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Red velvet cake alternative

I was thinking of making a red velvet cake today for Valentine's day, but my two year old is sensitive to red food coloring (it makes her skin blister!), so all the artificial coloring in the recipes I've seen makes me quite scared. I was wondering if someone either has an alternative red cake that uses something red to color it (tomatoes, cherries, etc.) or if anyone has tried to make red velvet cake and colored it with something natural...beet juice comes to mind. Any ideas?

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  1. I don't have any specific advice for you, but the NYTimes article that just came out about red velvet cake mentions that a lot of chefs, also hesitant about the amount of food coloring, use beets (I assume beet juice?) to get the red color.

    1. My daughter has the same allergy. I've tried natural food dyes but it gives the food a funny taste. It takes a lot of dye to make chocolate-y cake red. What about making a red velvet cake w/out the dye but coloring the frosting? I've reduced frozen strawberries, strained and used that in the frosting.

      1. I'd say leave the red out of the cake & maybe just tint the icing pink using a natural red substitute: Whole Foods carries a blackberry juice red food coloring

        (I've read that the original red velvet cakes got their name from the reddish cast of natural cocoa (ie, not dutch-processed). It wasn't very red...but, I know, you want red for St. Valentine's Day).


        2 Replies
        1. re: evans

          I went to whole foods and they had every color natural food color EXCEPT red...they wanted to know the brand name or Is there a non dutch processed cocoa brand I can look for?

          1. re: evans

            I can testify that the mulberries in my back yard would surely do the trick, man those stain big time

          2. There is an old Southern recipe using beets as an ingredient, much like carrot cake. I have never used this version that I found on the internet from a source that generally has pretty reliable recipes. http://southernfood.about.com/od/choc...
            It's worth a try.

            It's highly possible that the original cake could have been the beet cake and somewhere along the line somebody decided to fake it using food coloring.
            The Red Velvet Cake recipe that I use is a red dye-stained photocopy, at least 35 years old, from my mother's original typed index card. I have no idea how long she had had that recipe. Nothing like the one puplished in today's in the New York Times.
            The icing recipe, using a cooked flour and milk base, is completely unlike those used currently. No cream cheese or buttercream. It's not like any other frosting recipe I have.
            All recipes evolve over time I guess.

            6 Replies
            1. re: MakingSense

              Sounds like the icing you use is similar to the one my old Southern grandmother would put on her red velvet cakes. As far as I'm concerned, it's the only way to go. If I discover that a red velvet cake is topped with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, I just can't eat it. It simply tastes wrong to me.

              1. re: MakingSense

                The recipe to which you link has no frosting. Suggestions? Or would you post your mom's recipe?

                1. re: candace

                  Here's the icing recipe that's been passed down in my family. The recipe comes from Grandma, but the directions are from my mom.

                  5 Tbsp flour
                  1 cup milk
                  1 cup butter or margarine
                  1 cup sugar
                  1 Tbsp vanilla

                  Cook flour & milk until thick, whisking constantly. Take off heat & lay plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming; cool in refrigerator. Cream together sugar & butter/margarine. Add cooled flour mixture & vanilla & beat with electric mixer for a long time until fluffy.

                  1. re: RoseViolet

                    Same recipe as in our family except 3 T flour and the "long time" is specified as "10 minutes." Thank God for the KA stand mixer!
                    My kids won't touch a Red Velvet Cake with a cream cheese or buttercream icing. Ick! Just ain't right.

                    This cake is probably Southern in origin and when it found itself in NYC, cooks began to use cream cheese and buttercreams, which weren't used in the non-air conditioned South. We didn't have cream cheese and buttercreams melted and slid right off cakes in the heat, in addition to butter being expensive and therefore reserved as a table spread if you had it at all.
                    Most Southern cakes had simple glazes or boiled frostings, variations on Italian or Swiss meringues, made with egg whites and cooked sugar syrups. This Red Velvet Cake icing is the only one I know like it.

                    1. re: RoseViolet

                      It's the same recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. See "Red Waldorf Cake". The frosting recipe is right below it.

                  2. re: MakingSense

                    I've got my mom's Waldorf Red Cake recipe, as well, Making Sense. We must have the same one, as her frosting calls for the flour-milk base, cooked stove-top. This is simply the best recipe I've had, but then I'm biased towards my mom's cooking :)
                    We had it on all our birthdays and ate a piece of it for breakfast the next morning, as well. Always cold, as she refrigerated the leftover cake once the party revelers went home!

