Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Feb 14, 2007 06:31 AM

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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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.
            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.