Wholefood Cooking

Chocolate + Beetroot Cake, with love


Why cake ? Because joy and deliciousness are nutrients in their own right, as our love and beauty. With the cooler weather, the cakes I bake become a little richer and with Mothers Day coming up, I threw in a couple of frostings as well. We’re getting dressed up and special.

Now, this cake is an old recipe – it was hands down the best selling cake back in my Earth Market days (the wholefood cafe and store I co – founded back in the late 90’s), and one of the most popular recipes from my first book Wholefood – heal, nourish, delight. This post is going to be all about the cake, I’ve got to get it finished, and then finish of packing up my house as I move in 2 weeks (equal measures of arrrrgggghhhhh and excitement). All of these beautiful photos ©Harriet Harcourt 

The cake itself:

  1. If you choose to use the rapadura sugar it will be less sweet, more whole and possibly a little drier (a bit similar to my Coffee and Walnut Cake from Wholefood Baking) – this is because sugar makes up part of the liquid percentage in baking. But, I reduced the amount of sugar from the original also, and I give you the option of increasing it in the recipe (this will help to moisten it up). You can also get around this by baking it as one 20cm cake, then cutting it into 3 – I chose to divide the batter as 3 individual cakes, but think it suffered for that – mind you, there were very few complaints from the WACA (West Australian Cricket Association) testing crew – some did find it a little dry.
  2. This cake is largely dairy free – see cake itself recipe. The chocolate fudge frosting is dairy free but I chose to use the raspberry better buttercream for the in-between layers. If you would like to use all chocolate, there will be enough frosting to layer the cakes, and top and side  it. The raspberry BB will only be enough for the 2 layers – you will need to double it if you want some for the top and side.
  3. The cocoa powder. Please, do not use raw cocoa powder – you won’t find any in my pantry. This recipe is designed for, and uses a dutched cocoa – this is a less acidic cocoa. It’s tricky to know which good (organic) brands are, but certainly Organic Times is, and generally freely available.

How to put the cake together:

1: I didn’t stress about making a perfect cake, hence I put it basically together on the workbench. But you can put it together on a cardboard round (making it easier to move onto the cake stand), and also do it on a cake turntable stand. I’m using my 15cm palette knife, here and for pretty much the entire cake.


2: Start by placing a very generous amount of chocolate frosting on top of the cake, then push it towards the edge, taking it down the side of the cake. continue this until the entire cake is covered. When it is entirely covered, pick it up using a larger palette knife and place on the cake stand.


3. I use my stainless steel squared off dough scraper, and gently turn the cake around while I even out the frosting on the side, then on to my trusty 15cm palette to tidy and clean it all up.


4: Onto decorating and eating !


Being a mum of my beautiful daughter Nessie, is without doubt the blessing of my life – here we are (when I still had dark hair) circa 1986, and how grateful I am to my mum, without whom I would have not been able to do a fraction of what I’ve been able to do in my life. Blessed indeed, and I wish the same for you… x jude

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake


3 medium beetroot (to equal 2 cups puree)
375 g white spelt flour
1 cup dutched cocoa
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 - 2 cups (measured at 150g per cup) rapadura sugar
375 ml macadamia oil
125ml / 1/2 cup milk (any is fine)
1 1/2 tablespoons / 30ml natural vanilla extract
3 eggs

Try to use smaller, rather than larger and old beetroot. I have used macadamia oil, but a really good, fruity and sweet olive oil would work also (you will have to taste it). Ghee would work also, but make sure it is a liquid (but not hot).


Wash the unpeeled beets, then steam for 30 minutes or until tender. Leave to cool, then remove the skins and puree in a food processor – you should have 2 cups of puree.

Pre heat the oven to 170c, or 150c fan forced (I needed to drop it to 145 in my fan forced). Lightly grease 3 x 20cm sandwich cake tins, and line the base with baking paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar and whisk gently to combine. In a separate bowl, blend the oil, milk, beetroot puree, vanilla and eggs together well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until combined. Divide between the 3 tines, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the centre is cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If you have made this as one 20cm cake, it will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook.

Leave to cool before removing from the tin.

Creamy Chocolate and Coconut Fudge Frosting


300 ml coconut milk (full cream, with no additives whatsoever)
3 teaspoons agar powder
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or kudzu
60g / 1/2 cup dutched cocoa powder
375 ml / 1 1/2 cups maple syrup
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
100 g dark chocolate - I use Green & Blacks 70%, chopped into very small pieces

You will need to begin this frosting the day before using. Measurements count in this recipe so be careful, and remember I use a 20ml tablespoon. You can use a dark chocolate between 50 – 70%, no higher. I have a preference for the Rapunzel Dark Chocolate (which is 56%), or a Green & Blacks 70% dark.  (I’ve given you an NSW link, but many stores stock it).


Place 1 cup of the coconut milk in a saucepan and whisk in the agar powder. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil, whisking frequently to prevent the agar sticking to the base. When the mixture comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 6 – 7 minutes, whisking frequently. After a couple of minutes, stirring rather than whisking is all that’s needed.

Meanwhile, place the cornstarch in a small bowl with the remaining coconut milk and mix to a smooth paste. Remove the agar mixture from the heat, whisk in the cocoa and maple syrup, then add the cornstarch mixture and whisk to combine well. Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken and loose its cloudy look as it starts to boil, although it can be tricky to see whether the mixture is boiling as it is almost too heavy for the bubble to rise up through.

Remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract and chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Pour into a bowl, leave to cool for 15 minutes, then press a piece of baking paper on the surface and refrigerate for 1 hour or until set and cold.

Break what will be a firm mixture into pieces and process in a blender of food processor until smooth and silky – this will take some time, and you will need to scrape the sides down frequently.

Raspberry Better Buttercream


1 tablespoon cornstarch
60ml (1/4 cup) rice milk (or dairy milk)
60 ml (1/4 cup) coconut milk (or dairy milk)
125 g unsalted butter, softened
75 g golden icing sugar, sieved
1-2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
90 g (3/4 cup) raspberries (if frozen, thaw them first in a sieve over a small bowl, using the watery juices for some other use)

My flagship frosting – lighter than the normal buttercream, less rich and uses less icing sugar but mighty delicious. With regards to icing sugar, my preference has been to use the Billingtons Golden Icing Sugar, but I’m finding this increasingly hard to source. I encourage you to sleuth some out, and when you find it buy lots. Otherwise, you’ve only got an organic white option. It is essential that your butter is soft here, especially in winter. Your puree will incorporate more easily into the mix if your butter is soft.


Place the cornstarch in a small saucepan, add 1/4 cup milk and mix to a smooth paste, then adding the remaining milk. Place over medium heat, stirring constantly until boiling and thickened – because it is so thick, you won’t see bubble to indicate a boil, but rather a gentle lift at the base of the pan. Spoon into a small bowl and set aside until just cool.

Using the back of a spoon, press the berries into the sieve to get a lovely puree. You will need 3 tablespoons (1/4 cup). Discard the seeds and pulp.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, then add the icing sugar and beat for a few more minutes or until well combined. Add the just cooled milk mixture, vanilla paste and beat for another 2 – 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the puree, beating it in well before adding the remaining tablespoon. Continue to beat until the icing is beautifully smooth and fluffy, scraping down the slides from time to time.