                  3. What about a strawberry cake. You could use frozen strawberries. Here's a recent topic with strawberry cake recipes:

                    Or what about an ice cream bombe using laters of pink and white ice creams ... strawberry, raspberry sorbet, vanilla ... or whatever else comes in those colors.

                    1. Well, I decided to forgo the cake and we made chocolate covered strawberries. I now have a chocolate covered two year old too, but it was worth it. I think I may try a red velvet cake in the coming weeks and instead of water adding beet juice (we like the taste of beets anyhow, I just don't know about chocolate and beets). Thanks for all your replies!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: sunshinedrop

                        A great deal of the sugar used in the US is made from beets. Chocolate is added to many savory dishes like chili and molé. Think outside the cake box, sunshine!
                        Let us know how it turns out!

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          The sugar beet is not red, it is tan.

                          1. re: cheryl_h

                            Lots of different colors among beet cultivars.
                            The OP was talking about the taste of beets with chocolate which is why I pointed out that sugar was made from them.
                            There are a lot of vegetables used in baked good - carrot, zucchini and other squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, white pototo, beans, tomato, and more. Since people aren't familiar with a lot of these old recipes, they're surprised at the natural sweetness and interesting textures the veggies add.

                        2. re: sunshinedrop

                          You can definitely use beet juice, just don't use PICKLED beet juice. My mother has been doing this for years and years. You can't taste anything different and people rave about her cakes.

                        3. I did an experiment with natural dyes for frosting some years ago, trying beet powder (available at health food stores) and tumeric.

                          Do not, repeat not, ever use tumeric in frosting. Enough to turn it a pretty yellow will leave it tasting like bitter tumeric.

                          The beet powder, on the other hand, left a faint but not unpleasant beet flavor in rose pink frosting.

                          I'd use beets, both fresh and powdered.

                          1. Okay, you all have convinced me. I'm going to go to the store today and buy some beets and juice them and try to make a red velvet cake with them. I'll post my results soon.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sunshinedrop

                              i'm looking forward to reading your report. i've been toying with the idea of a beet-based red velvet cake for a while, as the dye makes my b.f. really sick. i found a recipe online using beets in brownies and thought it might transfer to cake, but i haven't tried it yet.

                            2. hello,good to see all of this ingenuity applied to finding a red coloring alternative, as my wonderful spouse,seeing the NYT article, wants to make the cake now with a healthier color source. Please let us know the results; I will likewise post once we find something and bake. have fun

                              1. I made a red velvet cake with beet juice on Vday. I think next time I would either use more beet juice, or perhaps boil it to concentrate the color? The batter was a lovely violet pink, with brown undertones from the cocoa, but the baked cake was decidedly natural cocoa color, without much red or even pink tone. (I used Dutched cocoa.) it tasted great, though--no weird aftertaste at all, which I always notice with the food coloring version.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: amyzan

                                  hello,because of the chemistry balancing involved with acidity vs.alkoloid, using the dutch process cocoa makes it harder to enhance the redness, and the NYT article speculated that it might be the reason the recipe devloped with the coloring, to counteract that. Deeper red should be possible with non-dutch process cocoa.


                                  1. re: moto

                                    I have made red velvet cake with both 'regular' cocoa powder and dutch-process cocoa powder. The red color was much brighter in the 'regular' cocoa version, and everyone actually preferred the lighter cocoa taste. The dutch-process resulted in a much darker red even with the just the two TBSP cocoa my recipe calls for. In the future, I will only use the regular cocoa.

                                    Also, in my humble opinion, the flour/milk 'frosting' is the only way to go with Red Velvet Cake. It's part of what makes it 'special'.

                                2. I really don't think beet juice alone is going to give the depth of color. Using whole beets probably will.
                                  There are a lot of old Southern recipes that incorporate veggie in them, such as sweet potato cake, squash or carrot cake. There are beet cakes as well. It is highly possible that at some point, coloring was used in a food service situation to produce the color rather than using the traditional vegetable. Remember all the references to the Waldorf Astoria in Red Velvet Cake stories? Perhaps a Southern cook there changed the ingredients...
                                  The recipe from the Harlem bakery in the NYTimes this week used vegetable oil rather than solid shortening which was often used in vegetable-type cakes.
                                  Just a theory. I'm going to experiment soon with a beet cake from an old recipe.

