Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Recipe Review: Beet-Red Velvet Cake

The history of red velvet cake is pretty sketchy. No one seems to know exactly where it originated from, though the consensus seems to be that its a Southern dessert. Some people claim that "traditional" red velvet cake was made with beets instead of red food coloring. Whether this is true or not, its an interesting alternative for those of you who don't want to use the 4-6 tablespoons of red food coloring your usual recipe requires (having to explain to your guests that no, they are not anally bleeding, isn't as fun as it sounds).

I bought two beets, wrapped them in foil, baked them in the oven for 90 minutes, cut them into thin slices, and pureed them in a blender. I used this recipe (the recipe is for a layer cake, but I used it for cupcakes instead):

3 1/4 c. cake flour (or all-purpose)
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 c. canola oil
2 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. pureed roasted beets (about 2 large beets, or 3 small ones)
3 large eggs
1-6 tablespoons red food coloring
1 T. water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp vinegar
1/4 cup melted dark chocolate (I omitted this)

Preheat oven to 350
Cooking time for cake: 30-35 minutes
Cooking time for cupcakes: 20-25 minutes
If your making a cake, grease three 9" round cake pans, line with parchment, grease the parchment and then dust with cocoa powder. If your making cupcakes put cupcake liners in your pan.
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Mix together canola oil, sugar and beets on low speed. Add eggs one at a time, and beat until well mixed. Add red food coloring and vanilla to oil mixture. In a separate bowl add the vinegar to the buttermilk. Then alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Finally mix in the melted dark chocolate. Bake until the cake springs back when you lightly touch it (or when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean). Cool ten minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on a wire rack. Frost.

Overall rating out of 5:

Terrible. This is not red velvet cake. This is chocolate beet cake, which I guess is fine if that's what you want. Even though I didn't add in all that melted dark chocolate, the chocolate was strong and very bitter (far too bitter). The consistency was oddly chewy. They didn't even smell good when I took them out of the oven. The color was more of a brown than a red, which I expected. I didn't even bother to frost them.

I definitely want to try this again, but with a different recipe next time.


  1. What makes a red velvet cake is simple -- a small amount of unsweetened cocoa powder (anywhere from a tablespoon to 1/4 cup), vinegar and buttermilk. Right, and red food coloring. But the flavor is from the previous ingredients, which this recipe has. I made cupcakes, also leaving out the melted chocolate, and already the bulk of the batch has disappeared. The only changes I made were to decrease the oil by 1/3 cup, increase the buttermilk by almost 1/2 cup and I used balsamic vinegar instead of white or yellow. The cupcakes were light, fluffy and this is the happiest I've been with a red velvet cake. Bravo.

  2. I'm crazy finicky about red velvet, and ratios matter to me, as well as the kind of vinegar used (I only use apple cider vinegar). But an expert I certainly am not. I'm glad you liked the recipe though! I think the alterations you made may have gone a long way :)