NATURAL Red Velvet Cake

Remember my post on Red Velvet Cake and how I said I was experimenting to make my natural red velvet cake taste less like beets? Well, I’ve done it… I guess you could say I had a bakethrough.

I’m going to give a warning in advance that this cake does not taste exactly like a typical RVC, but it is still delightful. Plus, my version contains nutrients and antioxidants that are thought to help prevent diseases such as cancer. Can your typical RVC do that?

(Ok I’m not suggesting you eat huge amounts of this cake to get your antioxidants because I’m pretty sure the sugar and butter counteract any health benefits this cake may have… but still.)

I used the Joy of Baking Red Velvet Cake and the Country Living Chocolate Pumpkin Cake (using beets instead of pumpkin) as starting points for my experimentation because both of these recipes are very yum.

I also did a bit of research on making a natural red velvet cake, and I found that many of the cakes containing beet juice for colour were turning brown during baking. After delving into the science behind some natural red pigments I learned some ways to keep a bright red colour in the cake, naturally.

Anthocyanins and Betalains
Anthocyanins are pigments that are found naturally in many plants. They are responsible for the colour of roses, red cabbage, raspberries,  and many others. While most red plants attribute their colour to anthocyanins, others, such as beets, have betalain pigments instead.

Betanin is a betalain pigment that is most often used as a natural food dye. I found a bottle of this natural red food dye at a health food store that was almost 20 dollars! I think I’d rather spend a couple dollars on some beetroot and make the dye myself. Like anthocyanins, the colour of betanin is pH sensitive. I did a little experiment with beet juice just to see how the colour would change with varying pH.

The pH sensitivity of beet pigments

On the left is some beet juice that I’ve mixed with cream of tartar (an acid) and then painted on a piece of paper. On the right is beet juice that has been mixed with baking soda (a base.) Clearly, we can see that if we are going to use beet pigments to make our cake red, we want to keep the batter acidic.

Stability and Degradation of Betanin
It isn’t just changes in pH that can affect the colour of betanin. There are various factors that can change its colour:

  • pH
  • Heat
  • Salt
  • Metal ions
  • Water activity
Use Puree from RAW Beetroot
Have you ever cooked beets and found after a while they start to turn brown? The fact that heat causes the betanin pigment to eventually degrade poses a problem (unless you prefer eating cake batter.) The first time I made this cake with beets, I roasted the beets and then pureed them so they had a baby-food texture. The resulting cake still turned out red, but the edges of the cake (that had cooked more than the inside) had started turning brown. This is why I decided to use raw puree. The less heat the beets are subjected to the better. Unfortunately, making raw puree isn’t as easy as using cooked beets. After peeling the beetroot, I used a food processor to grate the raw beetroot. I then added a few spoonfuls of water and pureed the grated beets for 10 minutes to obtain the smoothest texture possible.
Because this method took slightly more effort than I would like (I’m so happy I have a food processor), I tried using canned beets, just to see what would happen. The results were not great. This photo shows the difference in colour using canned beets vs. raw ones.

All-Natural Red Velvet Cake. The Effect of Using Raw vs. Canned Beets on Colour.

I was surprised to see such a contrast between the two types of beets. After seeing the dull brownish-red colour from canned beets, I started thinking and consulted the ingredients list on the can. Second ingredient after beets? Salt, which is one of the factors that will promote the degradation of betanin.

Use Beet Puree Instead of Beet Juice
So we know that using fresh, raw beet puree works better than using canned beets. What about using beet juice instead of beet puree? While using beet juice would probably be much easier than pureeing the beets, it will not work as well. Water activity is one of the factors that contributes to betanin degradation. While I’m not going to go into what water activity actually means, the more water present, the less stable the betanin will be. You will probably have noticed this if you’ve ever boiled beets. The water always turns brown before the beets do.

