I loathe beets. But I absolutely love what they do for these cupcakes. Luckily, it’s easy to buy cooked beets at farmers’ markets and supermarkets in France, so my contact with the actual vegetable is minimal.

Just how did I end up making a beet-laced chocolate recipe in the first place? It started with couple of cooked beets that a neighbor had given me and I’d shoved in the freezer for someday, sometime when I’d have someone over who likes beets. After who-knows-how-many months, they were covered in freezer burn frost and utterly unappetizing.

–Those are going to have absolutely no flavor, I thought to myself.

Then the penny dropped. EXACTLY. Marvelous! Wonderful! Tasteless beets! What you want from beets in a chocolate cake is so little flavor that you can’t tell they’re there.

I cruised all my recipe sources for beet cakes, rejected those that looked too complicated, simplified and enhanced one that sounded easy and…wow. The results defied my expectations. Tender, dark, chocolate-y, moist..and most importantly, YOU CAN’T TASTE THE BEETS.

So I tested it again with fresh beets. Still no beet-y taste. Then I tried a vegan version. Works a treat. (Note: for the vegan version, add 1 tsp. baking powder to the dry ingredients).

I no longer think of these as ‘chocolate-beet cupcakes.’ They’re just extra-good, somewhat good-for-you, devil’s food cupcakes you can adorn (or not) any way you please.

1 cup/150 g. all-purpose flour
¼ cup/40 g. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup (100 g.) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (50 g.) dark brown sugar (you can use white sugar if you don’t have brown)
¾ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
½ lb./250 g. cooked beets, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
3/8 cup (1/4 cup + 2 Tbs.)/90 ml. strong coffee or Earl Grey tea (the coffee deepens the chocolate flavor; the tea is a nice, elegant touch)
2 Tbs./30 g. melted butter or oil
1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbs. flaxseed meal 3 Tbs. water)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350˚F, and grease or line 8 muffin molds with liners.

Sift together the flour and the cocoa powder into a bowl, then whisk in the sugar(s), baking soda, and salt.

Purée the beets with the coffee or tea in a food processor 1 minute, scraping down the sides if necessary. Add the oil, the egg, and the vanilla extract, and process once more 1 minute until mostly smooth.

Fold the beet mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops are firm and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool, and frost as desired.