Russians looove beets. No self-respecting Russian would ever make borsch without beets (although, I've had some without, and let me tell you, it was a mistake!). "Herring in a fur coat" - pickled herring under layers of grated cooked beets mixed with mayo. Beet, mayo and garlic salad. So when I saw a recipe for a beet cake in Jamie Oliver's cookbook, I was naturally excited. The Russian in me! Especially since it promised to be "like carrot cake (which I love), only better."
Unfortunately, it didn't turn out so well. The batter was of a lovely beet-red color, but the resulting cake was weirdly gray and mushy. It tasted... hmmm... when my 4 year old son, who has a massive sweet tooth, eagerly took a bite, he stared at me with his round blue eyes and said with his mouth full, "Mama, may I spit it out?"
I got the recipe from a Russian friend of mine who now lives in Israel. It is quite possible that the recipe is not Russian at all, but rather Jewish, but it doesn't matter, because IT IS GREAT. I've been baking it several times a year in the past few years, and every time it is gone before you can decide you want another slice. The brown sugar-walnuts-and-cinnamon filling is the first one you want to go after, picking out the sweet lumps from the center of your slice, and then perhaps eat the browned top that is covered in powdered sugar. Then the buttery yellow crumb. My favorite way to eat it is with hot tea or coffee, but milk works great, too. I hope you will enjoy.
For the filing:
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the batter:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and dust with flour a bundt cake pan (I use spray).
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients for the filling. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating after each addition. At low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the sour cream, 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining sour cream and flour, mixing until just combined.
Pour half of the batter in the pan, spread half the filling on top, add the rest of the batter, then the rest of the topping. Bake approximately 1 hour, until the tester comes out clean. Let sit in the pan for about 5 minutes, then invert on a rack (use caution) and cool completely. If you have the patience.