Now that is enough pigment talk. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

Makes two 9-inch cakes or 24 cupcakes

2-1/2 cups cake flour (260 g)
3 tbsp. NATURAL cocoa powder (not dutch processed or dark)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup butter (225 g)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups white sugar (500 g)
4 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk (125 mL)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (125 g)
1/2 cup to 1 cup  beet puree (from raw beetroot) (100 to 200 g)
1/2 cup  raspberry juice (from frozen or fresh raspberries) (125 mL)
2 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tbsp. lemon juice

Now let me do a little explaining about my ingredients choices. I needed to use things that would keep the batter acidic (hence the cream of tartar, buttermilk, yogurt, raspberry juice, vinegar, and lemon juice.) Even cake flour is more acidic than all-purpose flour. Admittedly, it probably wasn’t necessary for me to use ALL these acids. However, I thought adding too much of one type would give the cake a funny flavour. For example, I thought adding 4 tbsp. of vinegar might be a bit much so I decided to use both vinegar and lemon juice. I encourage you to experiment with different combinations to suit your taste.

I used more cocoa powder and vanilla than I normally would in a Red Velvet Cake. This, along with the raspberry juice, was an attempt to mask the beet flavour.

You will also notice that I say 1/2 cup to 1 cup of beet puree. You will get a deeper red from using a full cup of beets, but also a slight beet flavour. You can get away with using a 1/2 cup, but any less and your cake will start going a more brownish red. It is all personal preference and how concerned you are with having a bright red colour. My taste testers went back for seconds even with a full cup of beets in the batter so either one tastes good.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C.) Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper OR line cupcake tins with paper liners.

Prepare beet puree and raspberry juice beforehand. Grate raw beet and then puree it in food processor to as fine a texture as possible (adding water if necessary.) You don’t want any chunks, otherwise you might get a mouthful of beet while eating the cake. The colour of the cake will also be best with the finest texture of beet puree.
For the raspberry juice, heat up raspberries in microwave until they become mushy. Strain to remove seeds.

Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream together butter, vanilla, and sugar.

Beat in eggs, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk and yogurt. Whisk in the beet puree and the raspberry juice. Stir in the vinegar and lemon juice.

Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter/egg mixture, mixing until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared tins. Bake cakes for 25-35 min (18-22 for cupcakes) or until toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, and then completely on a wire rack.

Decorate with cream cheese icing.

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150 Responses to NATURAL Red Velvet Cake

  1. Angela January 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I love this! it’s like Hervé This, but rather less like a lecture and altogether more fun… and who could say no to red velvet cake with antioxidants?!

    • Ashleen January 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      Thanks Angela! What a compliment to be compared to Hervé This :)

  2. Steph January 29, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    ‘bakethrough’. Love it.

    I think I will be making these soon, I tried making Red Velvet cake once before and it turned out less then steller. Going to try this recipe – thanks Ashleen!

    • Ashleen January 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      Let me know how it turns out :) I bet you could make an egg-less one for a vegan variety

  3. rachel January 31, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    wow!!! so excited to have found this recipe. i am planning on making rvc cupcakes this week but was not thrilled about having to use 6 TBSP!!! of red food coloring. never even bought beets before…what a fun recipe this will be. very much looking forward to the yummy results! thanks so much for your hard work on figuring this whole natural rvc thing out! :) i really appreciate it.

    • Ashleen January 31, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      You’re welcome! Let me know how they turn out. How exciting… your first beet experience :P

  4. ummu February 4, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    Hi, thanks for the write-up. It’s so helpful. I’d like to ask : My children usually prefer choc chips added to their rvc? Will the addition of choc chips affect the natural colouring of the beetroot?
    ummu

    • Ashleen February 4, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      I don’t think the chocolate chips would affect the colour and I’m sure it would taste really nice. It is worth a shot :)
      Let me know how they turn out

  5. Anu February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi,
    Thank you for the write up on using beets instead of food coloring. As a mom of a 2year old, I appreciate recipes with natural ingredients. I was wondering what brand of “Natural cocoa” you used? Is it available in local stores? I have dutch processed one. Can’t wait to try this out!