                                  1. The recipe I used specificaly called for alkalized cocoa. I would be interested in a red velvet cake recipe that uses natural cocoa, as I keep it on hand. Wouldn't you have to alter the chemical leavening if you use natural cocoa, as it's more acid?

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: amyzan

                                      Most Red Velvet Cake recipes, of which there are hundreds, include acid ingredients such as vinegar and buttermilk. The standard leavening is baking powder. The small amount of cocoa used is not going to make that much difference. Most people use plain old Hershey's anyway since recipes usually just say "cocoa." Non-Dutched. 'My family has been using Hershey's for 45+ years.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        I must have a weird recipe--no buttermilk, no vinegar. It's a lot like a chocolate butter cake, in fact. I've had so many chocolate cakes rise oddly or not hold their rise, that I'm wary of just any recipe involving cocoa and cake batter. Brownies are much more forgiving, and rewarding, IMO.

                                        BTW, I beat the hell out of the custard frosting recipe but it remained curdled looking. I even warmed some of it, and beat that, without result. So, I then refrigerated the rest and beat that after it was cool. No dice, curdled looking still. I finally just beat the two experiments together and frosted the cake. It tasted great, and looked funky. I've never had a custard, or gravy frosting (as I learned it) do this before! I'm blaming it on the snow storm. <wink>

                                        1. re: amyzan

                                          No buttermilk, no vinegar? You probably don't have a Red Velvet Cake recipe. How many essentials can you take out of a recipe before it loses its essence? Just because a cake is red, doesn't make it a Red Velvet Cake.
                                          That cake is tricky anyway. I blow it from time to time even after 40 years using the same tried and true recipe.
                                          Same with the weird icing recipe. Sometime it separates. "Mom, you blew the icing!" We always laugh about the gravy icing too. I've never seen any other like it. It does taste great. I have found that I need to cream the butter and sugar for a very long time to dissolve the sugar or it's grainy. And I have been cooking the white sauce only until it bubbles, not until it gets very thick. Coating the spoon well. The last time, my kids pronounced it perfect.

                                          BTW, Google Red Velvet Cake and look at how many recipes there are. They all have about the same ingredients, all about the same - until the New York Times messed with it. I finally checked Wiki and they said that the old original might have included grated beets as I had guessed. So stop worrying about the cocoa. Too many cooks have been making this from the old recipes for too many years to lose faith. You can't live on brownies alone. You'll succeed.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            MakingSense, I'd love to see your recipe & compare it to my family's version from Mississippi. I imagine they're very similar! Do you think it might deserve its own thread?

                                            1. re: RoseViolet

                                              We've probably beaten RVC to death here and would just start the food-coloring-is-poison debate again by starting another thread.

                                              Our family recipes are probably just about the same, differing only by which side of the Pearl or Mississippi Rivers we were on. All the ones on the internet are similar only varying in the quantities of the various ingredients.
                                              Ours uses: 1 c butter, 1 1/2 c sugar, 2 eggs, 2 oz red food coloring, 1 t vanilla, 1/4 c water, 1 T vinegar, 1 t baking soda, 1 c buttermilk, 2 1/3 c cake flour, 2 T cocoa (I use Hershey's), 1 t salt (plain old Morton's). Use the standard method of making any old cake, i.e. creaming butter and sugger first, adding dry ingredients after the eggs, etc. Two 9" layers at 350 for 25 minutes or 8" layers for 30 minutes.

                                              I've never known where Mama got the original recipe. I'm from New Orleans and it's most likely that Mama got it from an aunt of her's who was the baker in that family.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                My family's old recipe is nearly identical. Just a few little differences (there's no water in our ingredient list). The method is slightly different, too. For instance, my grandmother says to mix the vinegar & baking soda in a seperate bowl & fold it into the batter last.

                                                As for the food coloring, one of my mother's friends once considered making *purple* velvet cake, but decided against it. :) Honestly, it's a totally unnecessary ingredient. The cake may not be as red, but flavor matters more to me, anyway. Anyone who is nervous about dumping a bottle of food coloring in the batter can just skip it, in my opinion.

                                                I have to say, it's a comfort to know that other people are still making this cake the old fashioned way. Everyone I know who has tried my grandmother's recipe says they can't go back to that new-fangled variety with the sickly-sweet cream cheese icing. We need to keep this classic alive!

                                          2. re: amyzan

                                            If you add an egg yolk to your frosting it should pull it back together and stop the curdled problem. Egg yolk is an emulsifier - similar to when you make mayonnaise.

