Natural Red Velvet Cake–with beets! (No Red No. 40 here)

My husband’s favorite cake is red velvet.  Since he was one of the “birthday boys” at the party last night, I thought I would try to make a homemade red velvet cake, or rather, cupcakes, from scratch.

Now, I have never been a fan of artificial coloring or flavoring.  But ever since I started really paying attention to what foods we eat and trying to focus more on feeding my family “real” foods, I have steered clear of as many artificial flavorings, colorings, etc. as I could.  Well, if you’ve ever looked at a recipe for a homemade red velvet cake, you’ve seen how much red food coloring is in one of those cakes.  My goodness!!  A whole bottle of it, really?!  Yep, most call for 1-2 oz. of the stuff.  Yuck!

Being the researcher that I am, I set out to find a way to make a “natural” red velvet cake that would be yummy and still have the look of red velvet.  I realize that bright red color might not be as vibrant in an all natural cake (you know, the color that stains everything it touches), but perhaps there is a way to get a red color naturally…?

So, I googled “natural red velvet cake recipe” and got lots of hits for cakes made with, get this, beets.  Yep, that’s what I said.  Beets.  You know, those red roots that taste kind of like dirt but have a beautiful bright red color whenever you cut into them (they also juice quite well, I must say).

Do you remember whose cake I said this was?  My husband’s…the man who eats no vegetables other than potatoes, corn, and the occasional salad.  Oh, and ketchup.  He considers that a vegetable, too.  Crazy, I know.

So how was I going to convince him that a cake made with beets might be good?  Now, in case I haven’t already mentioned this, we bought a juicer several weeks ago.  We’ve been juicing up a storm (off and on), and have ventured into juicing beets a time or two.  He didn’t mind the beet juice (luckily), so when I mentioned a beet cake, he didn’t gag.  He didn’t even make a face.  He looked at me and said, “Sounds good.”

What?!  Was that my husband?  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Surely I didn’t hear him correctly.  But I was going with it!  Beet cake it was going to be.

Now, the quest for THE beet cake recipe.  How to get the brightest red color without sacrificing taste and without having to run all over town to get any special ingredients.

Here’s what I found out from my search:  the pH of the batter affects the brightness of the cake–brown with a hint of red, versus red-ish brown.  The acidity from adding lemon juice helps with this.  I know, sounds pretty nerdy.  But hey, I am a true nerd at heart, I guess.

I finally settled on a recipe from  Instead of a cake, I decided to make cupcakes instead–that way I could taste one the day before the party and if they did in fact taste like dirt, I could make something else if need be.  Luckily, the cupcakes were delicious.  They were moist and no one at the party could tell they had beets in them.  The red was more of a hint of red, but still, they were yummy.

Here are a couple of pictures.  First, here are several of the cupcakes left over from the party (sorry, the picture didn’t turn out quite like I’d hoped…).

And a picture of one cut in half.  If you look really close, you can see a hint of red on the icing and at the bottom.

I think I will put more lemon juice in it next time (only put about 1/2 T since I goofed and put twice the amount of balsamic vinegar…working late at night is not my forte these days!).   You couldn’t taste any lemon or vinegar at all, in case you were wondering!

What crazy natural recipes have you tried lately?

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