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Beet Ombre Cake with Burnt Sugar Buttercream #FoodieReads

For some reason neither of us could sleep a couple of nights ago. Jake grabbed his computer and started to do some work; I headed to pick something interesting off of my bookshelf. I ended up crawling back under the covers with Sugar by Kimberly Stuart.*

Is this a classic novel that will persist through the ages? Probably not. It is, after all, a book that relies heavily on the current 'reality television' culture. But was it an entertaining way to spend a few hours? Absolutely!

On the Page

Charlie Garrett, a female pastry chef, has worked her way up to the number two spot in the kitchen at a renowned restaurant in New York called L'Ombre. Along with that honor comes all of the usual things: no love life, an unforgiving schedule, and an abusive chef in the number one spot just above her. She's been patiently waiting for Chef Felix to retire so that she will be named Head Pastry Chef at L'Ombre.

But a job offer from an old flame who is opening his own restaurant in Seattle and one too many abuses by Chef Felix has Charlie packing up.

"To my horror, he stuck one fat finger right in the center of one crust. The finger emerged, cloaked in strawberry mousse, and then made its way to Felix's mouth. He rolled the filling around this mouth and then pursed his lips before spitting it out onto the floor. 'Needs more sugar,' he said in a disconcertingly serene voice. Only his eyes betrayed his spite. 'Do them all again.'

"...From some part of my brain, I could hear Felix shouting about the mess on his shoes. ...I had one more thing to do. I crouched to the floor, cradled the only remaining, perfect tart, unfolded myself to my full height, and smiled at Felix. 'I quit,' I said, pushing the tart into Felix's face, giving one extra turn of my wrist into his nose before the empty tart pan clattered to the floor" (pg 32).

Charlie shows up in Seattle and immediately meets an intriguing, down-to-earth guy who happens to own a diner and sells produce at the local farmers' market. It turns out the old flame has duped her by lining up a television crew to film them in a reality television show and you can imagine the drama that ensues between old boyfriend, new boyfriend, and burgeoning restaurant. I won't tell you how it ends. But it you're looking for an entertaining, breezy novel that has a little romance and a little cooking, pick this one up. I really enjoyed it.

On the Plate

It just so happened that I needed to make a birthday dessert for a friend's party. He requested "beet dessert." Yes, that's all the direction I got. So, I decided to make an ombre cake (for Charlie's New York restaurant) colored with beets - to fulfill his request. An ombre cake is where the colors of the layers are graduated from light to dark. Sometimes it just refers to the colors of the frosting on the outside of a cake, however the individual cake layers can also be colored to create a gradient. I did both the inside and the outside!

The burnt sugar buttercream is also colored with beets; it's burnt sugar because I accidentally left the sugar syrup to color to a burnt caramel when I was busy chopping cauliflower for another dish. It was a happy accident; the buttercream tastes delicious! I will definitely be doing that on purpose in the future.

makes a 9" five-layer cake (very thin, not uniform layers!)

  • 1 C butter
  • 1-1/3 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 t pure vanilla bean paste (or use 1 T paste and skip the extract)
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 C buttermilk
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C almond flour
  • 5 t baking powder
  • 1 pound cooked beets, pureed (you will use this in both the cake and the buttercream)
  • also needed: 9" cake pans, parchment paper

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T organic corn syrup
  • 2 C butter, softened
  • 1 T organic vanilla paste 
  • beet puree, as needed


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 9" round baking pans by buttering them and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, and baking powder.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy. Add in the vanilla paste and vanilla extract (if using), then the eggs - one at a time - and beat until well-incorporated. Stir in the buttermilk.

Fold the dry ingredients into the buttermilk mixture to form a thick batter.

Spoon the plain batter into the one of the prepared pans and smooth the top.

Add 2 T beet puree to the batter and pour the second layer. Add another 2 T beet puree each time you pour a layer. I used about 10 T puree for the five layers.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, approximately 35 to 40 minutes.

Wrap the layers in plastic wrap once cooled. Place in the freezer until ready to assemble.

Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl and beat on high until they are thick, pale, and ribbon off the whisks.

Combine water, sugar, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. You can attach a candy thermometer to the side; I just kept testing until it reached soft-ball stage. If you're using a thermometer, heat until it reaches 238 295 degrees F. Again, this was a happy accident of 'burnt sugar!' 

Once the syrup is ready, remove it from the heat. While one hand hold the mixer, use the other hand to pour the syrup into the yolks. When all of the syrup is added, turn the mixer up to high and beat until the yolks have doubled in size and have reached medium peak stage. The bowl should be cooled and just lukewarm to the touch. Mine took about 9 minutes.

Begin adding butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. The more butter you add, the more firm the buttercream will be. Once your buttercream resembles what you think of as buttercream, add in the beet puree. 

For Serving
Once the cake layers have cooled completely, place the bottom layer on your serving platter. Add a dollop of buttercream and spread to the edges, then place another layer on top. Repeat, then smooth the buttercream over the top and along the sides.

Once the cake was completely covered, I added in another 1 T beet puree to the remaining buttercream to create a darker color. I used that to frost the top and a small bit of the sides.

Refrigerate to let the buttercream harden. When ready to serve, let cake sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

Happy Birthday, Brian!!! is this possible? Didn't we just graduate from high school?!

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Click to see what everyone else read in January 2020: here.


  1. That's a fascinating way to make a cake -- seems like an absolutely huge quantity of beets.

    best... mae at

    1. Thanks for commenting. You're right. I pureed two pounds of beets, but used half in gnocchi, salad, dressing, etc. Only one pound was used in the cake and buttercream. Edited!

  2. What a fun creation Cam. I think I will add this book to my tbr list.


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