Deceptively Delicious – Chocolate Cake

I finally made the Chocolate Cake (with pureed Beets) tonight and here’s my little report.

First, let’s talk ingredients. Here’s the list of what’s in the cake:

  • light or dark brown sugar
  • canola or vegetable oil, or trans-fat-free soft tub of margarine spread
  • egg and egg whites
  • semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • beet puree
  • lowfat (1%) buttermilk
  • vanilla extract
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking soda
  • salt

I’m used to making a cake with butter, not oil, so that was a little weird for me. You make brownie mixes with oil, so I guess it’s okay. For a chocolate cake, I don’t really understand the egg plus egg whites part, but then again, I don’t profess to be a professional baker. I went along with it. I didn’t have buttermilk so I did the milk and cream of tartar substitute. I also don’t have all-purpose flour, so I used my whole kernel white flour. I’m sure it made a difference in the texture.

Moving on to the puree. I roasted my one beet in the oven as directed, and that was easy (hard to be difficult when you’re talking about foil and pushing the “on” button). Then, I put the beet into the mini-bowl of my food processor and began my puree. The processor chopped the beet up into to tiny pieces and then stopped short of puree because it wasn’t full enough. I transferred those little pieces into the blender and switched it on. Nothing. Still not enough beets in there to process. Determined not to quit, I pulled down the food mill. About 15 minutes later, I finally had as close to a puree as I was going to get. What a hassle for 1/2 cup of pureed beets!

Now, to the actual directions. I won’t post them here, but let me make a few observations. First, it tells you to beat the oil and sugar until creamy. Um, that didn’t really happen for me. Someone please tell me if you were able to make oil and sugar turn creamy (perhaps I didn’t let it go long enough). I’m thinking no one did, though. She never actually says you need to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl – ever – but you do. In fact, after every addition to the bowl you should. She tells you to add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix. Personally, I think you need to mix those ingredients together first to avoid having any clumps of baking soda in your batter (ick!). Then I think it works better to add the flour mixture gradually so that when you turn the mixer on you don’t create a cloud of flour.

Okay, now don’t let the color of the cake disturb you. At this point, it does look quite beet red (or shall I just say it? Purple.)

Once you finish baking it, it looks pretty normal (cooling rack marks aside):

Here’s my finished product. Doesn’t look exactly like Jessica’s, but I didn’t look at the picture to see how she did it. I also had chocolate-cake-hungry people rushing waiting for me.

Looks tasty, right?

Okay, here’s the nitty gritty. Let’s talk taste. The cake tasted fine. Yup, I just said “fine.” Frankly, the cream cheese frosting saves it; that was quite tasty (although fairly standard with no sneaky veggies). The cake alone really didn’t have that much flavor, let alone chocolate flavor. It’s not terrible, just not amazing. And for the effort it took to make it, I’ll be sticking with my regular recipes.

So here are my initial thoughts on this cookbook (which I still haven’t purchased):

  • Choosing to do this is a bit like choosing to use cloth diapers. It takes a commitment. Even just doing a trial run to see if you like it will require an investment of time and food.
  • You aren’t going to use this cookbook like your other ones (pulling it out, flipping to a recipe, and deciding that one sounds good to make for dinner tonight – or even this week) if you aren’t prepared in advance. For this cookbook to be at all helpful to you, you want your purees already made and on hand.
  • Ideally, you will be batch cooking all of your purees maybe once a month. Which means you need to either be prepared a month in advance to know what purees you need, or you need to be so committed to cooking with purees that you want to stock your freezer with a large variety.
  • This preparation also requires you to make large quantities of each puree. As noted in my experience tonight, it’s very difficult to make just enough puree for your recipe. Your food processor (unless you have an extremely small one) is not going to be able to process vegetables for a mere 1/2 cup of puree. I also think it’s not worth the time of cooking the vegetable and making the puree for a small amount.
  • Eventually, I’d think you’ll want to branch out into adding purees to your own favorite recipes, rather than being confined to the meals in the cookbook. This requires you to be okay with a little trial and error as you figure out how the purees affect the taste and texture of those favorites.

So I’m no longer sure I want to buy this book. It’s not worth the investment of a few dollars if I’m not completely committed to the concept and to making it work. I’ll have to think about it some more, and I’m definitely open to hearing your thoughts and experiences! The message boards over on Oprah’s site are all over the map.

Anyone want to comment?



  1. meh

    Reminds me of the comment made by my husbands cousin in light of his mom’s new healthy cooking regime. “She used to be a good cook until she got all healthy.” After your review, I personally am staying old school and coercing veggies down my kids throat with the promise of delicious (not just fine) desserts if they comply. Hey, it works!

  2. Good to hear your honest review! Honestly, this isn’t a new concept. About 4 or 5 years ago there was a “fad” that went around where some gals where trying to make brownies with puree spinach or with refried beans in them, as means to get green veggies or fiber into something there kids would eat.

    On general principle I agree with meh, treats are meant to be treats; eaten in moderation, but enjoyed! It is hard to get our toddlers to eat but I have encouragement for those with young children! Eventually, they get old enough to reason with, and become more willing to try things!

  3. Pingback: Deceptively Delicious « spaghettipie

  4. I bought the book this weekend. My kids had the chicken nuggets (with broccoli puree) on Saturday and loved them! I can’t attest to the taste because I was on a date with my husband. 🙂 My mother-in-law (a true earth mom) made them. She said they were good, but it was a lot of work. I will definitely be using some of the recipes. My son is allergic to milk and eggs; Jessica omits these from several of her recipes. And you’re right — this is definitely a plan-ahead cookbooks, similar to the “once a month” cooking moms.

  5. Makes “normal cooking” look like a piece of cake. Corbin would fall over if I kept purees on hand to add in to our recipes. .. glad you’re doing the research on this one!

  6. spaghettipie

    MEH – I sort of like that idea too.
    RG – Oddly, I didn’t think the beets was so weird. It was more surprising to me the lack of flavor.
    K – Thanks for the encouragement!
    T – I’ll be interested to hear how it’s going. Would you keep me updated?
    TJ – I was ready to go out and buy the book until I realized how much I’d have to be committed to the idea. I’m just not that kind of cookbook user.

  7. Krista

    LOVED reading your review on this just now since Barnes and Nobles just called to tell me they had more books in! Like you, I cooked from a recipe off the website and it didn’t fool my no vegetable eating son. I am all for my kids getting the nutrients they need, but not at the expense of my own sanity. Now, jarred puree might be tempting ; )
    btw- thanks for stopping by. Very sweet.

  8. spaghettipie

    K – So glad you stopped by, and I enjoy reading your blog too. You didn’t try to put any veggies into that caramel cake, did you?

  9. Cristina

    I’ve made probably 10 recipes from this book and found them all to be just OK. Nothing great. I made the beet cake and I agree that without the frosting, it was mediocre at best. Mine turned out very dry. The one thing I can say for this book is that it just gave me ideas about how to hide veggies in my kids’ meals. I think baked goods is the best place to do it. I made the grilled cheese sandwich with sweet potatoes and my 3-year-old took one bite and said, “this tastes weird, mommy.” I agree. And the mozarella sticks with cauliflower were dog-sgusting. I would not buy this cookbook, simply based on the fact that the recipes are not great. Just OK. And I can do that on my own.

  10. I bought this book and frankly The only one i like was the chocolate chip cookies with chic peas. They stayed soft. I pureed them (it said not to) made it soft and hide the chicpeas. Dont buy the book. You can hide a icecude of frozen puree into the kids food you cook. eg carrots in speggetti and chances are they wont notice.

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