Leda Schubert * Writer of Picture Books

An Occasional Post


November 22, 2011

Tags: beets, Bonnie Christensen, Neal Porter, recipes

Today, my friends, is the publication day for THE PRINCESS OF BORSCHT. I wrote the first draft almost ten years ago. Bonnie Christensen joined my writing group shortly thereafter, and she drew a picture of Ruthie which I still have (I’ve probably said this somewhere already.). So miracles happen. Keep writing. Keep illustrating. And deepest thanks to Neal Porter, Marcia Wernick, Steven Chudney, and all the folks at Roaring Brook Press.

Lots of people claim they don’t like beets. Why is this? Beets are yummy. All the cool people eat beets with goat cheese and walnuts, or maybe that’s already pass้. (I am not a foodie.) In the interests of celebrating the book and beets, I’ve scoured the web (it took five minutes) to find these recipes, both of which look entirely delicious. I have not made either, however. If you are so tempted, as you must be, send in your feedback. Notice the cake comes first.

SWEET BEET CHOCOLATE CAKE (From Bonnie Stern: www.bonniestern.com)
Deep, dark, moist, rich, and delicious, this chocolate cake is amazing. The secret ingredient is beets that add an incredible moist texture and deepen the chocolate colour.
Makes 12 servings

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
• 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 3/4 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp kosher salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/2 cups pureed cooked beets
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp vanilla paste or extract
• glaze:
• 3/4 cup whipping cream
• 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 oz white chocolate, melted

1. Sift together flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well.

2. In another bowl whisk eggs, beets, oil and vanilla.

3. Combine liquid and dry ingredients just until mixed. Pour batter into a 10" springform pan lined with a round of parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350F oven 25 to 30 minutes until centre springs back when lightly touched. Cool 10 minutes. Turn out. Cool completely.

4. For glaze, heat cream and pour over chopped chocolate. Shake gently to distribute cream and let it rest 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cool until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over cake. Cool one hour. Decorate with white chocolate.

BEET RISOTTO (Also from Bonnie Stern.)
This vibrantly coloured risotto is beautiful and delicious.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

• 1 lb whole red beets, trimmed but not peeled
• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 1/2 cups short grain Italian rice (preferably Violane Nano or Carnaroli)
• 6 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
• kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 2 tbsp butter, optional
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan
• 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Wrap beets in a single layer in aluminum foil. Place in a preheated 400F oven and roast until beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife - about one to two hours depending on size of beets. Unwrap, cool and rub off skin. Dice.

2. Heat oil in a deep medium sized skillet or Dutch oven. Add onions and garlic and cook gently a few minutes. Add rice and coat with onions and oil cooking a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat stock in a saucepan.

3. Add one ladleful of stock, stirring constantly, cook until all the liquid has been absorbed or has evaporated. Then, still stirring, add 1/2 cup stock at a time, waiting until the pan is almost dry before adding the next batch. It should take about 15 to 20 minutes to add all the liquid, cooking on medium to medium high heat. Add more liquid if necessary or stop adding liquid if the rice is tender before all the liquid is used. Rice should be just barely tender.

4. Stir in beets when rice is almost done. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in butter and cheese and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.


  1. December 1, 2011 5:06 PM EST
    I came looking for website-building inspiration and found your honest (of course) and encouraging post. Beet cake! How interesting. I've made beet risotto; it was very pretty & tasty. Have fun at Porter Square Books tomorrow, Leda.
    - Deborah Kops
  2. December 16, 2011 7:48 AM EST
    Congratulations on your book release. What a unique topic!
    - Linda A.
  3. December 16, 2011 7:59 AM EST
    Thanks for commenting, Linda and Deborah!
    - Leda Schubert
  4. December 18, 2011 11:43 AM EST
    Hi, my daughter and I just read this book together and enjoyed it very much. We are trying to make the borscht recipe on the back cover. Just to clarify, we boil the beets before peeling and then save that water to use later? That seems counterintuitive so we wanted to be sure.
    - Doug, Sacramento, CA
  5. December 18, 2011 1:10 PM EST
    Hi Doug. Uh oh-- serious question! Yes, scrub beets, boil, cool, peel, chop, and return to the broth. Then let me know how it tastes! And thanks for reading the book and commenting.
    - Leda Schubert
  6. December 18, 2011 4:09 PM EST
    The book was great, but the borscht unfortunately didn't turn out so well for us. The beets tasted very bitter. Maybe it's better to peel them first?
    - Doug, Sacramento, CA
  7. December 18, 2011 4:51 PM EST
    I feel terrible! All that effort, all that mess. Weird. I shall experiment. If you try it again (brave soul), skin them first, which will be even messier but maybe worth it. I don't think I've ever had the bitterness problem.
    - Leda Schubert
  8. December 18, 2011 6:43 PM EST
    Don't worry about it! Maybe we have a different kind of beet here in CA.
    - Doug, Sacramento, CA

Now Available or Coming Soon (Click on each title for complete information.)

Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, June, 2017
Click for a pdf discussion and activities guide. (Look on left of page after clicking.)
A nonfiction picture book illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Roaring Brook Press, 2006
Holiday House, Fall 2011. Illustrated by Amanda Haley
Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen and published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press.
Illustrated by Andrea U'Ren and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. March, 2010.
Illustrated by Mary Azarian, published by Houghton Mifflin 2005
Illustrated by William Benedict. Candlewick, 2000.