Today, Hannah Messinger joins us from Nothing but Delicious to show us how beets can be used in several ways when prepping for Easter Sunday. The Beet Upside Down Cake gave us pause at first, but she’s right–it’s delicious (and gluten free!) and the perfect, unexpected surprise!
If you’ve ever cooked beets, you know that one of their most perturbing attributes is their power to stain. But why not use that power to your advantage? Beets make the best dye for Easter eggs or cotton napkins and every part of them can be used afterwards. Most dye recipes call for one cup chopped beets to four cups water. Since it’s hard to tell how many cups one beet will yield, I urge you to err on the side of buying too many beets, which, in the end will turn out to be more of a luxury than a problem.
Purchase beets with their sturdy leaves attached whenever you can. Not only does this keep the beetroot fresh longer, but the leaves can be cleaned and eaten just like kale or chard. I like to remove the stems, give the leaves a rough chop and throw them in a warm pan with some garlic oil, salt and a splash vegetable stock. If you are opposed to eating green things, hang on to the beet greens anyway- they look extra pretty in a basket as a little bed for dyed eggs.
The stems of beet greens can also be saved for a multitude of purposes. They’re so stinkin’ good pickled and scattered on top of a hot dog with some spicy mustard. Or simply boil them in nice, salty water and toss them on top of your salad like any other vegetable. Once again, if you don’t want to eat them, work them into your flower arrangement for a rustic tablescape.
The best part of a beet, of course, is the root, and how convenient that it is fully cooked when your dye is done! My favorite way to use cooked beets is an unusual one: beet upside down cake. The butter and sugar from the bottom of the pan mingle with the beets to form a sunset colored syrup that slowly drips down into the cake, which is airy and moist with the aroma of orange oil. It’s a light and delicately sweet way to end any Easter lunch.
Note: After boiling my beets whole, I learned the chopped beets actually make better dye, although I see no reason that they would make a worse cake.
Upside Down Beet Cake
- 3 T unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- thinly sliced cooked beets (skins removed)
- 4 large eggs separated
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 1/4 cups almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Melt butter in an 8" cake pan, swirling it around to coat the sides. Sprinkle brown sugar over the bottom. Layer with sliced beets.
- Cream together egg yolks, sugar and orange zest. Mix in almond flour, baking soda and salt.
- Beat egg whites until foamy and doubled in size, but not until peaks form. Fold egg whites into the rest of the batter and pour into the pan. Bake on a middle rack for 30-35 minutes, or until top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cake rest for 5 minutes, then carefully turn your cake pan over onto a serving plate. Tap the pan before lifting it.
- This cake does need to be stored in the refrigerator!
A word on dyeing: Here is a great guide to dyeing eggs with natural ingredients. I recommend that you add the vinegar after you have removed the vegetables, since vinegar will prevent the pigments from running. If you are dyeing fabric, remember to boil it in one part vinegar to four parts water for an hour prior to dying and to lay it as flat as possible while it dries.
Born and raised in Chattanooga, Hannah Messinger is the fourth generation owner of the Mt. Vernon Restaurant. She lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee, as a food writer, stylist and photographer. You can see more of her work on her blog, Nothing but Delicious.