                                        2. re: amyzan

                                          hello,the Times article(nytimes.com) Feb.14 Food &Dining specifically mentioned a reddish compound in cocoa that gets retained in acidic conditions, related to keeping red cabbage from turning black through use of vinegar/lemon acidifying. The piece also mentioned the range of cocoa in different recipes, the paradox being the more cocoa, more coloring as well to keep things red rather than brown(which has a red component as a color). Their recipe used 1/2c. unsweetened cocoa,greater than other versions, and subsequently a lot of coloring(3 oz.). have fun

                                        3. Okay, I tried. I looked around for a red velvet cake recipe online and it seems like either they are really hard to make or they are inconsistent for whatever reason. So I thought I would try the beet juice instead of water in my favorite box cake mix--Betty Crocker German Chocolate Cake (I know red velvet cake isn't just a red chocolate cake, but for the sake of the experiment, I wanted to try something that I knew worked and just change this one thing).

                                          Well, I used my juicer and got my 1 1/3 cup beet juice and mixed up the batter and got really excited because the batter turned deep crimson red. But when I baked it, it turned brown, just like regular German chocolate cake, just a little darker....bummer! The taste is a little different too, maybe earthier? The taste isn't offensive, just different.

                                          So, on the down side, my chocolate cake did not turn red with beet juice.

                                          On the up side....I can sneak veggies into cake and make it a little healthier for my family.

                                          I just wonder if someone can help me out as to why this happened. The batter was really really red, why did it turn back to brown? Do you think the beet juice browned? Does the color of cocoa deepen as it cooks? Would something in a boxed cake mix do something to the beets? I'm willing to take another try if I can find out what went wrong.

                                          1. I'm just curious. Would some other fruit/veggie other than beets color the batter ... like strawberry or cherry or ???

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: rworange

                                              I think beets have far more stain power than strawberries, and cherries are very alkaline, so their juice will cook up brown unless acidified? I don't know what other fruits or veggies would have the, well, it's not called pigment, but whatever the color compound is called in f&v.

                                            2. I found Rose Levy Beranbaum's site, and noticed there was a discussion about RVC there. At the end of the thread, someone asked about beet juice, but Rose said that because cake batter is very alkaline, the red color will bake out to brown. I wonder how much vinegar once would have to add to alter the pH of the batter, or if it's even possible without making a horrible tasting cake! I wish we had a chemist baker on the forum...

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: amyzan

                                                Why don't you just surrender? Try making one of the old-fashioned beet cake recipes using grated whole beets? It will get some fiber into your family too instead of just beet juice.
                                                Don't you make carrot cake, pumpkin pie and bread, zucchini bread, banana nut bread, and other baked goods using vegetable or fruit solids?
                                                I háven't tried it yet but I've read it was the original version of RVC.

                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                  Well, I wanted a cake with some chocolate taste. Maybe instead of making a chocolate cake red, I should try to make a red cake chocolate. I'm just worried that beets won't get as soft as zucchini and bananas do and detract from the texture--I'm big on mouth feel.

                                                  1. re: sunshinedrop

                                                    RVC has a good chocolate note but not a really heavy flavor of chocolate. You could look at several of the beet cake recipes on the internet and find one with more cocoa. Or just use cocoa as you experiment. I think grating the beets fine would take care of the texture. I'm going to try it next week and if I feel lazy, may use canned beets since they'll get cooked in the recipe anyway. I won't be relying on texture as I would if I were serving them fresh. The worse that happens is another failed experiment. At least beets are pretty cheap.

                                                    Since everyone's been wondering about cocoa and Dutch process, acid reactions, the effect they have on baked good, etc. I thought I'd link this article from Shirley Corriher. It appeared in one of our local papers this morning. Could not have come at a better time. The discussion of cocoa is about halfway into the article. http://www.washtimes.com/food/2007022...

                                                    1. re: sunshinedrop

                                                      use beet puree. however, the batter must be acidic or it will all just turn brown.

                                                2. I've made a beet cake before (don't ask why, I was intrigued) and it was a glorious red/purple in batter and baked up BROWN. Tasted OK, not great. I definitely think the best solution is a yellow cake with strawberries in the batter or any type of cake with red frosting.

