from, and it’s in a variety of languages, too!

  • November 14, 2011 6:08pm

    Btw, I recently took a road trip to the fingerlakes, and had dinner at a nice-looking restaurant overlooking one of the lakes. For dessert, they served us an inedible chocolate cake, and I was tempted to email them your recipe for the “Chocolate Idiot Cake”.

  • November 14, 2011 6:10pm

    This post really got me thinking about how much I appreciate the story behind the recipe. It’s apparent by the success of your blog that so many others do, too! I see an awesome new project ahead, DM me if you want to know. :)

  • November 14, 2011 6:12pm

    Nigel Slater was so lovely to me when I was writing my recipe book. He’s just really really lovely .. as is his cake !

  • Tiaré Olivia ferrari
    November 14, 2011 6:14pm

    Thank you David for this post.

    For me the beauty of the Internet is that it presents the opportunity to converse with the author, and others that are brought together by this common interest. This is something that would not happen for me otherwise.

    But when it comes to cooking, it always starts with musings, and yes like your other readers I find that I will curl up with my favorite cookbooks, or at this time of year also my smaller collection of magazines trot off the shelves and find themselves a comfortable spot near where I am reading.

    These are the friends that I turn to, and listen to when I cook. Yes you are right – the books are here to stay. In this way I KNOW I can return to my favorite apricot soufflé or canard en croute recipes. And yes, if my hollandaise or mayonnaise fall apart is that “list of ingredients” going to fix? No, it is the extra words that the author bring to table, those extra words of the fix, the quirks, and the musings and story behind the food that are the inspiration of generations to come.

    Thank David, you are a gem!

  • November 14, 2011 6:19pm

    This was a really lovely post to read, and encapsulates exactly what I love about blogs: my favourites are the ones with a true voice, an author I feel I could get to know, a story or even just a little bit of context; the ones where the writer’s passion for what she or he is cooking and creating shines through. I don’t think the blogosphere can replace cookbooks — my favourite gift for myself or others is still a cookbook — and this post also shows why that’s true. (And it makes me excited to try to bake this cake!)

  • Christina
    November 14, 2011 6:29pm

    So where are the poppyseeds???????

  • November 14, 2011 6:32pm

    David, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this internet versus print recipes/cookbooks debate. It has interesting parallels to the world of academic writing, where I work, and where a traditional hierarchy has privileged print, book length manuscripts and barely recognized online, open access authorship. What is proving most valuable now is a mixture of digital and analog, though academics are still debating the pros and cons like food writers are. Hybrid online/offline publishing has the added benefit of being less exclusionary and opening up work to a more varied audience.

    After reading your description of Nigel Slater’s book, I can’t wait to check it out. Thanks for sharing this recipe, in particular. We are nearing the end of beets season in New England, and this will give us a chance to appreciate them even more before they’re gone. I imagine it would be a blast, too, to play around with different single origin/single variety chocolates to find what best complements the flavors of the beets. Perhaps some Madagascar to start, to pair the bright acidity and notes of citrus and cherry with the hearty, earthy beets.

  • Janet in Maine
    November 14, 2011 6:32pm

    I’ve been enjoying the instant gratification of using my Nook. Initially I thought I wouldn’t buy any cookbooks for it as I enjoy having the book in hand but I have found that there are some cookbooks that I don’t necessarily want in my hand so I get the Nook version and have it quick and easy and usually cheaper. These are books that I would probably not buy in book form because they do not seem to be special.
    I would not even consider buying some cookbooks in Nook form. I want, and to be honest, need to hold them in my hands and turn the pages and be able to savor them. I don’t feel the same with the Nook. It is there for the convenience. I feel the same way about the internet. I know that I can go and pull off a recipe but I don’t get the same satisfaction as reading the author’s words about it or the story behind it. I have a couple/few hundred cookbooks (and left many, many more behind the last time I moved) and almost every one of them is made up of much more than just the basic recipe. I read my cookbooks as many others do, from cover to cover.

  • TGirlZA
    November 14, 2011 6:34pm

    I love my cookbooks, though I am ruthless about throwing out/gifting ones that I don’t use. As for those that I do – they just keep on giving. I love just sitting down with them and paging through them for enjoyment or inspiration, and the pleasure never gets old. I use the odd Internet recipe when I have a weird combination of ingredients lying around, because someone else has always already come up with some smart way of using them.

    I have to rave, though – and I won’t name the site as it’s commercial (and I assure you it’s not mine – I pay to use it) – about a website, that allows you to search your own cookbooks by ingredient(s) etc. You don’t get the recipe, but you get a list of all your cookbooks that have a recipe with the specific ingredients you have. I have so many cookbooks now, that I forget what’s in them all!

    The Internet’s turned out to provide a great solution to using and enjoying more my gorgeous, spattered and dog-eared treasures. I still love to pull out a few just to discover them at leisure all over again, but I love the ability to come home on a week-night and plug what’s left in my crisper drawer into the search box, and find I have several great recipes to use them.

  • November 14, 2011 6:36pm

    I adore the combo of chocolate and beetroot, or beet – interesting recipe. I need to check out Nigel Slater’s cookbook since it sounds super. I totally agree: there’s nothing to beat the old fashioned way of flicking pages of a cookbook, though, filled with spattered pages from using the recipes.

  • Lynda Byrnes
    November 14, 2011 6:36pm

    Yes, Yes, and Yes! You so hit the nail on the head with his one, David. It is the reason I read cookbooks like novels.I search out the ones with souls and the author’s voice. It makes it so intimate and engaging. It fills me up almost as much as the food (beautiful photography helps, too). And the feel and sound of the paper between my fingers…I just can’t imagine never wanting that and using and e-reader for cookbooks.You have such a gift for putting food experiences and feelings into words and I am grateful you share that. The beet cake looks amazing. I have been meaning to try one, but didn’t want to try a personality-less one from a web search. Thanks for bringing the right one to my in-box!

  • A Knight
    November 14, 2011 6:45pm

    There is nothing like a good cookbook. I agree with you completely!! Like that cookbook…..what’s it called? Oh yes, The Sweet Life in Paris. I recently discovered this book and last night I made the chouquettes aux pepites de chocolat. They are seriously delicious! Thank you for shaing your talent with us.

  • November 14, 2011 6:47pm

    Funny how just today I blogged about why I blog and why I read blogs. It is exactly what you have just mentioned that makes me read this blog and the same reason that makes me try a recipe. You add value to my life as a blogger and as someone who is interested in food. Thanks.

