Cook the Book: Beet Seed Cake

Cook the Book: Beet Seed Cake

[Photographs: Jonathan Lovekin]

You might assume that this Beet Seed Cake would be made with well, beet seeds. Before you start running to the garden center in search of ingredients you should probably know this cake is made with beets and seeds, not beet seeds. Sounds weird, right?

I thought so too but in the intro of Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch, Nigel Slater likens it to another genius root vegetable-based dessert, the carrot cake. Though not quite as sugary as carrots, beets do possess a sweetness and distinct earthiness that comes through in this cake. When making the batter, the beets are grated and blended in, dyeing the batter an eye-popping magenta.

Testing out this recipe at home I was expecting a bright pink loaf to emerge from the oven, but somehow during the baking, the batter returned to a less exciting, tan cakey hue. But the little shreds of bright beets remained and the orange flower water and poppy seed glaze prettied it up.

Adding a selection of crunchy, nutty, and very good-for-you seeds (flax, sunflower, and pumpkin) are also incorporated into the cake giving it an unexpected textural excitement as well as a decidedly healthy element, especially when you factor in the beets. All of these vitamin-rich additions make this coffeecake-like Beet Seed Cake a great excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch to give away this week.

Reprinted with permission from Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. Copyright © 2009, 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

  • Yield:8 to 10
  • Active time: 20 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour 10 minutes


  • 1 3/4 cups (225g) self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 scant teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) sunflower or Brazil nut oil
  • 1 cup (225g) light muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 5 ounces raw beets
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins or raisins
  • 1/2 cup mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax)
  • For the icing:
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Lemon juice or orange blossom water
  • Poppy seeds 


  1. 1.

    Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly butter a rectangular loaf pan (8 x 4 inches [20 x 9cm], measured across the bottom, and 23/4 inches [7cm] deep), then line the bottom with parchment paper. 

  2. 2.

    Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Beat the oil and sugar in a stand mixer until well blended, then mix in the egg yolks one at a time. Grate the beets coarsely and fold into the mixture, then add the lemon juice, golden raisins, and the seeds. 

  3. 3.

    Fold the flour, baking soda, and baking powder into the beet mixture and combine at low speed.

  4. 4.

    In a separate clean bowl, beat the egg whites until light and almost stiff. Fold gently but thoroughly into the beet mixture, using a large metal spoon (a wooden one will knock the air out). Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for fifty to fifty-five minutes, covering the top with a piece of aluminum foil after thirty minutes. Test with a skewer for doneness. The cake should be moist inside but not sticky. Let the cake rest for a good twenty minutes before turning it out of its pan onto a wire cooling rack.

  5. 5.

    To make the icing: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and add enough lemon juice or orange blossom water to achieve a consistency where the icing will run over the top of the cake and drizzle slowly down the sides (about three teaspoonfuls), stirring to remove any lumps. Drizzle it over the cake and scatter with poppy seeds. Rest for a bit to set before eating.