06 October 2015

Desserts on a Budget

It isn't something new... really...

Super fun to use my cake pedestal, which I received as a wedding gift many, many moons ago, and which has spent most of those moons in storage because I wasn't gonna take it to Africa!

But, with two in college and six in private school and the cost of living in Quebec, a new-to-us place, the corner cutting learning curve is rather steep.

But, I am able to apply some skills I learned from trying to grocery shop in Niger...

I don't plan menus. I gave up rather early on in my African days... when every Friday afternoon I'd plan out a menu for my Saturday grocery shopping day - only to get to the store and discover that something I needed was no longer available in town. One week, there was no butter. The next week, no powdered milk. Another, no eggs. It's not surprising that supply in a W. African town might be inconsistent, and it did get better over the years that we were there, but by then?

Habits had hardened and weren't so easily broken.

What I'd learned to do was know about how much food it took to feed my gang for a week and to buy enough of whatever was available in town and then develop a menu once I got home with whatever it was I'd found.

That strategy works just as well, here in the developed west - when applied to sales. That means I don't have to clip coupons, scour the sales ads, etc. I go grocery shopping at the store that happens to be convenient, buy what is on sale and then build my menu from what I have in the pantry, fridge and freezer when I get home.

This week - they had huge bags of beets on sale.

Other ingredients - butter, sugar, flour, eggs, cocoa - are all the type of things I almost usually always have on hand.

But, that meant the learning curve for the next few weeks would be how to cook with beets (Not borscht - we've already been there, done that; although Tim and the biggers like it, it isn't a fave with the littlers.). Since I need after school snacks as well as in-school snacks, the first thing I did was google "ways to use beets in desserts." The first entire page of search results all ultimately led back to the very first link listed: 

I must admit, the recipe/title did not interest me, not in the least - hence why I skipped it and kept on reading through the rest of the results.

As I kept coming back to the above page, however, the brilliant pink frosting, however, finally did pique my interest.

So I read on, and decided to give it a try... although I made cupcakes instead of a layered cake. And... I made a few changes... but for the most part, I followed the recipe as written.

2 beets - roasted and then finely grated
Spray of olive oil

3/4 cup grated beets
3/4 cup of butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
splash of vanilla
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 "sorta" teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk soured with vinegar

1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 brick softened cream cheese
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp grated beets mashed with a fork
splash of vanilla
milk as desired

Preheat oven to 400'F.

Wash beets under running water, and trim leaves (although mine were already trimmed). Place beets in foil.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Seal up foil.  Place in the oven and roast until tender when pierced with a fork - which was slightly less than an hour. Allow beets to cool completely (that was when I went to pick the kids up from school).  Peel once cool and grate, finely.

Reduce the oven temp - 350'F.  Place cupcake liners into cupcake pan.

Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, a few minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time. Then beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

Combine milk and a dash of vinegar to make 1 1/4 cup soured milk. Let sit.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed , slowly add soured milk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated.  

Spoon the thickish batter into prepared muffin pan.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until done. Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, remove from muffin pan and allow to cool.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar together. Add beets, vanilla and milk.

Frost cupcakes.

And, that's all there is to it! The step of roasting the beets does lengthen and complicate the process, but only slightly. And, they do say that beets have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as aid in the detoxification of the body. Maybe... maybe not - but at least "beet" might not be a bad word when I tell the kids that they play a prominent part in future recipes.

By the way, I left the brilliantly colored cupcakes prominently displayed as the gang was getting ready for school. The end result was Wrightlings anxious to get home and grab their after school snack! There's even enough left for tomorrow's after school snack as well!

Oh yeah! I can't forget to mention that I think the dad snuck one into his lunch on his way out the door... even though he was allowed to test taste the night before.

This recipe has been officially declared, by each and every Wrightling present,


(Good thing, since I bought 10 lbs of beets! But I guess I'd also better figure out a few more recipes that use beets!)


  1. Roasted is how I like them the best. Also, something I learned from Colombians: roasted beets (cold) and hard-boiled eggs cut up into a salad with a mayo-based dressing! Delicious.

    1. That does sound yummy! Will have to give it a try - thanks for sharing.

      I've discovered that they are pretty good raw with salt, pepper, olive oil and lime juice - kinda coleslaw-ish. We like them pureed into applesauce, a great sub for oil/butter in almost any chocolate recipe, and super yummy sauteed and then in a quiche/baked egg dish. :-)


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