  • November 14, 2011 6:53pm

    Nigel Slater has been my favourite cook book writer (as well as non cook book writer, his book Toast is an infectious read) for quite a few years now. I will buy one of his books sight unseen as reading them is always an adventure that takes you to another place. I love the way his recipes become more and more minimalist, practically abstract, to the point of barely being there and yet they always come out delicious. He has such a strong voice, that I can read one of his recipes without seeing his name credited and instantly know it is one of his. I read cook books for inspiration and know-how, but I also just want a good read, after all we all know how to cook by now……don’t we?

  • November 14, 2011 6:56pm

    As a gardener I am always on the lookout for delicious ways to use up my surplus of beets. Thank you for this recipe, but what tasty concoction did you make with the rest of the beets that you roasted?

  • Heather
    November 14, 2011 7:02pm

    I’m sure this is entirely missing the point of this cake, but do you have any recommendations for how this recipe might be changed for those of us who are chocolate-sensitive (it’s a shame, I know)? I love beets and would love to incorporate them into my baking, but it seems they are always paired with chocolate. Any suggestions for this particular recipe or other chocolate recipes in general?

  • Kat
    November 14, 2011 7:31pm

    Hi David! I totally agree with your analysis of internet recipes via search engine vs. reliable recipes acquired from a trustworthy blog or cookbook author. When I’m looking for a recipe that I know isn’t in one of my cookbooks, (or if I’m at work, or away from home and need a recipe STAT), I start my internet-based research with your blog and Deb’s blog – you’re my two faves! If I can’t find what I need, or if it’s something really specific, I look to Martha Stewart. Her site is like a reliable google: so much volume, yet 99% of her recipes are good. If Martha lets me down, I might go to Food Network or Epicurious. Only after I’ve exhausted my reliable options, do I type my search terms into google. Usually by that point I’m desperate. It does prove helpful sometimes, though. Just the other day, through the magic of google, I found a recipe for broccoli rabe pesto, which I’d never even heard of. It was good.

    I also agree with your statement that, when looking for recipes, you want to know why the author/blogger chose it, what makes it special, what are its quirks, etc. Yours and Deb’s blogs (as well as a host of other home-cooking blogs) are great in that respect, and it’s your stories that I enjoy as much as the food. I need some sort of introduction to what I’m making; I find nothing so disappointing as a recipe with no story. And it doesn’t even have to be a personal story (although that makes it better); just tell me something, anything about this recipe, please! I need words to connect.

    Another thing that is (in my opinion) important – nay, crucial – to both food blogs and cookbooks? Beautiful, color pictures. Show me what I’m reading about, and I will be that much more likely to make it. Again, your blog does a beautiful job. As do your cookbooks. I love it all!

  • November 14, 2011 7:31pm

    I am obsessed with cookbooks in the same way a collector sees fine art. I love the timeless books of Paula Wolfert from the 1970’s and regularly reference Julia Child’s How to Cook rather than googling queries. I love Lidia Bastianich’s Cooking in the Heart of Italy for the fact that each recipe is accompanied by a story of discovery during her travels. Like you, I want to get lost in a good cookbook and see where it takes me. As much as I enjoy the community online, nothing can replace the experience of a collected work of recipes and stories in a cookbook.

  • November 14, 2011 7:36pm

    I totally agree, I want recipes in every form! Love the blogs but I’m equally addicted to cookbooks. Online recipes sometimes can’t be trusted, thats why blogs are so great. Its all about the story and how you can relate to the chef. I have been trying to find a good recipe with beets and chocolate for my students for a few years now, can’t wait to try this with our rooftop garden veggies! Thanks :c)

  • Thomas
    November 14, 2011 7:38pm

    I think cookbooks are (one of) the only source of good recipes, that and your grandmother ;)
    apart from a few very good websites, this one and fxcuisine spring to mind, i find very little recipes i like on the internet.
    and, what else do you put on those kitchen shelves? ;)

  • November 14, 2011 7:42pm

    Looks delicious!
    Love Nigel Slater’s writing and love beets – an unbeatable combo.

  • Bonnie Powers
    November 14, 2011 7:44pm

    I find photos in the downloaded books on my iPad to be actually much better than those in books since they are highlighted from behind and beautifully illuminated. Granted, the “feel” of the page is not there but the then the iPad is easier for me to carry around than, for example, Nigel Slater’s 580 page book!
    I’ll definitely make his Chocolate-Beet cake since my sweetheart loves a moist rich chocolate cake…no dense “Death by Chocolate” cakes for him!

  • November 14, 2011 7:48pm

    what a thoughtful and wonderfully written piece. avid cookbook lovers adore curling up with a good cookbook and reading about the stories behind the recipes. thank you for a great piece. now I have another cookbook to add to my collection…!

  • November 14, 2011 8:05pm

    What a wonderful analysis of the emotional impact of good writing in general and specifically food writing…. and thank you so very much for the inclusion of gardening. My passions go back and forth between dirt and the kitchen with much of the former being tramped into the later when my vegetable garden is producing.

    But above all I’m a reader (and a writer) who appreciates the story behind the ingredient, the occasion, the plant, or the season. My groaning bookshelves attest to my love of ink and paper. I may turn to the internet for a recipe or an aggregator site for inspiration (and a functioning clip file) but I savor, relish and truly dine on the words of fellow passionate cooks and gardeners. David you are a delightful personality in the mix… and I can’t thank you enough for your candor, your humor, and your generosity in sharing it on your blog with the rest of us!

    Good luck with your next project…

  • Ally
    November 14, 2011 8:06pm

    I was just thinking about this the other day. I haven’t purchased a ‘paper back’ book in 3-4 years. All of my fiction books are in e-format. However, I still prefer to purchase my cookbooks. I love the color illustrations (kindle is black and white) and I’ve been know to mark up the pages of my cook books.

  • November 14, 2011 8:26pm

    I love a good chocolate beet cake, and this is just a lovely post all around.

  • Norine
    November 14, 2011 9:32pm

    Oh, what’s not to like. Fresh beets are one of my favorite vegetables. Good chocolate is a good vegetable, too :-) BTW, I am so hooked on the artisanal chocolate company you blogged a few months ago. Some of those chocolates are supurb. I nibbled judiciously on them for weeks. Time for another order now that the weather has cooled.

