I have a confession to make. I’m really not much of a baker. As someone who is a serial offender of trying to “break the rules” when it comes to making recipes, baking is far too strict for me, and my brave healthy attempts usually end in pity parties accompanied by mountains of funky food trials, which my family politely eats anyway. I have little patience for baked goods, usually pacing the kitchen anxiously as they take their time to set in the oven, unable to adjust and tinker like I’m so accustomed to doing with other types of recipes. Baking is a science, they say. Well, science was always my worst subject anyway. Hello #ArtStudent.
But. Every now and again I get in a mood where only something fluffy and pretty will do, and the baking pans come out despite my internal rational warnings. So was the case last weekend. After seeing a chocolate beet cake in a cookbook, I had it in my head that I wanted to do my own version … but got extremely carried away with healthy upgrades. Low sugar! Good fats! Cholesterol Free! Let’s change everything! And rather than come to my senses at this point, I decided to try out all of my ideas on one recipe (which if you’re trying to systematically test a recipe, is a truly terrible idea). I mixed; I mashed; I blended; I poured. I said a little prayer as the cake went into the oven, before starting to work on a fairly strange idea for a frosting too. The cake came out, the frosting went on, the whole thing went to rest for a bit, and then I went to test it, expecting to react somewhere between disappointed and amused.
It was … amazing.
This probably goes down as one of the weirdest cakes I’ve ever made (I mean look at the ingredients … it’s waaaaaaay too healthy for a cake), but it works! It’s rich and chocolatey, moist, not overly sweet, with a cream cheese-like frosting. You would never guess all the goodness that was going on in its composition. I’m a little embarrassingly proud of this recipe, and couldn’t be more happy to share its many crazy secrets.
Sweetheart Chocolate Cake
This is not just any chocolate cake – it’s one that’s actually good for your heart! Each extra-moist, chocolatey (but not overly sweet!) bite contains an impressive array of cardiovascular-friendly foods, including cacao, chia, avocado, and beets … not to mention it’s cholesterol-free too! Even better, the cream-cheese-like frosting is low glycemic, low sugar, and heart healthy as well, thanks to its base of plant-based fats.
Makes 1 single-layer cake / 10-12 servings
For the Cake:
2 tablespoons chia powder
1/3 cup water
¾ cup gluten free baking flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 tablespoon maca powder
3 tablespoons cacao nibs
1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup mashed avocado
¼ cup melted coconut oil
1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup freshly shredded beets
For the Frosting:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
6 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoon agave nectar
15 drops liquid stevia
2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
For the Garnish:
3 tablespoons cacao nibs
Edible flower petals (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, and dust lightly with a little flour.
In a small bowl, whisk together the chia powder and water. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cacao, maca, cacao nibs, and chocolate chips (if using) – mix well. In a separate large bowl, combine the avocado with the chia mixture, whisking vigorously until avocado is a smooth puree without lumps. Mix in the coconut oil and coconut sugar, then fold in the beets. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until just combined – batter will be fairly thick. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan, lightly smoothing out the top into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean (a few crumbs are okay for this cake, just so long as it’s not gooey). Place on a baking rack to partially cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then carefully flip onto the rack to finish cooling.
While the cake is baking, make the frosting. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the coconut oil. Process until completely smooth, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides as needed – this will take a few minutes. Once smooth, add the coconut oil and process once more to combine.
When the cake is cool, frost with the cashew frosting, and scatter the remaining cacao nibs on top (and flowers, if using). Loosely cover, and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour before serving to allow the frosting to solidify and set.
Cake should be stored loosely covered and refrigerated, where it will last about 5 days.
Chef’s notes: Instead of the frosting, you can also simplify the recipe by serving with a sweetened coconut whip and berries, or plant-based cream cheese frosting.