In Search of a Natural Red Velvet Cake - Take One

Friday, August 19, 2011

I really like red velvet cake, but when I recently learned that it takes 2 1 oz. bottle of red food coloring to get that red hue, I was shocked and a little sickened. I mean, who needs all that red food coloring in their system. Yuck.

So I started search for a recipe that went back to the roots of red velvet.

Apparently, red velvet was a poor person's cake, made when a household didn't have quite enough chocolate to make a chocolate cake. Also, back in the first few decades of the 1900's, cocoa powder was processed a bit differently and had a more reddish hue. So when it was mixed with acidic ingredients, like buttermilk, vinegar or lemon juice, it gave the cake a red color.

I also thought that maybe the cake's color came from beets, since beets are used to make sugar. Turns out, sugar beets are actually white and the sugar from them is actually a tan color. There are recipes for beet cakes, a Southern recipe, but again, I'm not sure beets had anything to do with the original red velvet cake.

So it was off to the internet to find a red velvet recipe that was the original--minus the red food coloring--or used something more natural to create the red hue. I have to admit that once I started looking, I found a lot of variations on the red velvet theme. Needless to say, that left my head spinning.

OK, so I had to start somewhere. Here is the first recipe that I tried and I have included brand names of some of the ingredients used because, especially in the case of the chocolate, it makes a HUGE difference.

Thergamoid's Red Velvet Beet Cake

1 1/4 c whole wheat cake flour
(NOTE: I didn't have cake flour, so I measured 1 1/4 c whole wheat white flour, subtracted 2 T and 1 1/2 t of flour, then added back 2 T and 1 1/2 t cornstarch)
1 1/4 c sugar
(NOTE: I used Sugar in the Raw)
5 T natural cocoa powder (not dutch processed. this is very important for redness)
(NOTE: I used Scharffen Berger cocoa powder.)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 c pureed roasted beets
(NOTE: I used a 15 oz. can of sliced beets. I drained the liquid and just put the slices into a blender and processed until they had the consistency of baby food. A 15 oz. can of beets will make about 1 cup of puree.)
1/3 c light tasting olive oil
(NOTE: I used canola oil.)
1/3 c lemon juice --- lucky me, I have a lemon tree in my backyard
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pkg cream cheese
2 sticks butter
2 c sifted powdered sugar
2 t vanilla extract
pinch salt

For the cake, sift together the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients making sure not to over-mix. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes for cupcakes, about 38 minutes for 1 8-inch cake.

For the frosting, put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Whip. Once cake/cupcakes are cool, frost and enjoy!

My take on this recipe? The cupcakes looked more reddish when they came out of the oven. In the photo, I see a reddish hue (but I am also a bit color blind!) I really liked how air and light these cupcakes were. They taste more chocolatey than most red velvet I have tasted previously, but that is OK with me. I loved the cream cheese frosting, but hubs said it was not sweet enough.

I need to try this recipe again using a sugar substitute, like Truvia or Splenda for Baking mix (which is sucralose and sugar.) Because I made this batch for a friend of mine who isn't diabetic, so I used the "real thing".

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.

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Anonymous said...

Selena, I love red velvet cake...but I don't bake. If I did I would try this recipe, it looks delicious! The fanciest I get is a box cake mix!

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