  • November 14, 2011 9:35pm

    I agree completely… reading your post was so refreshing. My sister, knowing that I have an interest in cooking and baking, tried convincing me to use the google recipe search–as she said, “it’s so easy and has great ratings.” I don’t think she understands that probably even more than baking or cooking itself, I love finding, comparing, reading recipes, and the stories and perspectives that come along with each one. Cookbooks in their proper form can’t ever be replaced (or at least I hope so).

    Can’t wait for your new cookbook to come out–I’ll be curling up on the couch with it, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  • November 14, 2011 9:43pm

    Great tip on turning regular sugar into fine sugar…thanks:)

  • November 14, 2011 9:59pm

    I can completely relate to your belief in cookbooks and blogs with life behind the recipes. I can also relate to your dead mint. There is some rather crunchy thyme on my balcony at the moment.

  • Alex-Providence RI
    November 14, 2011 10:29pm

    Just bought a ebook version…..was trying to decide….a real book or an ebook version……..but chose the later…….so I can bring it anywhere I go…….

  • Rijk
    November 14, 2011 10:56pm

    This morning I read the recipe. This afternoon I made it. This evening we ate it. Another hit!!! Thank you for posting it.
    I’m just very curious in how far Slaters version differs from your adapted version

  • November 14, 2011 11:18pm

    I read my cookbooks the same way. I am always more intrigued by cookbooks where I feel the author loves the subject and is able to convey that message to me. I’m always drawn into a recipe more when I can tell the author has an emotional connection and love of the final product. This cake looks delicious, by the way.

  • November 14, 2011 11:30pm

    I love Nigel Slaters books, the way he rights is so encaptivating – just as his TV programmes. I have Tender I and II, they are brilliant. I have not yet come across the recipe in it, but I feel I must ow try it!.

  • November 14, 2011 11:32pm

    I completely agree with you with regards to recipes and cookbooks. I LOVE to hear a story behind the recipe. My favourite cookbooks at home, however, are the traditional recipe with photo. These cookbooks, do have a great history and story to them, having been given to me by my grandmother so I imagine she is there reading them and talking about them, possible tweaks, with me. Even some of the ones I have bought, I imagine it too :)
    This recipe looks fantastic and I think will be one that will be made for the next family gathering.

  • November 14, 2011 11:46pm

    Oh my goodness – you, too, have discovered that amazing cake… I did so a while ago myself.

    And it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve made/ate.
    And Nigel… oh, Nigel… He’s one of the best.. eh, in my world – he is the best. And his way writing – telling stories and all – is a dream.

  • Albina
    November 14, 2011 11:56pm

    I got two beets from an aunt which I did not know what to do with and then this recepie popped up the next day! I just made this cake, it was delicious and the beets and chocolate are so perfect together. I never thought it could be this good, now I have too cook more with beets!

  • Sharon
    November 15, 2011 12:10am

    From Tom Robbins’ book, Jitterbug Perfume: “The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion.Tomatoes are lusty enough, but…Beets are deadly serious.”

    He goes on to write the most wonderful fantastical tale woven around a perfume made of beets. It’s a crazy book; who in the world waxes passionate about beets? Well he does, and I never eat a beet (love beets a hundred ways cooked and raw) without thinking of him.

    Now you’re about to add to my beet repertoire and I can’t wait to see what seduction this beet recipe will work on me.

  • November 15, 2011 12:11am

    I am in complete agreement, I love cookbooks too! I don’t believe cookbooks or other books will become obsolete b/c of recipes online/kindle/nook/what have you. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way, but even so I think a lot of people are of the same sentiment! I have a good amount of cookbooks on my Christmas wishlist this year… That beet cake looks so delicious, dense, interesting that I might want to add Tender to the list! :) Wonderful post, David.

  • Lien
    November 15, 2011 12:12am

    Thanks David. This recipe is great because i need to use the beet somehow since i don’t like eating it :-). If i only use cocoa powder instead of bitersweet chocolate, do you have any suggestion on the amount?. Best regards, lien.

  • Brittany Rose
    November 15, 2011 12:45am

    not much of a beet person, but this sounds lovely (and complicated!)

  • November 15, 2011 12:53am

    Tiaré’s comment really resonates with me-blogs allow conversations between readers and authors (and also, enjoyably, with other readers) whereas reading cookbooks is a quiet and solitary activity. I love both. I don’t have a cellphone so apps are useless to me, nor do I have an electronic book device, so those aren’t relevant to me either. I collect cookbooks because they give me pleasure to read. They let me sit in someone else’s kitchen and hear their thoughts and I can take them with me anywhere. I read food blogs for the lively interaction and inspiration, I read cookbooks when I want to get serious in the kitchen or be taken away completely to somone else’s.

    We had to cull down our book collections quite a lot in past years and I decided to give up most of my novel collection, only keeping the very hard to find ones, and decided to keep all my cookbooks. I never resent the space they take up.

  • Oakjoan
    November 15, 2011 12:55am

    Nigel Slater is my latest favorite cookbook author. I like Kitchen Diaries better than Tender, although Tender is pretty great.

    His books were chosen as cookbooks of the month on Chowhound recently. I made his apple shortcakish thing last night to great acclaim. Haven’t yet tried the chocolate beet cake, although I’ve had pieces of that cake in the past few years.

    We’re so lucky to have folks like Slater and you around!

  • Linda H
    November 15, 2011 1:32am

    When my brother saw my shelves full of cookbooks after we had moved into an old house, he said, “So, you’re trying to put the first floor into the basement?”
    I’m not giving up my big heavy beautiful cookbooks. “Ready For Dessert” is a great example.

  • Leslie
    November 15, 2011 2:13am

    I’ve been inspired by blogs (yours was my first) to buy more cookbooks! Now I must add Tender.

  • November 15, 2011 3:06am

    Yes! Books! Books! Books! :-)

  • Jacques Bredius
    November 15, 2011 3:15am

    Great recipe. Would like to print it out, but every time I try to print out your recipes I have to print out the whole page. And for this recipe ir will take 30 pages. Is there a better way or do I have to write it out?
    Thanks for all your great stories.

  • November 15, 2011 3:18am

    It’s funny reading a post from you about this – it’s a similar reason to why I read your blog! The recipes are to die for, but it’s the stories behind them, the way you weave words together to make a simple sorbet sound like the most romantic thing in existence (which it very well may be).

