It's a measure of changing tastes that it's almost impossible to find a reliable recipe for a simple beetroot cake; the first 16 pages of Google search results showed almost exclusively chocolate and beetroot cake recipes, and most of those without chocolate were paleo or so-called 'healthy'! I knew Nigel Slater had a recipe, but didn't want that one. In the end I searched through my store of pages torn from food magazines to go back to Nigella Lawson's recipe for 'Ruby Red Loaf Cake' and adapted it to suit the ingredients I wanted to use; the biggest adaptation, and worry about how well it would work, was using cooked beetroot instead of raw.
The recipe was published in Sainsbury's magazine in 2001, but I have no idea which book it was published in. My recollection of it was that the cake batter stayed pink when it baked, but I didn't manage to achieve that this time - possibly because I cut out the juice of half a lemon, or because I used already cooked beet rather than raw. I really should do some scientific research into this, to find out what keeps the colour in the beet as it cooks - a pink cake is so much more attractive!
200g cooked beetroot
250g butter at room temperature
200g light brown sugar
the zest of an orange, finely grated
3 large eggs
150g dried fruit (I used 40g dried sour cherries cut in half, 60g dried cranberries and 50g sultanas)
1 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice
150g SR flour
150g spelt flour
60 mls milk, to mix, plus more if necessary
50g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
the liquid from the drained beetroot - see method
Finely grate the beetroot and leave in a sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes, to allow excess liquid to drain off. Reserve this liquid if you want to frost the cake.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and prepare a deep 8" square cake tin.
Beat the butter sugar and orange zest together until light and fluffy, then slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of the flour each time.
Fold in the dried fruit, grated beetroot and spice, followed by half the flour, the milk, then the rest of the flour. If necessary add a little more milk to give a soft dropping consistency.
Transfer the batter to the cake tin and spread evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a test probe comes out cleanly.
Cool in the tin, on a wire rack, for at least 30 minutes before taking the cake out of the tin.
If desired, frost the cold cake using the sifted icing sugar mixed with the lemon juice and enough of the drained-off beet liquid to give a deep pink colour. I put the glacé icing into a plastic bag and snipped off the corner so that I could drizzle just a little icing over the cake.
This was a pleasant cake, very similar to a carrot cake. The beetroot couldn't be tasted, so the flavour was from the orange zest, spice and dried fruit. I'd have been happier with the cake if the beetroot had been more visible, but even the flecks of grated beet seemed to lose the pink colour during baking.