What is it about secret ingredients? In general, people tend to be bad secret-keepers. For many, gossip is magnetic and contagious. Unknown facts (or juicy pieces of fiction) hover in one’s brain anxiously waiting to burst out to a willing set of ears. But, with ingredients…cooks and bakers often hold their secrets close to the chest.

The most obvious reason to keep an ingredient secret is when the secret is making you a lot of money, i.e. Coca-cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken. I suppose ego is another stimulus. It feels good and makes us proud to make something delicious that nobody else can replicate. And then there is the mystique… don’t we all hunger for things we can’t have or don’t know? Finally, my favorite reason for keeping an ingredient secret: If you say an ingredient is a secret, you can later reveal the ingredient with an extra dose of drama! (Although in the end, this means it wasn’t really a secret at all.)

So, I will get back to this incredibly moist, delicious chocolate cake. A few years ago, I was considering starting an organic cake business. I get slightly obsessed with things sometimes and the development phase of this scheme was intense. I researched and baked a LOT of cakes. It was during this time that I discovered my secret ingredient and finalized my favorite chocolate cake recipe. Since then, I have fed the cake to many people including two professional chefs all of whom praised the cake but none of whom guessed my secret! Each time, I smiled from ear to ear and then excitedly revealed that the cake contained two and a half cups of….(drum roll please)


Beets. That’s right. Two and a half cups of cooked, pureed beets. I figured that if pureed carrots make my carrot cake recipe so moist and delicious, there must be other root vegetables that serve the same purpose. I researched beets in chocolate cake, fooled around with a few recipes I found, added a chocolate cream cheese frosting and… Voila! The best chocolate cake I have ever made. Give this recipe a try and add beets to your chocolate cake repertoire. But, keep it a secret!

Chocolate Beet Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 3 – 8 inch layers OR 2 – 9 inch layers with a few cupcakes.
2 1/2 cups cooked beets, pureed and then cooled
6 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 3/4 cups sugar
3 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together beets and eggs and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine cocoa, vanilla and oil. Mix well. In another separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients into the oil and cocoa mixture, mixing together. Finally, add the beet and egg mixture mixing until well incorporated. Stop and marvel at the gorgeous color of this cake batter. Pour into greased and floured pans. Or, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Bake cakes for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and top of cake springs back to the touch. (Try 18-20 minutes for cupcakes) Cook cakes in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out to a rack. Wait until completely cool to frost the cake.

For the Frosting:
(double this for a 3 layer cake)
1/4 pound butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa

Mix together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla. Sift together sugar and cocoa in a separate bowl. Add the sugar mixture to the butter mixture little by little until stiff. If needed, refrigerate to reach firmer consistency for frosting.

-Cake layers freeze well if wrapped tightly.
-Beets can be made and pureed in advance and kept in the refrigerator a few days.
-Put a dab of frosting on your cake plate or stand to hold the cake in place while frosting.

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37 Responses to “The BEST Chocolate Cake & My Most Secret Ingredient”

  1. Claire Says:

    Wow. This sounds so intriguing! I’m going to have to try it. Have a good weekend!

  2. Jodi Says:

    Oh my that looks AMAZING!

  3. Molly Says:

    I love the thought of this, Caroline! And I’ve been looking for a recipe for chocolate cream cheese frosting. That’s my idea of heaven…

  4. rachel Says:

    Yummy! I’ve been wanting to make a chocolate beet cake for ages!

  5. Todd Says:

    I printed this recipe and I am putting it into my Notebook of recipes. Hopefully I will get to try it one of these days. It sounds great!

  6. Casey Says:

    Wow! I never knew that a chocolate cake could be made amazing by the addition of BEETS. Of all things. As soon as I get up the nerve, I’m going to try and make this.

  7. mary ford Says:

    you have a good writing style and a great personal voice . I am really enjoying your blog. haven’t ever visited a blog before! Love your food ideas.
    i haven’t had time to try a specific item yet but i plan to…when we return from our ski vacation in Breckenridge.
    i am glad that your friend who had cancer has recovered!!
    I am going to pass the word to some of my foodie friends.
    Best wishes,
    Mary ford

  8. Stephanie Says:

    I have eaten this cake and Caroline is not lying to you…it is GOOOOOOOD.

  9. Courtney Says:

    I am in the process of baking the cake right now…in a 10 inch springform pan. I’m not sure if I did the recipe right…I measured 2.5 cups of pureed beets. I don’t know if I was supposed to measure the beets, then puree. Cake is very loose and after baking for about an hour and a half at 350 degrees, it is still not set. Getting a little worried since I am baking this cake for my boyfriend’s birthday. I hope that all the measurements for the rest of the ingredients were correct. Will write back with results.