  • November 15, 2011 3:54am

    I’ve been experimenting veggies in my baked goods recently and I must say – it truly keeps cakes and baked goods nice and moist. Don’t need a whole glob of fat – not that I mind ;)

  • November 15, 2011 4:32am

    Sweet, sweet joy….something with chocolate…and one of my favorite root vegetables. I never would have paired the two together had it not been for your post, and Nigel’s recipe.
    Oh…and it has coffee in it, too! ;)

  • Caity
    November 15, 2011 4:33am

    Hi! I was wondering if you knew why he folds the sugar into the egg whites, wouldn’t that unnecessarily decrease the egg whites’ wonderful fluffiness? Could I just incorporate the sugar into the chocolate mixture before I fold in the egg whites?

  • Elle
    November 15, 2011 4:44am

    Hi David,

    My mother who died in 1991 made that cake when I was in high school. It’s delicious and yes, she was an adventurous cook. She also made a chocolate cake with potato.

    My comment is actually a request for help, so please feel free to contact me privately at the address noted. Here’s the thing: I made your heavenly sounding prune armagnac ice cream exactly as instructed including weighing the prunes and it seems way too sweet and the alcohol seems like it was too much. Other versions of your recipe that I found on the web use less booze and less sugar. Is there an error in The Perfect Scoop? It can happen; I understand. I do appreciate Errata sections on authors’ blogs when it does – (Dorie and Rose both do that.) It saves money on wasted ingredients as well as disappointment. Please provide guidance. I am an experienced cook and ice cream maker and I enjoy your work very much.

  • November 15, 2011 5:05am

    I love Nigel Slaters books and have several although not this one. I prefer to read the actual book but don’t mind apps for magazines. We are moving house soon and what I have designated as the guest room has a wall of book shelving. My plan is to put all my cookbooks in there. I like the idea of my friends sleeping in a room full of my cook books.

    I make a beetroot cake with grated raw beetroot and no chocolate. It has an earthy flavour which I like.

  • November 15, 2011 5:37am

    What attracts me to that cake are those photos… mon dieu! I can taste how moist it is just by looking at them…

  • Gavrielle
    November 15, 2011 5:57am

    Sound like a delicious cake, but if it’s not a Lebovitz, I think I’ll save my calories. I had to send most of a Spiced Plum Streusel Cake home with my guests on Saturday night (they insisted) so I’m currently jonesing for another. And to find it I’ll leaf dreamily through Ready For Dessert – much more fun than downloading.

  • KiwiRob
    November 15, 2011 6:09am

    I totally agree, I like to read a good cookbook right through as bedtime reading first of all, noting the page numbers of the recipes I want to use in the immediate future.
    I was telling my husband about this recipe as I read it, mentioning that it tastes better the next day. His instant response was to snort & say : can’t be a good cake if it’s going to last that long!!

  • November 15, 2011 6:14am

    I agree with you, David…I love to hear the author / blog writer’s voice when they post their recipes. I want to know what makes their version so special and why that particular recipe is connected to them. Then I want to see images that inspire me to eat / dream / create something special in my own life! This is what blogging is all about! …And that’s why I love reading your blog AND I love buying cookbooks that have a personal tone to it – something that tells a story!

  • November 15, 2011 6:59am

    On a trip to London last year, I made sure to track the “Tender” books down (they weren’t available in the U.S. at the time). I even brought an empty suitcase just to make sure I would have the room for them. I’m currently reading Melissa Clark’s “In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite.” Every recipe in the book has a story with it that makes me want to drop everything and head to the kitchen.

  • wendy baschkopf
    November 15, 2011 7:27am

    I bought my ice cream maker and studied 2 books on the topic. David, your inimitable voice won hands down. Then I chatted with Celia at San Francisco’s Omnivore Book right after she opened. Celia got me to join Bakers Dozen and I learned you were there at its beginnings. There I met Jennie Schacht who wrote FARMERS’ MARKET DESSERTS. And your blog reminded me about her recipe, drumroll . . . for chocolate beet cake. Different, but much fun to compare. There’s nothing like spreading a batch of cookbooks out and learning from the personal trek of each author. What a treat to meet an author I’ve been reading and cooking with for years. It’s like meeting an old friend whose shared many a meal with me.

  • November 15, 2011 9:10am

    Dear David, both you and Nigel Slater are two of my favourite writers in the world. Your voice, personality, humour, honesty are wonderful to read, I always feel like it’s such a privilege to be able to peek into your world. Great recipes are a bonus. :-)

    “Ready for Dessert” and “My Kitchen Diaries” are near the top of my reading pile at present!

  • November 15, 2011 9:19am
    David Lebovitz

    Jacques: When the site was set up, there was no print option available. So in order to have one now, I’d have to go back and reformat hundreds of posts, which time doesn’t allow. There are sites like “Print What You Want” (you can find them on Google), which allow you to print pages as you wish, or you can cut and paste the recipe into a Word document and print it from there.

    Caity: I was wondering why he did that as well. Normally I would just beat the sugar into the whites to make them more stable. But perhaps he wanted a denser cake, which this is. (And I liked it!)

    Mel: Glad you be in such good company : )

    Elle: That’s a little less than the standard amount of sugar in an ice cream recipe (that custard has 1/2 cup of sugar versus about 3/4 in other ice creams – there is a few spoonfuls in the prunes because when I made that, I found the alcohol a bit harsh without it) – and there’s less fat in that one as well, to compensated for the liquor, so am not certain why yours was too sweet.

    UPDATE: I made it today and actually found it on the less-sweet side, due to the alcohol. It firmed up nicely. (Picture)

    wendy: Interesting since I have Jennie’s book – I should go look at it to see how her recipe differs.

  • Aimée
    November 15, 2011 9:44am

    Do you think that if you weren’t to eat all of this cake in the first day then it should be stored in the fridge? Or will it be alright on the countertop?

  • November 15, 2011 10:27am

    If anything, the Internet helped me find good cookbooks, not replace them. That is how I found yours. Yes, in a hurry (like when I have to bake this tomorrow), if I wanted a tried and tested, towering, frosted dessert, I’d Google you or Deb Perelman but that doesn’t stop me from waiting excited for Dorie’s and Julia’s books to arrive in the post.

    Additionally, the evolution of culinary information on the Net helped me in other ways – learning about new ingredients, regional cuisines, specific techniques (YouTubing how to braid a challah, shape a bâtard etc.) and writing about food/recipes.

