Portland, Oregon: For my birthday, Tamra and Steve gave me Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, featuring desserts from his London restaurants. (It has been a very good birthday month.) So many delicious-looking/sounding treats to bake. Where to start? When one of my favorite food writers, Paris-based David Lebovitz, baked the Beet and Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from the new cookbook, I decided this recipe would also be my first to try. You had me at cream cheese frosting.
The cake is unlike anything I had ever prepared before. I’m going to venture if you have made a carrot cake, you will grasp the idea, but this cake is made with raw shredded beets. (Be advised to not wear your white silk shirt while grating beets!) The other sensational addition is candied ginger! Family were coming for Shabbat, so I decided to try this recipe. Family will forgive.
This must be the reddest cake batter in the entire whole wide world? The recipe calls for the usual cake ingredients – flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, salt, eggs… and grated raw (peeled) beets, walnuts, crystalized/candied ginger that has been minced and soaked in boiling water for an hour, orange zest, sour cream and vegetable oil. The other interesting ingredient is a crushed Vitamin C tablet (Lebovitz used 3/4 teaspoon FruitFresh and so did I) to preserve the bright red color of the beets. Clever! After baking, it is topped with a layer of cream cheese frosting. (Be advised, this cake is called “Beet, Ginger and Sour Cream cake” in the cookbook, page 130.) Ottolenghi uses fresh ginger juice in the frosting; Lebovitz used vanilla. I used vanilla.
One of the best-loved features (to me) of this cake? It isn’t overly sweet and it isn’t over-sized. One nice small layer.
And pretty. The cake is pretty. I could have decorated further with additional chopped walnuts, but why mess with simple perfection?
Especially when our niece, Carla, was visiting from New York City!
We served a butterflied roasted (5.5 lb!) chicken, and an assortment of vegetables – Delicata squash, purple carrots, radishes, fingerling potatoes – roasted on a sheet pan. Salad was shredded (raw, more raw shredded stuff!) Brussels sprouts, apples, hazelnuts in lemon juice and olive oil. Not a lot of time needed to prep dinner… which was good, because I was busy shredding beets, chopping candied ginger, walnuts and whipping up cream cheese frosting.
I am getting so lazy. I asked the butcher to butterfly the bird instead of doing it myownself. DT feels carving a butterflied chicken is much easier, and it cuts the cooking time so much – this chicken barely took an hour at 425°.
The leaves are falling off the trees outside, but a few hydrangeas were still presentable for the centerpiece.
It’s not my recipe, so I will boast and proclaim this cake unbelievably delicious. Simply lovely. Not too sweet. Very moist. Nice little crunch from the walnuts. Tang from the ginger. Smooth creaminess from the frosting. And so different! Bake this cake.
And don’t forget to wear an apron.
Thanks to my family for joining us for Shabbat and for, once again, being Human Guinea Pigs to my cooking experiments. Until my next update, I remain, your beet-red correspondent.