  10. Courtney Says:

    Well after baking the cake for a little over 2 hours, it finally set. It was a little crispy on the sides because of the long baking time…which couldn’t be helped since I had to keep baking it in order to make the middle of the cake set. I finally frosted the cake too, but the frosting didn’t come out as dark as the picture. It’s more of a hot chocolate color (kinda light brown), not a deep dark brown. Overall the cake was very moist, but since I measured out pureed beets, it possibly was more beets than the recipe called for. I think that if I measured out the beets in chunks, then pureed, it would have been a lot less. The cake did taste a little earthy, but if you keep on eating you can’t really tell. The cake also felt heavy (I weighed it…it weighed in at 6 pounds…that didn’t include the four texas size muffins that I made with the extra cake batter)…a 1/16 piece of cake was very filling. I will try this recipe again, but will measure the beets differently to see how much of difference it makes. Will write back with results.

  11. Baking tips for perfect baked goods Says:

    [...] Recently, I had some feedback from a reader who was making my Best Chocolate Cake Recipe. In an email exchange with her, I realized that I was perhaps not always giving as many instructions as I could or should for baked goods. There are some things that I have come to take for granted after many episodes of trial and error, a few small kitchen fires, some ruined cakes and a shed tear or two. Although I am no expert and recognize I still have a lot to learn, below are a few things that will help beginning bakers make the best of each recipe. BAKERS – please add your own tips and tricks in the comments! [...]

  12. Erica80 Says:

    I guess I’ll have to try it to believe it

  13. Kelly Says:

    I don’t like beets but we got some from the farm and I had to find something to do with them. I remembered reading somewhere that you could put them in chocolate cake & not taste it. Soo…I went searching online and found your recipe. My children and I made it this afternoon and had it for dessert tonight when we had company over. Oh my gosh….delicious!! And no one could guess the secret ingredient (or Iron Chef ingredient as my children call it).

  14. Michelle Says:

    Hello! I would love to recieve your blog! Is there a way for me to get it emailed to me when u post a new blog?


  15. Ben Says:

    I love beets! Very moist…. though a bit heavy and dense for my taste in a cake. I’d suggest a reduction in the oil somehow. Also, how do you recommend cooking the beets… boil… roast? I roasted with walnut oil and honey and then pureed. Also, I added about a cup of semisweet chocolate chips.

  16. Chocolate Layer Birthday Cake :: Whipped Says:

    [...] I love making birthday cakes. Last week, I decided on a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for Mini Whipped’s first birthday. Admittedly, I chose chocolate just so the messy-face cake photos would be extra dramatic. I didn’t have time to cook and puree beets for my best chocolate cake recipe, so I decided to try this new one. One cupcake for the baby and a layer cake for the rest us. [...]

  17. ally Says:

    made this cake for a birthday party and it was a big time hit!!!

  18. Rachel Says:

    I made this cake and oh my g-d was it good, but I had to clean it up for my life style. I’m trying to eat a more clean diet. Natural Sugars no white at all. Limiting oils and white flours. So I hope you don’t mind I made a few changes. But I’m for sure giving your recipe to my kids school they should make this for the Birthday cup cakes instead of the dry garbage they produce. Thanks :)

  19. Cat Says:

    Typically when an ingredient says something like 2 1/2 cups of beets, pureed, it means measure the 2 1/2 c. of beets, THEN puree.

  20. Caroline Says:

    This recipe is intended to be measured AFTER pureed. The problem is, if you measure before, the amount of beets would vary depending on how big the pieces are cut before you put them in a measuring cup.

  21. Sharon Says:

    I made your chocolate beet cake yesterday and it’s the most amazing chocolate cake I’ve ever made or eaten. It was amazing. I was a bit concerned about the amount of sugar and oil but went for it because we’re big fans of carrot cake and the ingredients are similar. The texture was perfect, and it was not overly sweet or chocolatey at all. There was a hint of beet flavor, and the color was gorgeous. The only problem was all the dumb beet jokes that came out as everyone devoured their cake! Wow~thank you for sharing

  22. The pros and cons of open source: a .Net example « Blog | PRI. Web. Mobile. Print. The Works. Says:

    [...] the age-old practice of sharing recipes. You share your chocolate cake recipe with Caroline and she adds pureed beets that make your recipe even better. She shares it back with you and also to her other friends and [...]

  23. Laurie Says:

    I cut back the sugar to 2 1/2 cups and it was perfectly sweet, especially with frosting (I did chocolate)…thanks for the recipe.

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    I’m so glad I found this recipe! I have been telling my fiancĂ© about a bet cake for some time now and bambo here it is.

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  37. Carrie Says:

    I’ve made this cake before…almost identical recipe of my mom’s….and it’s delicious! My kids LOVE it. Who knew!? :O)

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