Beets, Cheesecake, & Cauliflower

By: Philip Saneski

Chocolate Beet Cake, Mascarpone Cheesecake, White Chocolate-Cauliflower Frosting


Since the beginning of 2015, I’ve read several industry reports about what ingredients will be trending upwards within the next year. Fast forward to 2016, “vegetable-focused” cuisine has extended beyond appetizers or one-ingredient side dishes and into fulfilling entrees. Yet, I rarely find the same logic applied to desserts. Shouldn’t you be totally allowed to treat yourself to dessert and not feel guilty about the empty calories?

Below you will find three “guilt-free” dessert recipes that I have combined into one bite. Each recipe has a vegetable component, and can be added to any dish of your liking. Please pay no attention to my plating. I did all the prep at home so I could take it to work to have staff try it, where we could figure out the proper portions for optimal mouthfeel.

Flourless Chocolate Beet Cake

Yield: deep hotel pan

When I first came up with this recipe, I was surprised how moist, fudgy and light the cake was when it was served warm. The beet flavor didn’t really come through; I totally forgot I added a pound of beets! Beets contributed more to the gooey texture and their natural sweetness balanced the flavor of the bittersweet dark chocolate. It hit me then that sugar beets supply one-third of our world’s sugar. Why haven’t beets been used in more desserts?

The cake is similar to a brownie base that is folded into essentially an Italian meringue to add air and silkiness. Out of the oven, the cake looks like a chocolate red velvet cake. Once baked, there are so many foods that can be paired alongside it: crème fraiche ice cream, ricotta, sorrel, berry icings, seasonal citrus curds, panna cottas steeped in herbs, and my favorite… candied hazelnuts, it reminds me of nutella! Did I mention this cake is gluten & dairy-free?

10oz Bittersweet Chocolate
6oz Butter
2oz Olive oil
6 eggs, separated
125g Sugar + 32g Water
1 pound fresh beets, roasted & pureed
6oz Almond Flour, toasted
Sea Salt to Garnish

Separate eggs, whites into a mixing bowl & yolks separate. Wear gloves because the oils on your hands can affect the texture of a meringue.

In a small pot, heat sugar and water over medium to make the meringue syrup. Make sure the sugar is coated evenly with enough water. Keep a wet brush close to wipe down sides of pot to ensure no crystallization. Start whisking egg whites on medium speed when syrup reaches 108° C. When at 121°C, whisk on highest speed while slowly pouring syrup onto the very edge of bowl, not getting any syrup onto the whisk (which is why I prefer a small pot). Meringue is ready when it’s shiny and you can touch the bottom of the mixing bowl for five seconds.

While closely watching meringue, melt butter, olive oil, and chocolate over a double boiler to make your chocolate batter. Add roasted beet puree, then toasted almond flour. The fat from the almonds will help keep the cake moist. I prefer Chioggia beets (an Italian heirloom variety that look like candy canes) because at least here along the California coast, they’re sweeter than the typical purple, yellow, or Detroit Red beets.

By hand, whisk egg yolks to ribbon, then add to chocolate batter.

When meringue is ready, pour chocolate batter into center of mixing bowl. Gently fold into meringue inside-out.

Pour batter onto parchment paper lined deep hotel pan and bake at 350°F. Check after 25 minutes. Cake will soufflé, and is done when it starts to pull apart from the sides of the pan. I don’t use any salt throughout this recipe because I’m big on garnishing each cake with plenty of sea salt to provide texture every few bites.


Mascarpone Cheesecake, Walnut Streusel, Raspberry-Beet Geleè, Blueberry-Thyme Compote


This is my back pocket cheesecake recipe I learned from one of my pastry mentors, who had worked in several Michelin-star kitchens. It’s so easy! To mimic a traditional cheesecake crust—and adjust for gluten allergies—I put a walnut streusel on the plate. The dessert is surrounded by different preparations of berries that complement the mascarpone very well, with lemon curd and mint to brighten them up when eaten all together. If you have additional beet puree from the beet cake (or fresh beets for juicing), you can incorporate another “guilt-free” vegetable component as I did. I added another personal twist by infusing pureed cauliflower into the crème fraiche, which is the secret to making this cheesecake delicately flavored, buttery textured, & a versatile wine pairing. The entire dessert’s mise en place can be made days in advance without compromising flavor. 


