It's hard to mess up a chocolate cake...unless you're adding a vegetable to it. I'll admit I was a little dubious as someone who is pretty beet ambivalent. But color me a beet convert. The cake, which is brushed with hot fudge immediately before plating, is moist and tender, and the chocolate comes through in a comfortingly familiar way. Instead of competing with the chocolate, the beets enhance it with a vegetal sweetness that lurks quietly in the background. Surrounding the cake is an exciting buffet of textures in the form of crispy chewy fried wild rice, a dark chocolate feuilletine streusel, and crunchy beet chips. Honey crème anglaise and crème fraîche ice cream provide creaminess and just a bit of tang.
Anna starts by boiling fresh peeled beets in water for around half an hour or until they are easily cut with a spoon.
Anna strains the boiled beets and purees them in a food processor. The cooled puree will be added to the wet ingredients of the cake.
The beet puree is added to eggs, water, and oil. Not only do they enhance the flavor of the chocolate in the final product, their deep red color also makes for a beautiful dark chocolate cake.
Anna folds flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda into the wet ingredients, and then pipes the batter into a mini cake tin.
Anna also slices fresh beets on a mandolin and poaches them in simple syrup. She then strains them and spreads them out into a single layer before baking them at a low temperature between two sheet pans to keep them flat.
Beet Sauce Spices
Spices like star anise, whole cloves, and cardamom are added to the simple syrup leftover from poaching the beet chips. The mixture is boiled until it reduces by about half to create a spiced beet sauce. Anna's background in savory often leads her to start her creative process with a flavor profile as opposed to a specific sweet construct like cake or pie. In this case she knew she wanted a beet-centric dessert. After deciding upon a chocolate beet cake, she added the beet syrup and chips to enhance the flavor of the beets in the cake.
One of the many great textures to this dessert comes from puffed wild rice. Anna fries uncooked wild rice at 450 degrees for only a handful of seconds until each grain suddenly bursts and puffs up dramatically.
Anna likes using fried wild rice because it's an unusual crunch that is not nut-based (she always tries to have at least one nut-free dessert on the menu), and this same rice is also used in a carrot dish on the savory portion of The Publican's menu.
The puffed wild rice is salted immediately out of the oil while it's still warm.
Plating Step One
Anna arranges a semi-circle of puffed rice into the bowl and accents it with clusters of a dark chocolate feuilletine streusel. While both ingredients add crunch to the final dessert, the rice is a salty, chewier crunch while the streusel is more delicate and sweet.
Plating Step Two
The baked beet chips, which are so crunchy I never would have believed they weren't fried, and naturally colored beet sauce are added next. As a painting-major-turned-chef, Anna pays special attention to color in her desserts.
Anna brushes hot fudge onto the warm chocolate cake for an extra boost of fudgy moisture.
Plating Step Three
The chocolate cake joins the party with a creamy, tangy crème fraîche ice cream that's spun from crème fraîche made in-house.
Crème anglaise made with Johnson Creek Farms honey is poured table-side.
Warm Chocolate Beet Cake
Anna is always conscious of creating lighter desserts since she knows diners are feasting on heavy foods like sausage and a myriad other incarnations of pork before they ever see her menu. So the acidity of the crème fraîche ice cream and salted wild rice help to balance the sweetness of the cake and keep it from becoming too rich of a dessert. Working in a savory kitchen that changes the menu on a daily basis, Anna strives to switch up her own menu every one to two weeks. One idea she has been playing around with is a handful of mignardises, or one-bite desserts, but done in a more casual way in fitting with The Publican's philosophy.