My friend Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations asked if I had a recipe for a Red Velvet Cake that doesn't use red dye. I do, but FYI: the color isn't the same nor is the taste. There's nothing like red food dye, the kind in the little bottles, to get that red color. I've tried the 'natural' red dye from Wilton's that I use in royal icing for Gingerbread Cooking decorating, but you have to use a lot of it, and for me, the color isn't 'true' and the cake tastes a little off.
So most red velvet cakes I've made have buttermilk and/or vinegar in them. The following recipe is as close as it comes to a 'natural' red, but don't be fooled, it's really a vegetable cake just like a carrot cake or zucchini cake.
Chocolate Beet Cake (Adapted from Diana Rattray --Southern Food at About.com)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 -1/2 teaspoons soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1- 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (use regular not Dutch Process)
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, Canola or corn oil
1-1/2 cups grated cooked beets
2 teaspoons vanilla
powdered sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 350°
Combine flour, soda, salt, sugar and cocoa in a bowl; set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and oil. Beat in vanilla and continue beating until well blended. Slowly beat in dry ingredients until well mixed; stir in beets. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until cake bounces back when touched lightly with finger.
Cool in pan on a rack. Frost cooled cake or dust with powdered sugar.
Since Red Velvet Cake probably came from the South, the original 'red velvet beet cake' probably had a 'boiled frosting' rather than a cream cheese or butter cream frosting.
I found the following recipe posted on the chowhound.com site in a discussion about 'natural' Red Velvet Cake. I love the story that goes with it. I haven't made it yet, but it sounds closer to a 'real' Red Velvet Cake because there's buttermilk & either the vinegar or beets. I think, though, that I would do a cream cheese frosting.
Chocolate Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Icing
When I was growing up, I always wanted a simple chocolate cake for my birthday. I still do. This velvety chocolate cake gets its name from its smooth texture and reddish hue. The original recipe called for red beet juice—in some parts of the country it is called beet cake—but was altered by manufacturers who added red food coloring to the cake. "Red coloring is evil and dangerous for children and other living things," Carole Greenwood, a chef in Washington, D.C. told me. She refuses to use food coloring but loves this buttermilk-based velvety chocolate cake, and uses red wine vinegar or beet juice for the color. She also makes her version less sweet, using both good-quality cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate.
For the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup good-quality cocoa powder
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons pickled beet juice or red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
For the icing:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the water and cocoa powder, and allow the mixture to cool.
3. Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer, then add the vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda, and beet juice or red wine vinegar and stir well.
4. Sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cornstarch, salt, and sugar into the bowl. Pour in the butter and then the egg mixture and blend thoroughly on low.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Cool the cakes for a few minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks, and frost and fill the center with the chocolate icing.
1. Place the cream, butter, and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring slowly until smooth and silky. Add the vanilla and the salt. Taste and adjust the sweetness to your taste. Cool for about 15 minutes before frosting the cake.