This is very lightly adapted from pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini's Scharffen Berger recipe.
This cake turns out deliciously chocolatey and moist, with the beets imparting a subtle, earthy undertone. As Iuzzini put it, "It doesn't taste like beets; but if the beet puree wasn't there, you'd miss it." To make the beet puree, quarter the beets—four large ones will be more than enough—and boil them until tender and the skin slips off easily, about 20 minutes (depending on the size). Puree with a standard or stick blender, and strain to get the big chunks out.
- Active time: 1 hour (including beet prep)
- Total time:1 hour 20 minutes
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 vanilla beans, scraped, seeds only (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
- 1 cup beet puree
Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions and preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two standard-sized cupcake pans with paper cups.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, heating in 15-second increments and stirring between each one. Alternatively, you can place the chopped chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted.
Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Put the sugar, eggs, and oil in a medium bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and whip at high speed with the whisk attachment until the eggs are pale and roughly tripled in volume, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the dry ingredients in 2 additions, then the chocolate and the beet puree, mixing well after each addition.
Fill each cup 3/4 of the way to the top, and bake until a tester placed in the center cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Allow to cool in the trays completely before frosting.