    All that said, let’s cut to the chase. Is your next cookbook going to be like everything you described here? Then I don’t even need to know what recipes are in it.

  • evi
    November 15, 2011 10:39am

    I don’t see the need to oppose cookbooks vs. internet search vs. blogs etc. They serve different purposes. Well-written cookbooks are a pleasure to read. Recipe aggregator sites help you find what to make for dinner quickly. Don’t forget there are plenty of people out there who aren’t that fussed about cooking. It’s not their passion, but they still want to feed their family food cooked from scratch. They just want a recipe.

    • November 15, 2011 10:52am
      David Lebovitz

      I agree. There are good recipe sites, such as the previously mentioned Epicurious, and others, and then there are the ones that are simply plucking recipes from around the internet and republishing them indiscriminately and without attribution just because it’s a way to make a buck. (It irks lots of people who write recipes to find their recipes on those aggregator sites which don’t, and won’t, attribute them.) Plenty of people want to simply feed their family and that’s certainly what cooking is all about – but even the recipes that my mother and grandmother used (both working women with families), plucked from magazines and cookbooks, were written by people who were interested in cooking, which you can easily discern by reading them.

  • Dani
    November 15, 2011 10:53am

    I can’t wait to make this and I agree with everyone about cookbooks vs online recipes. I love books, including cookbooks and am interested to see how an author presents the content, background info and I even judge a book on its index. (I confess, I’m a librarian). On the other hand, I will use the internet to see different versions of a chocolate cake or shrimp curry, for example, since there are so many variations on some things. I get ideas and take what I like and try it out. Best thing about this post though: “snack cake”!!

  • Sreifa
    November 15, 2011 11:12am

    superfine sugar = powdered sugar?

    No, they are two different sugars. -dl

  • evi
    November 15, 2011 3:59pm

    Me again. I absolutely agree. There are good and bad aggregators – and good and bad recipes. Worth noting that plenty of magazines and books have bad recipes too. Which is where the internet can be very useful – the comments on epicurious are one of the things I like best about it. Interesting too that there seems to be a cultural difference. French cookbooks don’t seem to have much writing in them – eg. those “themed” series by a certain publisher that churn out endless personality-free recipes – and yet are very popular.

  • November 15, 2011 5:21pm

    I am intrigued in trying/baking chocolate beet cake. It sounds weird enough to try.

    I’ve noticed there’s a trend on vegetable-based desserts. In New York City, there’s a dessert composed of celery sorbet with celery and fig agrodolce served at a fine-dining restaurant. Odd that it sounds, it’s pretty darn delicious.

  • Susan
    November 15, 2011 5:25pm

    If I had to choose between books or the internet, hands down, the internet would be my choice. I love to cook, but with limited funds, I have to choose carefully the books I buy. The content has to really have some meaning for me beyond the recipe or the personality of the author. Fortunately, for the money spent for my ISP, I get much more in the way of cooking inspiration, technique, photos, feedback, commentary and personality than I could ever hope for in a cookbook.

    I flip through many of the current books (that I learn of from blog sites) at book stores or libraries, and I really like what I see much of the time, but I don’t necessarily impress me enough to make me want to spend so much for one or two recipes, or because the author is charming or offers the newest “thing”. Lately, with the onslaught of blogger cookbooks that are coming out, I kind of get the feeling that these publishing houses are taking advantage of the popularity of food blogs just to cash in on their readership…like a greedy pimp! That sounds terrible, I know, but for all the time, money and energy you have to put into developing a recipe, writing a manuscript and time spent on book tours (who pays for those?) who gets the most from the deal?

  • November 15, 2011 6:45pm

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! It looks great!

  • Lazyelephant
    November 15, 2011 6:52pm

    What a great recipe! My boys who hates beets have finished it without knowing what they ate! Heard that beets are very anti-cancer.
    Also, I made your lemon tart the other day to my very french in-laws and received bravos. I’ve looking for a recipe for the pate brisee for almost 20 years and am finally satisfied.

    Thank you always for your inspiring recipes and food reports.

  • November 15, 2011 8:25pm

    I had read somewhere that beets were the best for coloring a red velvet cake. I don’t do Red Velvet because I think it’s just a fad. And it uses too much food coloring. If you have to use 5 or more Tbsps. of red coloring for one cake,…that’s just wrong.
    I adore beets. If my green salad doesn’t have beets and croutons, I quickly lose interest in eating it. And I worked with an English woman who, every day, brought a sack lunch with a beet sandwich using buttered white bread. She said it was her favorite thing to eat. Yes, I will definitely give this recipe a go.
    As one who reads a lot and likes to collect useful books and cookbooks, I can’t envision a world without books. And yes, I’m one of those dinosaurs who write letters sometimes 30 pages long for bed bound friends who adore them because they say they live vicariously through my letters. I am a writer, and a published poet, and a professional artist, and I have a food blog because I love to share food. While the internet, as you say, is good for looking things up, it won’t replace books. You can’t rely on your computer to always get online, and my internet drops away for hours at a stretch, three times per day, due to where I live. But your books are at your fingertips any time you need them (at home), like a ready companion with inspiring photos.

    • November 16, 2011 7:30am
      David Lebovitz

      I was actually going to make a red velvet cake a while back, and stopped when I saw how much red food coloring goes into it. It is an awful lot and while a little is probably okay to consume, dumping in a whole bottle just didn’t seem right to me either. This cake is really good just as it is, and it’s kind of red…and I don’t feel guilty about eating it! : )

  • Tuula
    November 15, 2011 11:42pm

    I keep Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries by my bed because I love reading it so much – the year it came out I got if for Christmas and I started reading along with the days, his recipes are amazing!

  • K
    November 16, 2011 2:09am

    David, I am totally with you with respect to the simple joy of some paper copies of cookbooks. The luxury of the weight, the love in the greasy fingerprints near your favourite selections, the ability to not worry so much about a kitchen-related catastrophe killing your source in the middle of holiday baking.

    I do have a question though: what fat substitute would you recommend to make the cake lactose free? There will always be some differences, but would shortening, margarine or oil best simulate the best features of the original?

    • November 16, 2011 7:29am
      David Lebovitz

      I’m not a huge fan of vegetable shortening but you might want to try a natural brand of margarine (some health food stores carry those that aren’t filled with dubious ingredients) – and some people use coconut oil, which is also available in natural food stores. Depending on your situation, some butters are cultured, which may break down the lactose, but that’s something that I’m not that familiar with – although you might want to do some research about that. (Also goat milk butters are considered by some to be more digestible, too.) Another option is prune puree (or baby food!) which can substitute for butter in some instances.

