Chocolate-Beet Valentine Cupcakes

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.—Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

I find that people are deadly serious about beets. One friend told me they ‘taste like dirt’. Their earthy aroma and subtle sweetness is exactly why I love them. I prefer my beets roasted to candied perfection and paired with Rogue Creamery blue cheese and salad greens, but faced with an overabundance of beets from our produce delivery, I decided to go the only surefire way to get them into my kids’ stomachs—cupcakes.

I cobbled this recipe together from what I had on hand using a recipe from a friend as a guide (theirs called for melted chocolate, I only had cocoa). They came out moist and sweet with just the slightest hint of that wonderful earthiness. I believe even beet-doubters would enjoy these (my kids sure did).

Chocolate-Beet Valentine Cupcakes
I think these make for the perfect Valentine treat, something decadent, something surprising and something seasonal (you can find fresh beets at most February farmer’s markets).

1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa (I used dark chocolate)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 cups beet puree*

*To make beet puree, I peeled and trimmed 5 medium-sized beets and simmered them, covered in water, for just under an hour. Once cooled, I pureed them until very smooth in the food processor (a blender or food mill would probably work as well).

Preheat oven to 325F.
Fill 24 muffin tins with liners.

Combine melted butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla and water until smooth. Sift flour with cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet in small batches. Fold in beets.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Bake cupcakes for 20-30 minutes, checking for doneness with a knife. Allow to cool in tins.

For the indulgent, these would be great with frosting (cream cheese? ganache?), but we chose to simply dust them with powdered sugar. We placed paper hearts on each one for a stencil and shook the sugar through a sieve.