                                                  1. Hi~~~ I have made one other recipe calling for beet juice, it did remind me of the one my aunt made me every birthday for years, this one calls for pickled beet juice which might make it even better??, it doesn't use the white icing though, I bought some Red Velvet cupcakes years ago in Bird in hand PA., in an amish bakery, thought I was 10 again, it was perfect right down to the icing, anyway, here's the recipe I found using pickled beet juice or red wine vinegar, hope it brings back memories for those who try it.

                                                    Chocolate Red Velvet Cake
                                                    with Chocolate Icing

                                                    Yield: 1 cake serving 8 people

                                                    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 (2 sticks) 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.

                                                    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.

                                                    1. Actually the way the first recipes were made, the trick was that you use a specific type of coco powder which has a red tint to it that give you the reddish huge... if you want the now more poplar color of red use this type of coco powder and beet juice for the extra red color but the coco is very expensive and I believe that is why or at least one of the reasons so many used generic coco powder and add dyes...

                                                      I'd recoment Gerkens Cocoa Powder: 10/12 Garnet it is Heavily Alkalized Cocoa Powder. But it gives the color and taste you want! Though its a bit rich so you may want to use a sweeter frosting that is creamy, I'd recomend a rich chocolate cream cheese frosting... I personaly use a french chocolate buttercream with a touch more sugar. but I tend to just use a chocolate glaze if I'm makeing it for my father or just for fun for I love a rich cake. But it is your palet so it is your choice :)

                                                      1. i am happy to report that red velvet cake actually requires NO FOOD COLORING WHATSOEVER! it's true. people began to add food coloring to enhance the red. but, in fact, it's the chemical reaction between the buttermilk, vinegar, and cocoa that produces a deep red on its own. the red will be more pronounced if you use cocoa that is not dutch-processed for alkalinity. you can also add beet juice for additional color if you like. but it isn't necessary.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: squarepegg

                                                          I've noticed that most RVC recipes call for 2 oz. of red food coloring. I'm willing to eliminate it but consider: 2 oz. is a quarter-cup of liquid--quite a lot in a cake recipe. Does anyone have any suggestions about what sort of liquid could be substituted so that the cake doesn't turn out dry? I'm less concerned with color than flavor and texture.
                                                          BTW, I hate Dutch-processed cocoa. I find it "anemic," having grown up on Hershey's.

                                                          1. re: MacGuffin

                                                            I usually just use water, or the equivalent in buttermilk.

                                                            1. re: MacGuffin

                                                              I realize I'm hopping into this thread way late but I do have a suggestion. I learned how to make the Red Velvet Cake from my mom who always thought 2 bottles of food coloring was a lot. Not to mention expensive. She uses 1 - 1 oz. bottle then refills it with water and adds it to the mix. It also rinses the remaining coloring out of the bottle. I realize that you're wanting to eliminate the food dye completely, but maybe this will help someone.

                                                              1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                If you use professional paste food color you need very little to color the cake. And it doesn't add any liquid.

                                                                A small bottle seems expensive, but it lasts forever it doesn't go bad.

                                                                1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                  Some people use a little bit of coca cola to substitute the liquid.

                                                              2. Tomato Soup Cake was very popular a long time ago. I don't still have the recipe but in the wonders of the www I am sure you could find such a recipe. I think It may have been, originally, a Campbell Soup recipe as that was the can of soup we always used.

                                                                1. Jumping in on this discussion a year later--but I'm wondering if anyone's discovered any answers. In my quest to make Red Velvet cake without artificial coloring, I have so far tried using a homemade concoction of reduced beet juice, actual pureed beets, strained and reduced strawberries, and cranberry juice. I've used dutched cocoa and natural cocoa. The batter is red. When baked, however, my cakes are delicious but decidedly brown. Not even red in the slightest. Uh...is there an elephant in the room, or is it me? I mean no offense by this question, but I can't help but wonder if all the kind folks posting recipes for naturally-colored red velvet cake have actually *tried* these recipes---or are we all just collectively stretching the definition of "red?"

                                                                  In any case, the conclusion I'm drawing is that natural red pigment is either (a) not heat stable; i.e., it breaks down/oxidizes during baking or (b) not pH stable; i.e., is changed by the reaction caused by chemical leavening. Any food scientists out there want to comment on my half-baked (doh!) theory?

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jezebella

                                                                    Jumping into your post over a year later, I have tried this recipe, and it was bright red and authentic tasting.


                                                                    1. re: Trishamn

                                                                      It sounds yummy and I like the mini chemistry lesson. I wish, though, that they hadn't "modified" the original recipe to the extent that the butter was eliminated. That would be sublime!

