My dad and I bond over food—especially around Valentine’s Day. Every year without fail, he buys a sampler box of candy and we carefully pick our favorite paper-lined chocolate morsels from the heart-shaped molded plastic tray. This year I wanted to do something a little different, and that’s where Sweet Paleo: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Delights by Lea Hendry Valle (Countryman Press; March 2) comes in. You can find delectable desserts ranging from an easy chocolate chip cookie recipe to more sophisticated sweets like tiramisu, all in keeping with a Paleo diet.
I’ve never prepared anything Paleo before, but I’ve certainly enjoyed many dishes made by others who love this gluten-free and grain-free lifestyle. I’m open to experimenting and trying new foods, but unfortunately, the closest that Dad has ever come to Paleo is the caveman-like grunt he emits when you ask him to take out the trash in the middle of his favorite TV show. He’s a meat and potatoes guy all the way—so this would take a little coaxing —or flat out lying on my part. So, while I prepped the ingredients, I asked him to stay out of the kitchen. That didn’t work for long.
He noticed the main ingredient in the Chocolate Beet Pudding Cake right away—and exclaimed, “What the hell is that?” I told him the beet was for something else. His curiosity grew when he spotted the coconut flour, coconut oil and dark chocolate bars for the ganache and he said “So you’re making a coconut chocolate cake? Awesome!” From then on I let him think whatever he wanted and his excitement (and confusion) only grew when I pulled four crispy, sizzling strips of bacon out of the oven for the chocolate bacon ganache.
The beet was undoubtedly the most interesting part of the mix and provided amazing color and flavor for the cake batter (and for my kitchen floors!)That vibrant purple-red color was splattered across my kitchen when I attempted to take the lid off my food processor and the beet tumbled out of my hands and bounced across the floor. Not to worry—I’ve never been a very neat baker. Between spilling flour and beet juice on the floor, dripping maple syrup in between the cracks of the counter and the stove, and trying very hard not to burn dark chocolate in a double boiler, I had other things to worry about.
Once the cake had cooled and the chocolate bacon frosting was spread in even layers on top, we each tried a heavenly slice of this amazingly delicious dessert. The cake was seriously moist and the bacon provided that extra salty crunch that pairs so well with sweets. Dad was none the wiser and enjoyed every bite. It was not until the next evening when I admitted to him that things were not as they seemed and that the suspicious beet had indeed gone into the cake. At that point, he grunted and rolled his eyes, not looking too pleased—but I caught him sneaking another slice in the kitchen later that night.
Chocolate Beet Pudding Cake
Makes 1 (8-to-9-inch) cake
¾ cup (90g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine finely ground sea salt
10 large, moist Medjool dates, pitted
¾ cup apple juice
¾ cup chopped roast beets (about 1 large beet, roasted until very soft)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup liquefied coconut oil/or ghee/or unsalted pastured butter, melted.
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup strong brewed coffee
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8-or9-inch round cake pan with coconut oil and line with parchment paper
- Weigh the coconut flour and cocoa powder and sift together with the baking soda and salt into a medium size bowl; set aside.
- Place the dates in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Slowly add the apple juice to moisten the mixture.
- Add the beets and continue to pulse until pureed and combined with the dates. Process until the beet puree is completely smooth.
- Transfer the beet puree to the bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs, coconut oil, vanilla and coffee and mix on medium-low speed, using the whisk attachment, until well combined.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it with the back of a spatula.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (depending on pan size), or until a toothpick insert into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Chocolate Ganache and Bacon Frosting
Makes about 1 cup frosting
8 ounces dark chocolate (preferably 100% dark/bittersweet baking chocolate)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 to 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 pieces crisp cooked bacon (oven baked is fastest!) chopped into bits (optional)
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl on top of a pot of water and bring to a simmer.
- As the chocolate begins to melt, add the coconut oil and maple syrup
- Stir gently until the mixture melts and is smooth
- Check the taste and add a little more maple syrup, if you prefer
- Allow the chocolate ganache to cool
Stir in the bacon pieces, if using.