  • November 16, 2011 2:13am

    Vegetables in chocolate cake, what a win-win situation!

  • November 16, 2011 4:22am

    Thanks for another good post David. I’ve recently baked chocolate-pumpkin cakes that were wonderful, but this is the first recipe I’ve seen with beets. My husband hates beets and I love them. If I could disguise beets in chocolate cake, I’ll bet he’d eat them! I think there is a place and a need for both electronic recipes and cookbooks. I love my cookbooks. Can’t see them ever going away. I may turn to the web for fast research, but my favorite cookbooks (including yours) are written in, filled with sticky note and little splashes of cooking. Like many, I read them like novels!

  • November 16, 2011 8:41am

    I agree with your comments on searching for a recipe. I find that when I do use the internet to find inspiration, I go to my favorite blogs, like yours, smitten kitchen, or orangette. Then I get to read the story about the recipe which is part of the process for me. And like you I love the feel of a book – whether it is my mom’s 1960’s Joy of Cooking complete with stains and pressed leaves inside, or a big coffee table book filled with inspirational photos. I’ll never want to let go of the tactile feel of slowly perusing a cookbook and all it’s possibilities…

  • November 16, 2011 8:51am

    Ah the internet is such a great database for recipes but nothing beats the physical touch of a page and being able to scribble notes along the page!

  • Elizabeth Busciglio
    November 16, 2011 2:28pm

    Couldn’t agree more. With a collection of over 1500 cookbooks I often amaze myself by knowing exactly which recipe came from which book! I do like to surf the blogs and have recently started writing one myself – bot give up books? Never.

  • Eli
    November 16, 2011 2:38pm

    Nigel Slater is one of my favourite TV chefs – nothing fancy just good food with good ingredients (and if you have never seen his back garden it is tiny but he grows so much in pots), using up leftovers etc. Recent series was all about contrasts – sweet/sour, hot/cold etc.

    I seem to have a memory of Oprah advocating the use of beets in food to cut down on the fat but that was mostly in meat dishes like burgers!

    And I don’t have a reader as I much prefer real books – both cookery and reading!

  • November 16, 2011 2:38pm

    In the end, a cookery book is just a book like any other, and you want to read something you can relate to on it. I am losing myself in Elisabeth David these days, she’s such a gifter writer. I prefer inspiring cookbooks with that extra personal touch (the reason why I love browsing blogs for inspiration) – so I’m very excited about the new book you are writing.

    On the other hand though there is also another audience for cookbooks – people who really need techniques and reliable recipes all in one place. We all know too well that all those millions of recipes on the internet are just too noisy to be easy to approach. I am quite happy to have a few basics that don’t have much character, sure, but are failproof and sound references.

  • Naila
    November 16, 2011 5:19pm

    Hi David,

    Im a resident of sharjah and am so glad that uv visited this place. i just read it in ur post. im a big chocoholic and came across this post.

    could u plz translate the recipe to english coz i dont understand the language at all. There r many comments asking u to translate it. some of the readers have done it but it is very confusing for me. im used to ur clarity of writing recipes. is there any particular reason u havnt done it really really apprecitae the translation

    Thanx n Regards,


    • November 16, 2011 5:26pm
      David Lebovitz

      I did finally figure out the recipe and it’s in my book, Ready for Dessert, in English, with metric and standard measurements.

  • Martha in KS
    November 16, 2011 6:37pm

    David, I have to share a fun family story with you. In the 60’s my aunt in TX mailed my mother in KS a slice of Waldorf Astoria Cake (the original red velvet). With 5 ankle-biters surrounding her, my mother told us that it was Beet Cake, which immediately made the cake uninteresting to us. She got to enjoy it by herself. The recipe (with two whole bottles of food coloring) became a family favorite & because my birthday is in December, she made it for me every year until she passed away, though the red dye formula & amount changed. So I laughed to see an actual Beet Cake on your blog. Miss you, Mom.

  • Richard Francis
    November 16, 2011 6:41pm

    Talking of books you might try David Thompson’s Thai Food which meets your criteria I believe.

  • November 16, 2011 7:08pm

    I absolutely agree about cookbooks. I’ve found that I’m often drawn to particular authors and chefs more so than specific recipes. I think that’s because of what you said; you become drawn to the voice just as much as to the recipe. Love the blog!

  • Christina
    November 16, 2011 7:29pm

    Bonjour, David – I enjoy this blog so much and thank you for it. I have a question about folding the sugar into the egg whites rather then adding it slowly to make a more stable meringue – is there a textural difference? I just seems to me that the meringue gives more loft to cake crumb. Thanks again!

    I responded to that one in a previous comment; scroll up to find it. -dl

  • Matt
    November 16, 2011 8:07pm

    I’m glad you delved into the cookbook vs internet subject. Personally if I can’t find a recipe in my cookbooks I will search the internet. However I’ve stopped using just any recipes, I will only use internet recipes from proven sources (your website being one of those proven sources). You could say I’ve gotten burned too many times in the past with poorly written recipes that have 5 star reviews, but who knows that could just be me.
    Cookbooks can offer so much more than just recipes! I love a well photographed cookbook. Tartine by Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Pruiett is one of my favorites, it’s a masterpiece, and I have your website to thank for that. I also think Ready For Dessert is beautiful too. Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless is very simple but gives you a rustic feel just by the simple illustrations and borders. And of course Anthony Bourdains’ Les Halles Cookbook is full of his smug sardonic comments. These are the things you don’t glean from internet recipes.


    • November 17, 2011 9:36am
      David Lebovitz

      I think a lot of the popularity of blogs comes from “proven sources” and even though many are cooking/baking from established cookbooks, when someone talks about the process of making the recipe and shows the results, you know that it works. That said, many bloggers are cooking from published cookbooks (and glad you like mine!) which is great, which is why it’s important to have regular cookbooks in print and in our collections. I certainly do!

  • November 16, 2011 8:31pm

    I have to admit that my jaw dropped when I saw this post….in a good way! I love, love beets but never thought of them as being part of desert. Yummy! I will have to try this. Love it! :) :) Thank you for sharing this!
    I may have to get one of Nigel’s cookbooks soon since I’ve heard a lot of good things about them.

