Runner’s Rich Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake tastes very decadent, but it is significantly higher in nutrients and lower in calories than most cakes.  Although it does not contain butter or oil, a key ingredient provides richness and a health boost.

This cake contains beets (no one will guess!), which deliver plenty of nutrients, including nitrates, which have been the topic of considerable research lately.  Studies have revealed that the nitrates found in beets have many potential health benefits, including promoting heart health and improving blood supply to organs. Improved athletic performance is another benefit that studies have been investigating. Canadian marathoners used beet juice as part of their sports nutrition in their lead-up to the London Olympics. Whether it makes you run faster or not, this cake is delicious!

The recipe is made simple by using canned beets, but feel free to substitute fresh, as indicated in the ingredient list.


  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans*
  • 1 15-oz can sliced beets (not pickled), drained, reserving 1/2 cup juice (or 2 cups sliced, cooked beets pureed with 3/4 cup water)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1½  teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

*  for better flavour, toast the nuts first by placing them on a baking sheet, and place in the 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes. You can omit pecans in batter if you wish. I prefer using nuts (pecans or almonds) on top of a chocolate glaze instead – as pictured.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a bundt tin or two 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pans with a little butter or trans fat free margarine.
  3. Puree the beets with the reserved juice in a blender or food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl or measuring cup combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture to the beet batter and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pans or bundt tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Test by touching the top of the loaf; if the cake springs back and there’s no indentation, it’s done. Run a table knife around the edges of the pan and turn out onto a rack to cool.

Makes 16 servings.

Chocolate Glaze. Though it doesn’t need frosting, for a festive looking cake, top with a chocolate glaze (as pictured). For the glaze I just melt dark chocolate (or chocolate chips) with a bit of milk in the microwave, stir, and drizzle over the cake. This rich chocolate glaze is much tastier than most glazes and frostings.

Nutrition per piece

  • 180 calories
  • 4 g protein
  • 4 g fat (1 g sat)
  • 40 mg cholesterol
  • 34 g carbohydrate
  • 2 g fiber
  • 200 mg sodium
  • 135 mg potassium
  • 15 mg calcium

This recipe was adapted from my cookbook Food for Thought: Healing Foods to Savor.

You’ll find more or Sheila’s healthy recipes here.


Sheila Kealey is a health promotion consultant, writer, and athlete passionate about encouraging lifestyle habits that promote good health.  She has a Masters’ degree in Public Health and has collaborated on many research articles related to diet and health. Sheila cross country ski races with XC Ottawa, and also competes in triathlons and running races (5k’s are her favourite, but she has gone the distance once, running a 2:57 marathon).  Sheila loves developing healthy recipes, and coauthored the cookbook and nutrition guide Food For Thought: Healing Foods to Savor.  Sheila shares advice on nutrition, physical activity, sports science, and tasty nourishing foods on twitter and her website.