A beetroot cake is not the most exciting type of cake to most people. I understand that reaction to the idea of a cake with beets in it. Honestly, I never understood why cakes needed vegetables in the first place. That disdain has long been replaced by an interest, even enthusiasm for cakes that use vegetables in surprisingly delicious ways. This beetroot cake is my humble shot at creating a healthy and delicious sweet snack.
Your daily cake
Cakes can be fancy and complicated with crafty decorations and exotic ingredients. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But those are treats to be had on special occasions. What about everyday cakes; a partner for your daily cup of tea or coffee, an easy, mid-morning snack or a quick, on-the-go breakfast? The daily cake plays many roles. It fits into a hurriedly-packed lunchbox, it is served to impress the unannounced guest and it can be shared with anyone at a moment’s notice. My barley and beetroot cake is meant to be just that. Something simple and sweet.
Wholegrain and eggless
Daily cakes should be somewhat healthy – not too sweet, fattening or packed with super-processed ingredients. They should also be easy and quick to bake with readily available ingredients. Happily, this beetroot cake checks all those boxes. More and more, I try to bake with wholegrain flours and in this I’ve had my share of misses. This one though, I’m certifying as a hit, based on reliable peer reviews. The 100 per cent barley cake has the earthy nuttiness of barley, which I quite like. It also has lower gluten than regular wheat flour.
Going egg-free in this beetroot cake recipe, I added thick buttermilk both for binding and keeping the crumb moist. While I love the richness of butter cakes, for health reasons, I limit them to special occasion cakes. So here, olive oil works well. Sunflower oil would too. White sugar made way for jaggery with its deep molasses-like flavour. But jaggery has a strong flavour of its own, so if you want a more neutral sweetness, use light brown or raw sugar instead.
Surprise with spice
I often cook beetroot stir fried Indian-style with mustard and cumin seeds. This led me to think of cumin’s cousin, caraway, a favourite with bakers often used in breads, cookies and crackers. Beets are sweet with a light astringency and jaggery is also sweet but more caramel-like; they needed a hit of something aromatic and spicy that wouldn’t be overpowering. Caraway seeds or kala jeera as they’re known in Hindi, smell warm with a grassy pepperiness that is so loved in sweet and savoury jeera biscuits (cookies) so popular in India. Salt seems to underline this flavour the most, so I added about ¾ tsp salt to this cake.Together with the caraway seeds,it builds a welcome savoury dimension in the cake.
This beetroot cake recipe is an experiment to try and create dishes that are somewhat healthy while being delicious at the same time. The reactions from those who tasted it were positive, which convinced me to share it on the blog. If you do try it, and feel you can enhance or improve it, do send me your suggestions and ideas.
Barley and Beetroot Cake
- 180 g barley flour (jau ka atta)
- 220 g thick buttermilk
- 130 g powdered jaggery
- 60 g olive or sunflower oil
- 100 g beetroot, grated
- 1 tsp caraway seeds (kala jeera)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp soda bicarb
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- ¾ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 176°C and lightly grease and line a 8"x 8" square cake pan with baking parchment.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, caraway seeds, baking soda and baking powder.
- In a larger bow, whisk the oil, buttermilk, vinegar and jaggery powder till you get a smooth, liquid without any lumps of jaggery.
- Now fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture till just combined. Do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap it a few times to remove any air bubbles, and bake in the oven for 35-40 mins. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a skewer or toothpick in the centre; the skewer should come out dry.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before un-molding and cooling on a wire rack. Store in an airtight box.