Saturday, June 21, 2014

Red Velvet Cake the Natural Way: Beets!

Recently BEETS came up in a discussion about chocolate. Of course, Red Velvet Cake that is made with Beets came to mind. Most red velvet cakes use red dye. You need to use red food dye, the kind in the little bottles, if you want to get that really red color (even the Wilton's doesn't quite do it), but for fabulous flavor, Beets will do the trick! They're full of great natural sugar. The first cake uses lots of real beet juice and the color comes very close to a true red. The cake is yummy. The second is a delicious Red Velvet Cake, too, although not quite as red. Most red velvet cakes I've made call for buttermilk and/or vinegar in them, so that one is perfect in taste. The first two recipes come as close as it comes to a 'natural' Red Velvet Cake.  The third recipe is more of a 'vegetable' in zucchini or carrot cake. Still delicious, but not really red. As always, the quality of the chocolate or cocoa will really make the difference!


2 large beets, fresh, (enough to make 1-1/2 cups of beet purée)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 cup sweet butter, room temperature
24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2  1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2-1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla
2 cup  flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder, unsweetened (not dark or Dutch processed)

4 cups confections sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line bottom of 3 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Use vegetable spray on sides and bottom of pans.
In small baking dish, roast 2 fresh large beets, fresh (enough to make 1 1/2 cups of beet purée) use 1/2 cup water. Cover with parchment paper and foil, and roast until tender, about 60-90 minutes. When beets have cooled completely, peel and cut into small chunks. Place beets in food processor and pulse until smooth with: 1/4 cup lemon juice. There should be 1-1/2 cups of purée. Stir in: 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar.
In mixer with paddle attachment, cream together 1/2 cup butter, 8 ounces cream cheese. Mix until smooth and fluffy: Add 2-1/3 cup sugar.  Mix in, one at time: 4 eggs.  Mix until incorporated: 1-1/2 tsp vanilla.
In separate bowl, whisk out lumps of 2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder. In batches, mix flour mixture into wet ingredients. Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the beet puree mixture, and fold into cake batter. Divide batter evenly between 3 cake pans.
Bake at 350ºF for 20-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of  cakes comes out clean. Invert cakes onto cooling racks, and allow to cool completely.

In electric mixer fitted with  paddle attachment, combine 16 oz cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter, 4 cups confectioners sugar, 2 Tbsp heavy cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp almond extract. Switch to whisk attachment, and mix until smooth and slightly fluffy. Frost cake.


I found the following recipe posted on the site in a discussion about 'natural' Red Velvet Cake. I love the story that goes with it. It's close to a 'real' Red Velvet Cake because there's buttermilk and vinegar and/or beet juice (but not as red). I make a cream cheese frosting (see above) because that's what goes with Red Velvet Cake, in my opinion. But it's up to you.

2. Chocolate Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Icing
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.

"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 sweet butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup good-quality cocoa powder
2 extra-large eggs
1 Tbsp Madagascar pure vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp 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 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

For icing
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 Tbsp sweet butter
2 Tbsp sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Remove pan from the heat, stir in water and cocoa powder, and allow mixture to cool.
3. Beat eggs in bowl of electric mixer, then add vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda, and beet juice or red wine vinegar and stir well.
4. Sift together all-purpose flour, cake flour, cornstarch, salt, and sugar into bowl. Pour in butter and then egg mixture and blend thoroughly on low.
5. Pour batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
6. Cool cakes for a few minutes, then turn out onto wire racks, and frost and fill the center with chocolate icing.

Directions for Chocolate Icing
1. Place cream, butter, and sugar in  small saucepan and stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly.
2. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, stirring slowly until smooth and silky. Add  vanilla and  salt. Taste and adjust sweetness to your taste. Cool for about 15 minutes before frosting the cake.

3. Chocolate Beet Cake 
This third recipe is closer to a vegetable cake just like a carrot cake or zucchini cake. 
(Adapted from Diana Rattray --Southern Food at

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 - 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1- 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (use regular not Dutch Process)
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp 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 bowl; set aside.
In mixing bowl, combine 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 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.

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