                                                                  2. so many people are finally discovering the ill effects of food dyes all together. a friend of mine has a little boy that is highly affected by any color of the food dyes. she is looking for a substitute for butterscotch chips that are dye free and can't find any. with bugs being squished into traditional red food coloring that's enough to make me not make it any longer. like I need extra bugs in my system. no thanks.

                                                                    what about reducing beet juice to a thick syrup, concentrating the color/flavor and adding just maybe 2 tablespoons of that. would it still turn out to be a brown cake? I can't think of anything else that's red that could produce that sort of vibrant color. of course the more food coloring you add the brighter the cake, but how important is that really? < the color I mean

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                                                      I bought some beet powder at the natural grocery store (same aisle as loose spices) but I never got around to making the RVC. I'd love to hear if anyone tried that.

                                                                      1. re: danna

                                                                        hum, now that's an idea. wonderful, I must look for that powder

                                                                      2. re: iL Divo

                                                                        There's actually nothing wrong with eating bugs. It's a natural dye... unlike Red Dye # whatever.

                                                                        Eating bugs is part of the diets of most of the planet. It's a cultural thing not a health issue.

                                                                        1. re: Jennalynn

                                                                          yea, but uh well, not so much............. :(

                                                                      3. Or try a red earth cake with powdered hibiscus flowers.


                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: icecone

                                                                          New larger, redder, low-cal version of the red earth: infused and colored with 3 kinds of red/purple flowers: hibiscus, roses and lavender:


                                                                        2. For natural (organic) food colorings and flavorings, go to: http://www.naturesflavors.com/default...

                                                                          1. You can definitely use red beet juice instead of one bottle of red food coloring, just make sure NOT too use the pickled beets! My mom has been doing it for years and there is NO difference in taste from the "original" The red beet juice has no flavor.

                                                                            1. I just had a lightbulb moment after reading about how beets stain things: red velvet beets. From my googling, it seems a common problem is that during cooking the color turns brown. The Kitchn recommends leavening with egg whites only to avoid that. http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/go...

                                                                              1. this blog: http://www.mydiversekitchen.com/2010/... references a beet cake that they have slightly altered from this blog's version: http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/.... they both look like a version of red. certainly not radioactive, but also not brown. the trick is the pH level. the batter must be acidic or the beets will brown. just like trying to keep apple slices or avacados from browning, extra lemon juice is added. other recipes use vinegar and/or buttermilk. but it gets tricky with the leavening, because in order to make the bubbles, you also need baking soda, which is alkaline. check these out. they look like a good solution.

                                                                                also, this looked not so traditional, but yummy and definitely red: http://www.tylerflorence.com/blog/?p=916

                                                                                one caveat, i have not tried any of these recipes myself. however, the pictures all make them look red. good luck with this! i'm sure there's a way to do this.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: thergamoid

                                                                                  also, use cocoa that is NOT dutch processed. dutch processed is less acidic, and therefore, more browning. i learned that on cooks illustrated in their info about devils food cake.

                                                                                2. So, to recap? Nothing works to make a Red Velvet Cake RED except red dye? It seems, some things are just meant to be. It's my understanding-- that the Red Velvet Cake evolved from poor southerners in the depression who didn't have enough cocoa to make a chocolate cake. They had to make do with what they had-- and the red dye made the cake seem special and richer. (this also would make me think that the Flour/Milk Icing above is more authentic.) My decision, therefore, is to treat this cake as a treat, make it with the dye, and eat it only yearly. Maybe I'll use the suggestion above of using only one bottle, then adding a bottle of water. It seems in the scheme of life and eating, that one good dose of red dye (if I'm not a hyperactive child) will hurt me less than most things I encounter in a day of modern life. I can say that the Updated New Age Fancypants Red Velvet Cupcakes I've had from cupcake shops never taste as good as the Red Velvet Cake slab I had from Bob Sykes Barbecue, Bessemer Alabama. Here's that recipe:


                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: pickypicky

                                                                                    NO!!!! You CAN dye it with beets! I tried this version of it http://www.mydiversekitchen.com/2010/... which turned out VERY red. That is the picture that is attached. That recipe was good, but a little dense for my taste and it had a lovely lemon-y flavor, but I was hoping for more chocolate.