Mascarpone Cheesecake

Yield: Quarter Sheet Tray

1 lb Cream Cheese, softened
5.5oz Caster Sugar
1.25oz Brown Rice Flour, sifted
1 lb+1oz Mascarpone, softened
3 Eggs + 1 extra yolk
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Salt
4oz Crème Fraiche that includes desired cauliflower amount

My cheesecake recipe is dependent on the quality of the crème fraiche, so I prefer to make my own. It’s cheaper, effortless, and I can control the flavor using what’s already in my kitchen pantry, be it yogurt or buttermilk that I add to heavy cream. Stir one tablespoon of lemon juice with one cup of milk, let it sit untouched and fifteen minutes later it will begin to curdle. Now you have fresh buttermilk. Add two tablespoons of your buttermilk to a small plastic container with one cup of heavy cream. Store container at 70°F in a place where it will not be moved for 36 hours. Afterwards, quickly blanch cauliflower florets and immediately puree while still hot. Add desired amount to your four ounces of crème fraiche. Taste multiple times. It should taste clean, tangy and slightly nutty.

Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream cream cheese with sugar similar to how you would butter & sugar to make cookies; but through this whole process don’t go higher than speed 2 or else you’ll be developing too much air. Add flour. Add mascarpone. Add eggs + extra yolk one-by-one with vanilla extract, scraping down the sides & bottom of the bowl each time so the eggs are consistently incorporated. Add salt to your preference. Finish with cauliflower crème fraiche. Strain to ensure there are no chunks.

I bake this in a quarter sheet tray because that’s what I had in my kitchen, but you can use whatever as long as it isn’t more than two inches thick. Whatever you use, lightly spray PAM cooking spray on the sheet tray, place parchment paper down, then cheesecake batter, which can be made the day before you bake it. Bake at 300°F in a water bath for even baking, about 55 minutes. Center of cheesecake should read 155°F with a digital thermometer. Cool cheesecake in water. Freeze.

To cut it take it out of freezer & let it thaw for about 20-30 minutes. Flip upside-down onto a cutting board. Parchment paper should peel off easily. Have a cake knife or a long knife in almost boiling hot water, and cut to desired shape. Store in fridge.


Caramelized White Chocolate-Cauliflower Frosting

Yield: About 1 quart

This recipe developed from four of my pastry philosophies. One, I’m fascinated by vegetable-based pastry techniques; meaning desserts can be centered around seasonal vegetables and touted for their surprising health benefits, or a recipe emits subtle vegetable aromas with modest amounts of actual vegetable mass. Two, I hate wasting food. When I made the cauliflower puree for the mascarpone cheesecake I didn’t want to throw out the cauliflower bulb. Initially, I shaved the bulb very thinly over a mandolin and roasted them, but I couldn’t conceptualize an actual dessert out of cauliflower bulb chips. They were more of an amuse bouche or a something you would put in the middle of a table and serve with a dill-yogurt dipping sauce. Instead, I threw all my roasted chips into a pot of scalded milk, set it back and used it for this frosting when cooled. Three, in general I don’t like sugary-sweet as a flavor profile. To me one of the challenges of pastry—especially desserts—is making them not sweet, since sugar is the base ingredient of many classic pastries. Four, food is tastier when caramelized in some way. In addition to having roasted cauliflower bulb chips, I continued the roasted theme by caramelizing white chocolate. The end result was a not-too-sweet frosting I saved for a layered cake I would bake on another day.

42oz Powdered Sugar, sifted
6oz White Chocolate, caramelized
4oz Butter, room temperature
3oz roasted Cauliflower-infused Milk
Salt & Vanilla Extract to taste

Roast white chocolate on a silpat at 350°F for 90 minutes, making sure to spread with a spatula every ten to fifteen minutes for consistent caramelization. Chocolate should not exceed 270°F or it will burn. When chocolate is ready, beat butter in a mixer on high speed for one minute. Lower the speed to medium, and gradually beat in half of the powdered sugar. Add roasted cauliflower-infused milk, then the rest of the powdered sugar. Beat in melted caramelized white chocolate until fully combined. Finish with the lightest pinch of salt and vanilla extract. If the frosting looks too thick, beat in an additional tablespoon or two of milk to make it easier to spread.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s