  • November 17, 2011 12:46am

    I am so attracted to this cake, loving beets, and wanting to have a recipe like this for some time. I agree that it’s about the story, not just the recipe. Just today, I got lost in a blog post in a good way, because I wanted to portray the heart of the cookbook author, who gave Pennsylvania Dutch cooking some fame, Betty Groff. She cooked because she loved people. I’m so interested in what goes on around and behind the food and in the passion of the person writing about it.

  • Maureen
    November 17, 2011 3:55am

    What a wonderful post. The blogs are make my daily reading are the ones that don’t just post a recipe, but as you say, allow me into their lives. Thank you for doing such a marvelous job of that.

    Can you explain the reason why the chocolate needs to be stirred minimally when melting it, when adding the espresso and when adding the butter?

    Thank you for sharing and teaching.

    • November 17, 2011 9:34am
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know why he advises that because I generally melt butter and chocolate together. But his writing was so vivid and personal, that I wanted to follow along how he did it.

  • bobster
    November 17, 2011 6:46am

    DL, Nigel should thank you for selling loads of his books … maybe he should blog about you? He owes …

    I recently pickled beets but woah too much cardamom and cloves – maybe I’ll blend them up and make a spicey chocolate cake. That could be a twist on the recipe.

    Inklings “Pro Chef” ipad add became the third highest-grossing iPad app on Apple’s App Store, That’s compared to all iPad apps worldwide. With so many book lovers, I cant figure out why this sells?


    • November 17, 2011 9:34am
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t seen that app but it’s likely the highest-grossing for two reasons: One is because it looks really good, and two, because it’s $49,99. It’s likely a very good use of the app technology along with solid cooking material, which is something that an app can do that isn’t always possible in a printed cookbook. That’s why I think there’s room for both – some books work well on tablet devices and others are better on paper. Good thing so many books are now available in both formats!

  • November 17, 2011 3:06pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I read cookbooks as though they’re mystery novels. Every recipe and every introductory blurb — they’re all part of setting the scene. I love the photographs and the feel of the paper. Most of all, I love my cookbooks best when they’re splattered and dog eared from years of use. You just can’t get that from a search engine.

  • Demetra Samaras
    November 17, 2011 6:05pm

    Hi David,

    It must be kismet, because I just cooked up a batch of beets when I sat down to read your blog. So I made the Beet Cake last night and it was an instant hit with my family. I used a combination of detroit red, golden and choggias from my garden (the last of the season). Perfect! And I love my cookbooks. I write comments, make amendments to recipes, and leave fingerprints in my books (and I know you can make notes on a kobo/kindle/ipad/etc..) But a handwritten comment is not the same as a typed note on an electronic device…and a book will not crash, and will not need charging. I am not a Luddite; there is a place for both in the world (I really, really like my ipad…)

    • November 17, 2011 7:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      Interesting, last fall there was a server problem with my site and went down (too) frequently during a 3 week period, and people were writing to me, irate, that they couldn’t get a recipe they were looking for. (All sites go down, even big ones like Facebook and Ebay have gone down.) Books don’t go down.

  • November 17, 2011 10:33pm

    I believe that the internet and cookbooks both play in important role in cooking. I like the relative ease and speed of using the internet to find a recipe, especially when I’m running low on time. However, I just purchased three cookbooks the other day, because I love the feel of holding a cookbook in my hands and taking my time browsing through one. I love the pictures and reading the descriptions. It’s fun and exciting to be able to turn a page and see what recipe is waiting on the next one. In short, I’m glad for the existence of food blogs and websites, but I’ll always be on the lookout for cookbooks to purchase as well.

  • Bronwyn
    November 18, 2011 12:38am

    I’ve moved almost exclusively to e-books for fiction recently (lack of space in bookcases and weight of books while travelling being the reasons) but have been buying far more hard copy recipe books than I used to. This is mostly because I see books referred to on cooking blogs, and I can then go immediately and buy them at Book Depository before I forget what they’re called. My cook book collection has changed considerably in character, with far more books on theory (Cooking for Geeks, Harold McGee etc) and specialist books (Cheesemaking, Charcuterie, Bread etc) than the random collections of recipes I used to pick up on sale tables. I still surf the net looking for specific recipes, often starting at Wikipedia. I tend to find as many recipes as I can, and use my judgement to decide which one/ones sound as though they are most authentic; when I’m looking for a recipe it’s usually because the food is something I’ve read about in a book and I want to see what it’s supposed to taste like, not what one chef’s version of it is like. I read many many recipes for red velvet cake before I came to the conclusion that red food colouring really was an original ingredient and not some modern shortcut – shortly followed by the conclusion that I really didn’t want to make a red chocolate cake. Beet cake, on the other hand, sounds delicious. Similar to chocolate zucchini cake, I would imagine.

  • November 18, 2011 11:56am

    I just received ‘India’ by Pushpesh Pant (great name!!). It came wrapped in a retro indian printed linen bag, lovely! Phaidon books are real collectors items, and I’m working on a full set :))

  • jeff
    November 18, 2011 11:01pm

    Keep your new book personal. I read a lot of cookbooks and more than anything enjoy the stories about mothers, grandmothers, successes, failures, process, etc. A compilation of recipes is something the internet really can replace. A personal journey is what makes it interesting.

  • KayAar
    November 20, 2011 8:20am

    Tried this today. All I can say is this is one of the best chocolate recipes I have tried. Love your blog !

  • November 20, 2011 8:23pm

    David… your thoughts on cookbooks becoming obsolete prompted this blog post from me.

    The Salvation Sisters love your blog!

  • November 21, 2011 12:43am

    Could not agree more that a naked recipe (even with a photo) on the Internet doesn’t do it for me. I want to hear something about the dish from the cook. And I like the context provided by a whole set of recipes from one author thoughtfully gathered together and presented as a BOOK (with chapter intros and recipe headnotes). Hopefully for those of us who create them, enough others feel as we do that cookbooks in some form will survive.

  • Katya
    November 21, 2011 2:07am

    What an amazing recipe! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • bobster
    November 21, 2011 3:09am

    By the way. Nobody should preheat their oven and then go boil beets for 45 minutes and then spend 20 mins prep time. This is simply a waste of energy – gas or electric. I preheat 10-20mins before I think is going to go in. Let be greener. Great blog.

