BBJJ: Chocolate Beet Sheet Cake


As part of my review of the new cookbook Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Canadian blogger Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, as usual, I cooked the book. Like Aimée, I decided to follow the seasons and picked recipes from her Autumn and Winter sections. The Chicken Leek Shepherd’s Pie can be found here. Now on to the Chocolate Beet Sheet Cake.

I have a love-hate relationship with chocolate cake. Truth be told, it was never my favourite, I’m more of a walnut or, better yet, pound cake girl. But I have a son. Who is a chocolate fanatic with nary a sweet tooth, so don’t try to sneak in a vanilla cake unawares.

When kiddo was a toddler, I would take Friday afternoons off, pull him out of kindergarten and go for lunch at a nearby café. He would always ask for the same thing: whatever cream soup was on the daily menu… and chocolate cake. He looked forward to that cake so much that I always asked the waiter to bring it first. You can imagine how many weird, even disapproving looks, I received. I felt like some TV reality monster mom.

But I knew something all those judgmental waiters didn’t. See, my son would eat a few bites of the always too-huge cake slice, then push it away and turn to the main event, the soup with plenty of baguette bread, please. (That boy learned how to lift his finger, look up expectantly at a waiter rushing by and say “Baguette please” too fast for comfort. Kids and bread could be an entire post, even series, by itself.) By not making chocolate cake a treat, by almost defusing the notion of dessert, I was actually teaching him a precious lesson about sweets in general. To this day, neighbourhood kids and friends will finish their dessert, but my son, rarely so. And yeah, I take pride in that, however unorthodox the method.

So when I asked kiddo to flip through Brown Eggs and Jam Jars and choose himself a recipe, of course he picked the chocolate cake. He was supposed to bake it with me during school break, but ended up building a fort with his friends in the street. I gave him a pass — not always easy to get kids to play outside with the stiff competition from iPad —, and set about making the cake myself. I didn’t have a sheet pan so I baked a 9×9 cake and a few muffins on the side with the excess batter.

Aimée recommends you cook the beets up to 3 days before, then purée and drain. I wrapped mine individually in foil, put them directly on the middle rack and roasted them in a 200°C (400°F) oven for 45 minutes.


When my son and his friend came in from playing, I served them the warm cake barely 30 minutes out of the oven. Both ate with relish, although my son said the cake tasted different, not chocolatey enough (he still ate most of it over the next three days). I sent our neighbour home with a few muffins. He looked at me so happily as I handed them over, then sneaked in a “I’ll ask my mom to put icing”… Drats, missed that one. Can you tell I don’t do dessert.


The recipe asks for a 1/4 cup of buttermilk. I always lose buttermilk whenever I buy it, so I decided to make my own by combining milk and white vinegar. Think 1 tbsp of vinegar for every 1/4 cup of milk as a rule of thumb. Let it curdle on the counter for 15 minutes and voilà. Great for cooking, lumps and all.


In her liner notes, Aimée explains that she wanted to make a chocolate cake that would be healthier than the packaged ones from her youth. Indeed, this cake tastes light, not as sweet or fat. The hint of beet fades over time, so I liked it better the next day. With a glass of milk (and that forgotten icing), it’s the kind of cake you can feel good about serving your family.

Recipe excerpted from Brown Eggs and Jam Jars. To find out more or to buy it from Amazon:


  • 1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Oil a 13x9 inch (3 L) baking pan.
  • 2. Purée the cooked beets in a food processor and measure to obtain 250 ml (1 cup) purée. Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and leave to drain while you prepare the batter.
  • 3. In a medium bowl, sift together flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Crack eggs into another bowl and whisk until frothy. Pour in melted butter and beat to incorporate. Add honey and maple syrup, then beat again until smooth and glossy. Add coffee and drained purée, combining well.
  • 4. Gently whisk dry ingredients into wet ones. Pour in buttermilk and whisk to eliminate lumps, but do not overmix. Pour batter into pan and spread top with a spatula.
  • 5. Bake in oven 25-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slice into squares to serve.