It is a glorious place with fat carp swimming in ponds and another pond full of glittering goldfish. There were rows and rows of dahlias, their jewel colours shimmering in the sunlight. There was indeed a band and we sat outside the cafe on a bench, the scent of lavender wafting on the breeze and enjoyed a cup of tea while listening to the band play the Dambusters tune. The experience fired my enthusiasm for gardening so I rushed home and weeded and remembered that some weeks ago I had planted some seeds that had grown into plump, purple beetroot.
I adore beetroot. It can be eaten raw, grated into salad and it can be baked, boiled or roasted and pickled. The leaves can also be cooked like spinach. I prefer to boil my beetroot so I cut off the leaves and stalks, washed them and boiled them in a saucepan until tender. Large beetroot can take an hour to cook. Beetroot is delicious with goat's cheese or other soft cheese but it can also be added to cake to give depth, moisture and richness to a chocolate cake. Here is my recipe for chocolate beetroot cake. You can bake it in one large tin and that will need about 35-40 minutes but I prefer to use 2 sandwich tins as the cake bakes quicker and more evenly. I like to decorate it with a rich chocolate ganache, but it is equally delicious with fresh cream and raspberries.
3 tbsp hot water
180g/6oz cooked beetroot
200g/7oz dark chocolate
200g/7oz unsalted butter
125g/4oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
180g/6oz caster sugar
100g plain chocolate
200ml double cream
Knob of unsalted butter
2 mixing bowls
2 sandwich tins, greased and lined with baking paper
1. Place the beetroot and water in a blender and blend to a smooth puree.
2. Break up the chocolate and put it in a bowl, together with the butter over a saucepan of hot water and allow them to melt.
3. Weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder and set aside.
4. Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then add the sugar gradually until you have a glossy meringue.
5. Whisk the egg yolks until creamy then add the chocolate and butter, then add that to the egg whites.
6. Fold in the dry ingredients, then pour the cake mixture into 2 sandwich tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and turn the cakes out of the pans and leave to cool on a rack.
8. While the cake is cooling, pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat it until it just starts to bubble then turn off heat and add the chocolate. When the chocolate has melted, whisk in a knob of butter until you have a glossy ganache. Leave to cool and thicken.
9. Place your cake on the serving plate, dip the palette knife in boiling water and spread half the ganache on the bottom layer. Place the second sponge on top and spread the rest of the ganache on top. Decorate with fresh raspberries or chocolate shapes.