All Natural Recipe for Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cake is a classic. Visually stunning and with a unique flavor, it’s easy to see why it has become many people’s favorite. The only downside is that most recipes require a tablespoon or more of red food coloring. That’s a lot! Commercial food coloring is petroleum-based, and has been linked to allergies, bed-wetting, hyperactivity, and cancer. Though some studies are inconclusive, just the mere possibility sends me running in the other direction. We try to stay as close to natural as possible around here, so I looked to a healthier source for that signature hue: beets.
Beets have a gorgeous purple/red color, so deep and vibrant it almost seems unnatural! They are also full of healthy stuff like folate, manganese, and vitamin C, but really, it’s the color we care about here. After much research, it seems that the key to a naturally red cake using beets is acidity. I’ll save you most of the science talk, but without the proper acidic pH, the beets will turn brown. This means we need to incorporate things like vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or citrus. I used white wine vinegar, which has a 6% acidity compared to regular distilled or apple cider vinegar which is 5%, and orange juice. I also used baking powder instead of baking soda, as it has a higher pH due to the cream of tartar. (Baking powder is just a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar. Since cream of tartar is acidic, baking powder can be used without an additional acid to activate it. Recipes that use baking soda do so because there is an acidic element somewhere else in the ingredients, such as buttermilk or lemon juice.) The final product is incredibly delicious. I actually said ‘wow’ out loud while standing in the kitchen after the first taste. I will be honest- I was not expecting much. I thought it would be too tangy from the vinegar and too earthy from the beets, but it is delightfully sweet! The chocolate flavor floats lightly, not too powerful but definitely there, and the crumb is moist and dense, but not heavy. This recipe for Red Velvet Cake is one you will definitely want to try and keep!
Red Velvet Cake Recipe
What You Need:
Makes 2 9" layers
- 2 ½ cups cake flour
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup beet puree (see recipe below)
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9” cake pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the milk, beet puree, orange juice and vinegar.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a third of the liquid ingredients, followed by a third of the dry ingredients, alternating wet and dry and mixing well after each addition.
To frost this recipe for Red Velvet cake, I recommend spreading on a thin crumb coat, then placing the cake in the fridge for an hour to let it harden a bit. Remove cake from the fridge and continue frosting. This will prevent red crumbs from mixing with the white frosting.
If your beets came with the leaves still attached, slice them off at the base. Wash the beets and wrap in aluminum foil (no need to dry, the water will help them cook).
Place the foil-wrapped beets on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 40-60 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces their flesh.
Remove from oven and let cool. The skins should easily peel off. Chop the beets and puree them well (I used a food processor but I imagine a blender would work, too).
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
Whip the cream cheese and butter until soft. Slowly add in the sugar. Add milk if necessary to achieve desired consistency. You can also check out our recipe for The Best Cream Cheese Frosting for a slightly different version.
Looking for some more delicious cake recipes to try? You might want to check out this list of 30 Homemade Cake Recipes from Scratch!
Do you have a special recipe for Red Velvet Cake? Will you try this version?
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