Holiday Recipes: Chef Johnny Iuzzini’s Chocolate Beet Cake


Chef Alex Lee of Daniel taught me his way of starting to create recipes: take an ingredient and then make a list of all the other flavors or ingredients that go well with it. He also prompted me to start thinking about the possibilities of pairing vegetables with sweets.

In this dessert, I match the earthiness of chocolate with the earthiness of beets. When you make the candied beets, use a mixture of red, golden, and chiogga (the candy-striped ones) for the prettiest presentation. You’ll need separate batches of simple syrup for each type of beet to keep the colors intact. You’ll be roasting more beets than you need for the cake. Use the extra puree to make raspberry beet sauce.

Serves 8 to 10

To Make It More Simple:

You could skip the candied beets if need be. As an act of desperation, you could substitute a store-bought chocolate cake for the cake here.

For the Candied Beets:


2 bunches baby beets
2 cups (400 g) simple syrup


1. Peel the beets and slice them about 1⁄8 inch thick. A vegetable slicer or mandoline works well for this.

2. Bring the simple syrup to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the beets and bring to a simmer.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer the beets gently until they’re translucent, about 1 hour.

4. Keep the heat low, so the beets don’t curl as you cook them. Let cool completely in the syrup.

5. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment.

6. Drain the beets gently, so they don’t break, and dredge them in sugar. Arrange on the baking sheet and place in a cold oven overnight to dry.

7. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

For the Cake


3 large beets
Coarse salt
1 ounce (28 g) unsweetened chocolate (preferably Valrhona cocoa paste), chopped
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (80 g) all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (160 g) sugar
1 large egg
6 tablespoons (80 g) grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon (2 g) vanilla extract


1. Heat the oven to 425ºF or 400ºF on convection.

2. Trim the tops from the beets, leaving about 1 inch of the stems.

3. Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil and make a bed of coarse salt in the center. Set the beets on the salt, wrap the foil to make a tight package, and roast the beets until very tender, about 1 hour.

4. Let the beets cool. Peel them and cut them into chunks. Put them in a food processor and process to a very fine puree. Strain and measure out 1⁄2 cup. Reserve the rest for the sauce.

5. Heat the oven to 350ºF or 325ºF on convection. Butter and sugar a 9-inch square baking pan.

6. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 30-second bursts, stirring after each burst.

7. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and 1⁄8 teaspoon salt together in a bowl.

8. Put the sugar, egg, and oil in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk. Whisk for 2 minutes at medium-high speed, until pale and light. Beat in the vanilla extract, then the dry ingredients, then the chocolate, then the beet puree, mixing well after each addition.

9. Scrape the batter into the pan and rap it on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until a knife comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes. Let cool completely before removing the cake from the pan.

To Serve:

1. Cut the cake into cubes.

2. Dip one cube in the raspberry-beet sauce, coating it completely. Pair it with a plain piece of cake on a dessert plate and garnish with a few candied beets, crumbling some of the beets if you want, and a spoonful of sauce.

Johnny Iuzzini, Executive Pastry Chef at award winning Restaurant Jean-Georges and café Nougatine in New York City, hails from the Catskills in upstate New York. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with twenty years of kitchen experience since the age of 15, he boasts a heavy list of experience at highly lauded dining locations such as The River Café in Brooklyn, NY, Daniel, Payard and Café Boulud in New York City. His enrichment continued during a journey around the world in 1998 as well as to study pastry at some of the finest patisseries in France including LaDuree under Pierre Herme.

Chef Iuzzini was deemed “Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006, followed by accolades such as “10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America” by Forbes Magazine and “Best New Pastry Chef” by New York Magazine. During the seven years that Chef Iuzzini has been the Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Jean-Georges, the restaurant has received four stars from The New York Times, as well as three Michelin stars, and is considered to be one of the world’s 50 greatest restaurants.

Chef Iuzzini has made his creations available to the masses in his recently released book Dessert Fourplay: Sweet Quartets From a Four-Star Pastry Chef.

Reprinted from the book Dessert Fourplay by Johnny Iuzzini and Roy Finamore. Copyright © 2008. Photographs Copyright © 2008 by Gregor Halenda. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

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