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Clandestine Chocolate Fudge Cake

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I’ve been making this cake for almost a year and since it was recently requested again for a bridal shower, I had the opportunity to take some pictures so that I could finally post the recipe.

This cake is intense.  We’re talking over a pound of chocolate and 2 cups of heavy cream.  And that’s just in the frosting.  The cake itself is dense and fudgy, almost like a brownie but definitely recognizable as cake.  It is a thing of beauty to a chocolate lover.  Chocolate cake nirvana.

If you’re wondering about the “clandestine” part, I put that in the title because this cake has a secret.  Folded into the luxurious batter…are beets. (!)  Trust me, you would NEVER guess that the cake had beets in it.  I always let people finish their slice before revealing the secret ingredient and they are astounded.  The beets increase the chocolate flavor & keeps it nice and moist.

Another thing about this cake.  It is sad.  A sad cake is one that sinks in the middle and this one does.  Don’t try to fight it.  Sad cakes are some of the happiest cakes I’ve ever eaten because they are so moist.  I read in BakeWise that sad cakes usually have too much fat to flour ratio, but I think in this case it also has something to do with all the brown sugar as well.  But having a dip in the middle is totally worth the flavor.  I wouldn’t dare to change a thing.

Clandestine Chocolate Fudge Cake
Printable recipe

3 squares (3 oz) unsweetened chocolate
1 can (8 ¼ oz) julienne beets*
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature

Fudge Frosting
2 cups whipping cream
1 pound semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Prepare Cake:
Don’t be alarmed if your cakes dip in the middle—this is due to the high ratio of butter and sugar and is normal. To ensure an attractive presentation, you can either fill in the dips with frosting or level the cakes (I slightly level mine and fill in the remaining dip with frosting so as to not take too much height off) to make them stack nicely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of two 8”** round cake pans, then smooth a parchment paper round onto the bottom of each. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of both pans and set aside.

Place the chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 50 seconds, then stir well. The chocolate will nearly be melted. Microwave for another 20 seconds. After stirring a second time, the chocolate should be smooth and completely melted. If not, microwave for another 20 seconds and stir. Once smooth, set aside.

Drain beet juice into a small bowl. Place beets on a cutting board and chop into very small pieces. Add to the beet juice and set aside.

Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until very fluffy, about five minutes, scraping sides occasionally. Reduce speed to low and beat in melted chocolate.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium-size bowl. With mixer on low speed, alternately beat flour in fourths and buttermilk in thirds into chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add beets with juice and mix on medium speed until blended, about 1 minute more.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared pans. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cake will feel very moist to the touch, but if the tester is clean, it’s done. Do not overbake or cake will be dry. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes and then invert onto racks. Cool completely before frosting.

You can start the frosting as soon as the cakes are in the oven. If you time it right, your cakes will be cooled by the time the frosting is ready.

Heat cream in a medium-size saucepan just until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate and vanilla, stirring until mixture is smooth and chocolate is melted. Transfer mixture to a plastic or glass bowl (metal causes the sides to get too cold and set up too quickly). Refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes until mixture is as thick as pudding, about 50-60 minutes. At this point the frosting will begin to set up very quickly. Leave in refrigerator and stir every 5 minutes until frosting is as thick as fudge, about 15 more minutes. Alternatively, the frosting may be placed over ice water and stirred constantly until spreading consistency. If it begins to get too thick, immediately remove it from the water.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer bottom side down on serving platter. Spread a third of the frosting over the top and place the second cake layer bottom side up over that. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides. Let stand at room temperature for frosting to set. The frosted cake may be held at room temperature, uncovered, overnight or refrigerated up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

*If you are unable to find a can of beets in the size specified, buy the regular 15 oz. size. Use 1/4 cup of the juice and ½ cup beets for this recipe.

**If you use 9” pans, the cakes will bake faster so check them at 30-35 minutes to see if they are done.

Recipe source: originally titled “Absolutely Divine Devil’s Food Cake” in The Dessert Lover’s Cookbook by Marlene Sorosky.

I made this one last August for the planning committee meeting for our family reunion. Yes, our family reunion is so big it requires a planning committee!

This is the first one I made last July.

We made quick work of it.


About Veronica

I have a kitchen addiction and love to collect & share recipes. My passion is baking but I love to cook as well. The only thing I don't like to do in the kitchen is wash dishes, but my husband generally does them for me in exchange for his dinner.

25 responses »

  1. Wow. That is intense, dark, and sexy. But the fact that it has BEETS in it? Makes it really, really mysterious and intriguing. I could marry this cake!

    Gosh, it must take SUCH willpower not to leap at this amazing cake!


    • Since the cake was for someone else, it didn’t take much willpower. But. There was extra cake from levelling it and I made extra frosting for decorating. But I didn’t do too bad. Had to have a couple bites, though. HAD TO.


  2. Wooow! Could anything ever look more delicious than this! Great job! :) Petra


  3. Dennis Miller

    Probably my favorite chocolate cake. :)


  4. Wow, so pretty! How did you spread the frosting so smoothly?


    • The frosting is really soft and easy to spread so it’s a cinch to get it smooth with an offset spatula. Look for them in the cake decorating supplies at places like Walmart or Hobby Lobby.


  5. Looks absolutely beautiful!


  6. That is one gorgeous cake!


  7. You are so talented. This is absolutely gorgeous!


    • Thank you, Faith! My Mom decorated cakes when I was little (which was soooo mean b/c we weren’t allowed to eat cake! ;) ) so she inspired me to decorate cakes too. Now I sell them on the side for extra money. This one was an order from a gal whose wedding cake I’ll be doing in July.


  8. My sweet tooth is pounding away, excited at the prospect of eating this cake! Love the recipe and your decorations are beautiful!


  9. Very interesting ingredients for a chocolate cake. I find it so intriguing that I’ll have to try it out.
    Fabulous artistry on those cakes…very delicate yet full of expression.
    Very nice ;o)
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia


  10. Ok….
    “Since the cake was for someone else, it didn’t take much willpower. But. There was extra cake from levelling it and I made extra frosting for decorating. But I didn’t do too bad. Had to have a couple bites, though. HAD TO.”

    I was going to say. You made -that- this week and you lost 2lbs? But now it makes sense. And I don’t blame you – I would’ve probably succumbed to a slice or two at least.


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  13. This cake looks too fudgy to be true! Can’t say I am not enjoying the cross section fudgy pic :D

    Choc Chip Uru


  14. Gosh! That cake is a beauty!!
    there’s one thing i am confused about and i decided to ask you…
    I want to make a chocolate cake (Betty Crocker super moist cake mix) but with a digestive biscuit-butter base like in cheesecakes…i hate cheesecakes so i want the base to be with a normal cake
    however, i searched and searched and googled but i couldnt find a proper recipe or at least an idea of what to do
    so my question is if i make the base the cheesecake way…(just process the biscuits and melted or softened butter and press it into the cake tin…..blah blah blah) and pour the cake batter over it…can the biscuit base be baked for half an hour…it wouldnt burn or something while the cake is being cooked?


    • I would bake it for only 10-15 minutes just to crisp it up before adding the cake batter. With cheesecake you don’t have to bake the crust first so you really may be able to skip the step, but I don’ t think it will hurt anything to bake it first. Half an hour would be probably too long, though.


  15. Samara-faith ewins

    I just made this cake, and it sunk badly. I added the eggs gradually after the I added the chocolate though. Could this have caused it? And my buttermilk was cold.



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