From the looks of this cake you’d never guess that a full two cups of raw vegetables go into the batter. From the taste of it you’d never suspect the presence of beets and zucchini either. But grated raw vegetables aren’t reason enough to bake this cake; it’s more a nutritious perk. Do it because it’s satisfying to make a bundt cake and to display it on your countertop in all its glossy gorgeousness. Mostly though, bake this cake because it tastes delicious.

The recipe is from Jennie Schacht’s inspiring cookbook Farmers’ Market Desserts. The vegetables lend moisture and sturdiness to the cake while helping to maintain a tender crumb. I suspect back in the day, vegetables went into cake batter when there was a surplus in the garden. I can’t think of a more decadent way to use up the overgrown zucchini teaming in my vegetable boxes at the moment.

When I served the cake to my kids, I didn’t tell them about the beets and zucchini, at least until they’d gobbled it down and asked for seconds. There’s a lot of debate about the pros and cons of sneaking vegetables into kids’ food. I know some moms who’ve given up the notion of getting a vegetable into their offspring unless it’s in disguise. Entire books are devoted to the subject such as Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious and Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef. Both authors suggest going to great lengths to work vegetables into dishes so they go undetected. On the flip side are plenty of moms and food experts vehemently opposed to such practices, saying vegetables need to be up front and center, otherwise kids will never learn to develop a taste for them.

Although I’ve been known to stir pureed carrots into my mac cheese and lord knows have worked chopped kale anonymously into more dishes than I can count, I tend to be a more ‘up front and center’ kind of a cook. I wonder what kind of a message it sends if healthy foods need to be camouflaged. Plus, it’s tough to get in adequate quantities when they must disappear within another dish.

That all said, there’s no harm in a little of both. Have the bowl of veggies and the green salad on the table, but toss those dark leafies into the chili when the kids aren’t looking.

On the “serve ‘em naked” end of the spectrum, here are a few tips that may help:

• Provide options — Try for at least a couple of vegetable dishes at meals, it will up the chances that they will at least opt for one of them.

• Let them choose – Take kids to the market and let them have a say in what vegetables you are going to make that day or week.

• Get them cooking – Give them jobs in the kitchen related to the salad or vegetables: Making a dressing, grating cheese over broccoli, and so on.

• Serve veggies first – I’m always surprised by how quickly the kids can down a plate of vegetables set out before dinner, when they are good and hungry.

• Garden – Growing and harvesting a couple of vegetables is a great way to up the interest.

• Eat them yourself – Let your kids see you eating and loving a variety of vegetables.

• Don’t push it – Put the food out there, encourage them to try it, then leave it alone.

• Be patient – Some kids take time (a long time) to adopt new foods. There is an excellent article by Charity Ferreira in the September issue of Yoga Journal about one mom’s trial (and triumph) with her picky son.

Now, I’m off to the garden….I’ve got a cake to bake.



2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup gently packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup gently packed peeled and grated raw zucchini
1 cup gently packed peeled and grated raw red beets
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Glaze

1/3 cup heavy cream or milk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the lower third. Generously butter a 10-cup Bundt pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. (Alternatively, use a 9-by-2-inch square baking pan.)

To make the cake, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well and stopping and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the yogurt and vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until nearly combined but still streaky. (The batter will be thick.) Use a wooden spoon or a spatula to stir in the zucchini, beets, and chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes and then test to see if it’s done by inserting a long toothpick or thin wooden skewer midway between the inner and outer edges of the pan. If no wet batter appears on the skewer, it’s done. If it doesn’t come out clean, continue to cook another few minutes and test again. Don’t overcook the cake or it will be dry.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Using oven mitts if needed, invert a flat serving plate over the pan and invert the pan and plate together to release the cake. Lift off the pan and let cool completely.

To make the glaze, heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until steam begins to rise and bubbles form along the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Let the glaze stand until thick but still pourable, about 10 minutes. (Rewarm if it gets too thick).

Pour the glaze in a circular motion over the top of the completely cooled cake, allowing some to drip down the center and sides. Allow the glaze to set for about 1 hour before serving.

