Last week I strolled into my neighborhood drug store to pick up a few things and was greeted by a huge pink and red display of corny gifts, crimson boxes of chocolates, and love-themed cards all emphasized with ceiling-high streamers of twisted crepe paper. I couldn’t believe it was already time to think about Valentine’s Day again! It seems to sneak up on me every year just as the holiday hangover has finally subsided.

Since there’s nothing like a cheesy, drug store holiday display to kick one’s ass into gear, I started thinking about what I was going to make you. That’s right, I know we haven’t been together very long, but I couldn’t not make you a little something for Valentine’s Day. So after the drug store, I went straight over to the produce stand (because I know how much you love vegetables!) and started scheming. Love…chocolate…red…beets? Beets! That’s right; the February feature for The Seasonal Seattleite is beets.

What’s that you say? You hate beets? They taste like sweet dirt? I know, I know. I used to hate beets too. We had a violent disagreement one Russian Easter after I ate too many and ended up hugging the porcelain throne all night, but lately I’ve been getting back into them. They are so pretty; I love the color of the deep, ruby flesh. They are fairly sweet, but luckily they play well with other assertive flavors like tangy cheese, citrus fruits, nuts, vinegars, and chocolate. Now chocolate and I have never had any quarrels, we get along just dandy.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to approach a food you have a spotty history with or are nervous about trying is to pair it with a familiar flavor that you love. I happen to love chocolate. And cake. And you, dear reader. So this Valentine’s Day, I’ve made you chocolate beet cupcakes topped with tangy cocoa cream cheese frosting.

They don’t taste of beets at all, and they certainly don’t taste healthy. The beets (high in folate, manganese, potassium, and fiber), contribute a natural sweetness that allows to for the sugar/fat in the batter to be reduced, in addition to giving the cakes a moist, tender crumb that rivals any chocolate cupcake. And the cream cheese frosting, although totally superfluous, is what we all know makes a muffin-shaped cake into a full-blown cupcake.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. The second Seasonal Seattleite recipe for February will be coming shortly, stay tuned!

Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Cocoa Cream Cheese Frosting

Don’t tell your sweetie (or anyone else for that matter) that these amazing cupcakes have beets in them or that the frosting is low-fat; they’ll never know! The cupcakes and icing can be made a day in advance and refrigerated overnight and can be served cold or at room temperature. Any unused frosting can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, and is delicious on toast, crepes (à la Nutella-style), or fruit.

Makes 24 cupcakes or 1, 9-inch cake


For the cupcakes:

6 small or 3 large beets

250g (2 cups) all-purpose flour

9.2g (2 teaspoons) baking soda

11g (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder

1.5g (¼ teaspoon) salt

113g (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

100g (½ cup) granulated sugar

110g (½ cup) light brown sugar

150g (3 large) eggs, room temperature

4.2g (1 teaspoon) vanilla

113g (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate

109g (½ cup) canola oil

For the frosting:

227g (1, 8-ounce package) reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature (Neufchatel works well)

56g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

a pinch of salt

65g (¾ cup) cocoa powder

300g (3 cups) powdered sugar

16g (1 tablespoon) milk

Peel the beets, trim the tops and bottoms, and halve them (quarter them if using large beets). Place in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Simmer the beets over medium-low heat until fork tender, about 40 minutes. Drain the beets and peel them once they are cool by rubbing off the skins with your fingers. Place the cooked beets in a food processor or blender and puree until absolutely smooth. Measure 300g (2 cups) of the puree, reserving any remaining puree for another use (it’s tasty mixed into hummus!)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 12-cup cupcake pans (or 4 6-cup pans) with paper liners and place them on cookie sheets.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars together with a handheld mixer for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each one, then the vanilla.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (about 1-2 minutes total, stirring every 30 seconds). Stir the oil into the melted chocolate. Pour the chocolate mixture and beet puree into the creamed butter mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Finally, add the flour mixture and beat until the batter is smooth, 1 minute.

Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake pans, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Cream the cream cheese, butter and salt together in a large bowl with a handheld mixer. Add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Adjust the consistency with milk to your liking, adding more sugar for thicker frosting or more milk for a thinner, glaze-like frosting. Refrigerate the frosting until ready to use.

Ice the cooled cupcakes with the frosting using a piping bag, offset spatula, or spoon. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.