    You’re right. Am not sure why that was suggested, but I did change it. Thanks! – dl

  • lora
    November 21, 2011 7:21am

    I have been making this cake every fall when my beets are ready. so happy to hold his book and make it a part of my life. there are birthdays, surprises and successful gardening seasons now attached to its pages…

  • November 22, 2011 12:56am

    I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for your inspiring story.

    Being the owner of a recipe website, I too very much dislike just putting up yet another set of ingredients with an image or two and fill the rest in with advertising – Yuk!

    I believe that God gave me imagination, creative ability, desire and wisdom as well as a whole lot of other good things (like ingredients, lol) to be able to share these recipes with everyone around the world.

    Your story inspires me to sit back and learn from what you have written and then apply them to my website. I’m confident that I will have a whole bunch of people coming to my site just because of the way it’s going to be written from here on. Oh, and also because it’s about chocolate recipes.

    Thanks again.

  • November 22, 2011 11:44am

    I made this and loved it! I used 150 gr butter and only 90 gr sugar and it was just right for my taste. Since they don’t sell creme fraiche in Estonia I followed your suggestion to serve with mascarpone/whipped cream and alltogether it was a beautiful dessert!
    Nigel Slater’s website provides a significantly different recipe for the same cake, I wonder if it could taste even better.

  • November 22, 2011 11:45am

    I baked the cake today, and oh my it is very moist!

    Thank you for providing easy-to-follow instructions…because when you break it down there are a lot of steps. I was a bit skeptical with step 4, I was envisioning a lumpy and seized mess but it turned out great! Especially after adding the egg yolks, it was so smooth and glossy, was tempted to eat it as is.

  • lck
    November 22, 2011 7:02pm

    I am in this mood of bringing some nutritional value to combos like butter/ sugar/ flour and I am amazed about the variety of vegetables, fruits, flours we can use and sweeteners that may substitute the ordinary white sugar. They bring not only nutritional values but new flavors and textures we have been missing.
    Beetroot combines wonderfully with brown sugar since it pairs the earthy flavor they both have. Spices do it well too.
    Unfortunately the red color from the beet turn into brown during cooking due to a chemical reaction among the ingredients of a cake. No velvets so far.

  • Dibsy
    November 24, 2011 5:34am

    I was just reviewing the oct/nov fine cooking in prep for the thanksgiving feast. Then I got side track to this site. I came across this recipe for beet chocolate cake, it rang a bell. The afore mentioned fine cooking mag also has a beet chocolate cake recipe. When I can stand to eat again post thanksgiving, I will do a comparison of these 2 recipes.

  • Miss B
    November 24, 2011 11:55am

    If you can’t find creme fraiche (or you just don’t want to spend the ridiculous amount of money that a tiny container of it usually costs) you can just pour a pint of heavy cream into a jar, add a good spoonful or so of buttermilk, and let it sit, covered loosely with a clean towel, on your countertop overnight. The next morning, when it’s slightly thickened, it’s done, and you can toss it in the fridge. (And you can freeze the rest of the buttermilk in an ice cube tray or small containers, to use later in whatever recipes you have that call for it — as long as you’re going to cook with it and not drink it, thawed frozen buttermilk works just fine.)

  • Rachel
    November 24, 2011 6:04pm

    I’m not sure if this happened to anyone else, but I had too much batter for an 8 inch springform pan. It overflowed while baking :(. I should have followed my instincts and used the larger 9 inch but didn’t. Just a word to the wise.

  • Caroline
    November 25, 2011 11:03pm

    For those within range of a Trader Joe’s, they sell 8 oz. packages of steamed and peeled baby beets; just the right amount for this recipe. Added bonus: they’re labeled “Product of France”.

  • November 27, 2011 1:31am

    I enjoyed this post greatly and look forward to learning some writing tips from your blog.

  • kim
    November 27, 2011 10:55am

    Tender is on my Christmas wish list :). Glad to hear that you’re writing another book as well, I’ve used your first one quite a bit.

    Kim: I tried to answer your previous question about my book via e-mail but it was returned as undeliverable. Can you let me know which book is was? thanks – dl

  • blythe
    November 28, 2011 1:29am

    I was a bit hesitant at first…I followed all the directions but freestyled a few of the ingredients; the amount of beets and the type of chocolate. The batter was probably the most awful thing in the world BUT! the finished product was unreal. I have never liked a chocolate cake as much as this one, super moist and not too sweet! I doubled the recipe and ended up with a full cake and 2 dozen cupcakes. I think this might be my new go to dessert!

  • toota
    November 29, 2011 12:25am


  • Olga M
    November 29, 2011 4:33pm

    The cake turned out great! Thanks for the recipe! :))

    Rachel: I had too much batter for an 8 inch pan too so I used 9 inch instead. But I thought it happened because I whipped the egg whites with the sugar, not just folded it in, so they did not deflate as much while mixing with the batter.

    • November 30, 2011 4:57pm
      David Lebovitz

      That’s interesting that you had too much batter because I used an 8-inch springform pan, like that one, and it only came up about halfway. I’ve never seen ones with low sides – what was yours like?

  • Olga M
    December 4, 2011 5:33pm

    It is 6 cm high. The 9-inch pan was almost full, maybe had 1 or 1,5 cm left to the edge.

  • December 5, 2011 7:40am

    I must make this for my next book club! It looks amazing!!

  • December 7, 2011 2:00am


    I love books. but I also love food blogs too! I think the reason I like trying recipes from food blogs is that I have the understanding that the person writing actually made the recipe. Sometimes with books I’ve found mistakes or had difficulties with the recipes. On a blog, you can comment and usually get an answer from the actual cook! That being said however, with the more personal cookbooks that I’ve been reading lately (from the library) I usually end up buying myself a copy anyway. I like the smaller more intimate books where the person concentrates on one type of thing whether it’s baking desserts only or cookies etc. I think the days of the comprehensive, cover every subject cookbook is done. I’ve been wondering about the beet cake since I read about how the red velvet originally used beets for coloring and a small amount of cocoa. This makes sense to me. All the red velvet cakes I’ve tried at various functions made no sense. They don’t really have a flavor and I didn’t understand their appeal. This one now! This one I might be able to get behind!!! so thank you.

  • December 8, 2011 12:20am

    Beets? Really? I tried the mayo cake and that did help with the moisture. I would have never thought of beets.

  • December 8, 2011 10:13am

    I baked that cake this week and it came out great. I used labneh instead of butter as I don’t really enjoy cakes when they are too rich. All my colleagues I shared it with loved it! Thanks for sharing this recipe, on my blog today.