Store leftover cake, tightly covered, at room temperature for up to 1 day. Or, refrigerate for up to 5 days, then let stand at room temperatures for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 generous servings, 16 to 20 “kid size” servings

Reprinted with permission from Farmers’ Market Desserts, Jennie Schacht, Chronicle Books, 2010

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  1. 08.11.2011 at 10:05 AM #

    Katie, thanks so much for sharing one of my favorite chocolate cakes. Yours looks gorgeous! On the subject of hiding veggies, that honestly wasn’t my intent with this one — it’s just a side benefit. The zukes and beets are in there purely because it makes a better cake — moist and earthy and deeply satisfying. There are still plenty of butter, eggs, and cream in there, but it’s about half what you’d need without the veggies. Happy baking!

    • katiemorford
      08.11.2011 at 10:55 AM #

      Thanks for the comment, Jennie. Agreed…a side benefit….and sort of interesting as well.

  2. Kristen
    08.11.2011 at 10:14 AM #

    I had a slice of this and it was moist and delicious and chocolatey…a winner!

    • katiemorford
      08.12.2011 at 10:22 PM #

      Thank you!

  3. 08.11.2011 at 10:28 AM #

    Katie — This looks yummy. Thank you! I have and use Jessica Seinfeld’s book but the kids know what’s in stuff — they often request the spinach brownies! :)

    • katiemorford
      08.12.2011 at 10:22 PM #

      oohhh….I’ve made black bean brownies…but not spinach ones. I’m intrigued.

  4. 08.12.2011 at 5:30 AM #

    What a cake! But in all honesty, wouldn’t it be better to just have them eat the veggies without the chocolate. I hope I can get around to trying this one once they are back in playschool and I will have some time to be a person again. Thanks! :-)

  5. Peter
    08.14.2011 at 9:19 PM #

    With a full house and house guests for the weekend, the cake was perfect. It was enjoyed at all times of the day, with ice cream for dessert and in sneaked slices.

    • katiemorford
      08.15.2011 at 6:48 AM #

      The sneaked slices are the best kind.

  6. Charlotte
    11.21.2011 at 8:49 AM #

    I made this the other night for dessert at our neighbor’s and it was a big hit. The kids and adults all loved it. I made a little whipped cream on the side which never hurts. I pulled the cake out at 42 minutes and the toothpick was not comPletely clean, but I’m glad I pulled it out when I did as I think it would have been dry otherwise. Thanks, katie! This was delicious and even made me feel a little healthy while eating chocolate cake :)

    • katiemorford
      11.21.2011 at 8:54 AM #

      Awesome. I love getting the feedback. I agree, cooking it just right is key. And ovens do differ so best to check early and play it safe rather than risk over-baking.

  7. 07.18.2012 at 1:46 PM #

    Hi Katie,

    I’m new to your delightful site (by way of Snack Girl) and glad that you put your RD out there! (I think credibility is everything!)

    I am disappointed that you did not compare the nutritional defferences of this cake recipe with a more traditional chocolate cake. I have not looked at other recipes you’ve posted yet, but I find the nutritional analysis of recipes very helpful.

    With just the brief exploring I’ve done on your site, I’m so glad that you’re out there, promoting a healthful approach to raising more open-minded (when it comes to food) kids and to cooking.

    Mary Fujii, RD

    • katiemorford
      07.18.2012 at 4:50 PM #

      Hi Mary

      So glad you found me. It would be interesting to do a comparison of the cake to a traditional one. I’ll add that to my to do list. What would be interesting is not just to consider the fat/calories, but also to think about the added nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals the beets and zucchini might add. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Heather
    08.15.2012 at 8:42 PM #

    This cake looks like the answer for the out-of-control zucchini situation that greets summer’s end… I’ve been on a chocolate zucchini bread bender, but this looks sexier! Can I swap canola oil for the butter and if so, how much? Thanks!

    • katiemorford
      08.16.2012 at 4:20 AM #

      It seems to me that canola oil would work in a cake like this. The flavor may be slightly affected but I imagine it would still be delicious and tender. The only way to know for sure is to make it! If you do, report back!

  9. Julie
    11.19.2013 at 6:13 AM #

    Wow! This is a delicious cake. My family didn’t believe it had beets and zucchini in it. Thank you for sharing.


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