Recipe For Valentine’s: Bonzai Balls (ha!)

February 10th, 2009 - filed under: The Food » Recipes


Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, and that means that Susan over at the FatFree Vegan Kitchen is holding her annual ‘Vegetable Love’ contest.  This playful competition calls on culinary bloggers to get creative with incorporating one or more vegetables into their vegan Valentine dinner.  Be it appetizer, entrée, or dessert, it’s valid as long as it’s innovative and vegetal.  Game on.

Immediately, I began remodeling Red Velvet Cake.  My husband and I both adore Red Velvet Cake; it’s kind of our signature dessert.  We devoured many a slice whilst falling in love, we served a tower of Red Velvet Cupcakes at our wedding, and now as newlyweds and new veg*ns, we needed an updated version.  And this challenge gave me just the chance to put my own Sayward style into this old Southern standby.  Firstly, to abide by the rules (veggie inclusion), and in the spirit of ‘fatfree’ (or less fat, at least), I decided to compose a cake recipe with two major substitutions.  I replaced both the food coloring and some of the oil, with a beet juice reduction and beet pulp, respectively.  Secondly, because I wanted to put my own touch of love on this special dessert ‘o mine,  I decided to get funky with the final  form.  

These sweet little bites of delicious look like truffles and taste like cake, so other than ‘AWESOME’, I had no idea what to call them.  I went the ribald route – it is, after all, our one and only hot-sexy-fun holiday.  And so, I proudly give you: Bonzai Balls!


1 cup  soymilk

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


2 1/2 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour

2 cups evaporated cane juice (natural sugar)

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup Earthbalance™ or margarine (room temperature)

1/2 cup beets, cooked and mashed

3/4 cup crimson beet broth

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Wash and trim 3 medium beets, and boil them in 4-5 cups of water, until very tender (about 45 minutes). Remove the cooked beets from the water, but keep the water boiling until it has reduced to about 1 cup. Set aside to cool. While the beet broth is reducing, remove the skins from the beets and mash enough for 1/2 cup. You will need about one beet for the pulp require in recipe. The rest, you can snack on while you bake (or set aside for more civilized use later, if you insist).




Preheat the oven to 350º.  Whisk together the soymilk and vinegar in a small bowl, and set aside to curdle.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, mix the Earthbalance™, mashed beet pulp, beet broth, and vanilla.  Stir in the soymilk mixture and whisk thoroughly.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently process until no lumps remain.  Pour batter into a lightly oiled baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  While the cake is in the oven, prepare the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

1/2 cup Earthbalance™ butter or margarine

1/2 cup vegan cream cheese

2 teaspoons  vanilla extract

3 cups vegan powdered sugar

1 tablespoon crimson beet broth



Beat together the Earthbalance™, cream cheese, and vanilla, until nicely whipped. Add in the sugar about a cup at a time, while continually mixing.  Once frosting is completely mixed, remove about 1/2 cup and set aside.  Now, add the red food coloring to the main batch of frosting and process until uniform in color.


Once the cake has cooled completely, use your hands to crumble it into a large bowl.  Fold in the scarlet frosting, and mix thoroughly.  Form this mixture into truffle-sized balls by rolling them between your palms.  Place balls on wax paper and refrigerate for a few hours.  Before serving, warm the reserved white cream cheese frosting for a few seconds in the microwave (not too hot!) and drizzle over the cake balls.

Eat.  Enjoy.  And have a positively scrumptious Valentine’s Day!



  • Dianne

    Finally, a dessert that can clean your liver AND make you feel all aquiver! What a great concept.

  • Ricki

    These sound fabulous! I love beets in chocolate cake, so. . ..why not??

  • Amanda

    mmmmmm they remind me of the dunkin donut hole things- the chocolate ones. They always were my favorite ones! I think you got my vote!!!

  • Sayward

    Thanks to everyone for the kind comments and support. What a fun project this was!

    @ Amanda – Yes, they definitely are reminiscent of donut holes, good call! They are denser than donuts, but they do have a similar vibe, and also a similar flavor. =)

  • Jeni Treehugger

    What a FANTASTIC recipe!!
    These look amazing!
    Good luck.

  • SusanV

    I’m really amazed at how you shaped cake into balls. They’re the perfect size for a couple to feed each other after a romantic dinner. Thanks for contributing to this year’s Vegetable Love!

  • Sayward

    @ Jeni Treehugger – Aw, thank you!

    @ SusanV – Thanks, and thanks SO much for hosting such an awesome contest.

  • Angela

    These are adorable… how clever!

    I also *love* red velvet cake — it was my wedding cake as well!

    You’re very creative. I love seeing that… Good for you.