                                                                                    I did a few experiments with the recipe to make it more to my liking. I added 2 eggs. The previous recipe just happened to be vegan, which is fine and all, but eggs make for a fluffier cake. Along those same lines, I added some buttermilk and baking soda as extra leavening. I wanted more chocolate flavor, so I added more cocoa. The end result was not so bright red as in the picture, but definitely still red. Here's my version, sorry I don't have a picture of it yet. My version tastes more chocolate-y and has a more airy, spongy texture, but is definitely RED, and I think it tastes better.

                                                                                    Thergamoid's Red Velvet Beet Cake

                                                                                    1 1/4 c whole wheat cake flour
                                                                                    1 1/4 c sugar
                                                                                    5 T natural cocoa powder (not dutch processed. this is very important for redness.
                                                                                    )1 1/2 t baking powder
                                                                                    1/4 t baking soda
                                                                                    1/4 t salt
                                                                                    3/4 c pureed roasted beets
                                                                                    1/3 c light tasting olive oil
                                                                                    1/3 c lemon juice
                                                                                    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

                                                                                    To roast the beets, cut off the tops and "rat tails", wash well, wrap in tin foil and roast in the oven at 450F for about an hour, until fork soft. Once cool, the skins pull off easily with a paper towel. Put the de-skinned beets in the blender or food processor. Add little bits of water and stir as necessary until it looks like beet baby food. I did this the night before. Otherwise this becomes a very long process.

                                                                                    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!

                                                                                      1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                        here's my pic of the recipe above.

                                                                                      2. re: thergamoid

                                                                                        gorgeous color, but no wonder it was lemony... that's a heck of a lot of lemon juice!

                                                                                        1. re: thergamoid

                                                                                          I want to say that I tried your version of the red velvet cake and it came out fabulous! I made the cake for my sons' first birthday in the shape of the Disney movie Cars. What a crowd pleaser it was. The cake was very moist and had great flavor. One thing I did do differently is that I had to double the recipe for the cake and along with vanilla flavoring, I added 1 tsp of almond extract. It came out great and the color was beautiful. This will surely go into my repertoire. Thanks!

                                                                                          1. re: Hemaja79

                                                                                            hooray Hemaja79! i'm so glad it worked out for you!

                                                                                          2. re: thergamoid

                                                                                            Where do you get the natural cocoa powder please?
                                                                                            The beets I can buy raw and steam or bake as I did last week.
                                                                                            They colored my white cutting board and hands 'way' red pretty funny.
                                                                                            If you got a few "balls" and roasted them off then portioned them out and froze
                                                                                            the portions you'd always have the makings for {plus} a very moist (I'd think) cake.
                                                                                            Great hint thanks for sharing.

                                                                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                              I used the ghirardelli cocoa, which is not Dutch processed. You may also want to use bittersweet instead of the sweet cocoa. It depends on how sweet you would like your cake to be. I did use the sweet version plus the sugar that was mentioned in the recipe and it came out fine to me.

                                                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                regular hershey's cocoa is NOT dutch processed. I fact most cocoas you find in the grocery store are not dutch processed. It's kind of hard to find dutch processed chocolate, in general.

                                                                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                  So it's true that little to no food coloring is necessary if regular non-dutch processed cocoa is used? How red does the cocoa turn when mixed with the acidic ingredients?

                                                                                                2. re: thergamoid

                                                                                                  Thermagoid or anyone else since I need to make this cake in the next few days. Please let me know if T,t and tsp in Thergamoid's recipe are Tablespoon, teaspoon and teaspoon. Thanks. It is a bit confusing. Thanks.

                                                                                                  Barbara (bdturnham@comcast.net)

                                                                                                  1. re: mahnrut

                                                                                                    T = Tablespoon
                                                                                                    t = teaspoon

                                                                                                    Sorry for any confusion.

                                                                                                    1. re: thergamoid

                                                                                                      Thanks so much for the prompt reply. I guessed as much but wanted to check!

                                                                                                3. re: pickypicky

                                                                                                  I appreciate knowing this, pickypicky, because I've been trying as a northerner to figure out why in creation people would ever do this -- add all that dye. This makes sense to me. And then I suppose it became tradition and nostalgic.

                                                                                                4. I bought Babycakes new york's new book babycakes does the classics and they gave a link to the place they buy their totally natural food coloring which they use in the bakery here is the link - http://www.indiatree.com/Category_Pag... ,another great book for recipes using all natural coloring is Red velvet and sugar heartache by Harry Eastwood.Hope that helps.