    • Ashleen February 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Thanks for your comment!
      I used Hershey’s natural cocoa powder which is available in a lot of grocery stores. I also found some in the bulk section but I’m not sure what brand that was. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding any! Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

  6. Greer February 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    These were just fabulous! Tasted quite a bit like raspberry, may add a tad more cocoa to em next time but yeah, well done! Super easy to do once I found all the stuff :D Keep up the great work!

    • Ashleen February 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      Thanks! Yes, they do have a raspberry taste but I preferred that over a strong beet flavour. Adding more cocoa powder would definitely be delicious!

    • Rae June 8, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      I am thinking tart cherry juice and a bit of almond extract in place of the raspberry, as the first recipe for red velvet I ate, for years, had cherry and almond extracts in them. Cheribundi is availablE in many areas.

  7. Gerry/Gewoon Lekker Gewoon February 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    Hi, thanks for your clear peace of information. I had a disappointing event with my attemp on a valentine cake. Using beetroot juice gave a perfect bubblegum batter but a total blanc cake. I will retry adding some lemonjuice.

    • Gerry/Gewoon Lekker Gewoon February 15, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      Ps. I really like your beetroot painting. It lookes like some Japanese painting!

    • Ashleen February 15, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      I don’t think you will ever get the best results using beet juice. When there is too much water present it makes the pigments more unstable and more likely to degrade into that disappointing brown colour. You really should try raw beet puree for that intense red colour. Good luck!

  8. Gloria February 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    I appreciate all the time and effort you put into this post so the rest of us including yourself could have a healthier cake!
    I just posted a recipe for cake-mix doctored to be red velvet. To me it tastes fabulous, BUT too much dye. I went searching and found your blog and this recipe. I still want to try it with cake mix AND canned beats pureed. I know it will probably be brown, but I may put in a teaspoon of red food coloring rather than a whole bottle.
    Will you have time to look at my recipe and see if you think replacing 1/2 cup of the milk with 1/2 cup of pureed beets might work? Would I need to add another Tablespoon of vinegar to equal 2 T? Thanks!

    • Ashleen February 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

      Of course I’ll have a look, Gloria. I will check it out and send you an email :)

  9. jas February 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    hi!! thank you for your information, it has been very helpful because i want to make a natural red velvet cake! :)
    but i have one question, what do you mean by “I then added a few spoonfuls of water and pureed the grated beets for 10 minutes to obtain the smoothest texture possible.”
    How do you puree the grated beets? what do you use and how do you do it?

    i really appreciate if you can let me know, thank you in advance! :)

    • Ashleen March 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      Hi Jas,
      Thanks for commenting!
      Sorry for not being clear enough if the post. It is tough to puree raw beets because they aren’t as soft so they don’t blend as nicely as cooked beets do. I grated the beets as fine as possible using a food processor (you could do this by hand but it would be tiring.) I then took the grated beets and tried to puree them in the food processor with the blade that will essentially turn whatever is in there into mush. Adding a bit of water just facilitates this process because if it is too dry, it will just fling the bits of beets to the sides of the food processor and won’t actually puree them. Does that make sense? A food processor is definitely your best bet, but you could also try using an extra fine grater, a blender, or juicer. Basically do whatever you can to get the raw beets into as fine a paste as possible!
      Let me know how it goes and good luck!

      • nicolette July 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

        Do you think I could use a juicer and mix the juice back in with the pulp?

  10. Claire YC March 9, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Hey!

    You’re recipe was the easiest because it didn’t require baking or pre-boiling the beets, which was exactly what I was looing for. However, I think I’m going to try it without the raspberries next time. It tasted like jam cakes. I wonder how the first red velvet cake tasted… whether they tasted like beets or like vanilla cakes in the past (like the ones from a box at the grocery). And I also substituted the buttermilk with one part vinegar and 8 parts whole milk because i didn’t have any. I had to do a lot of substitutions, for example, less butter and more yogurt. And I also used greek yogurt because I was missing regular in my fridge. This recipe helped me understand how the color works in baking with natural dyes. Color was a rich red color. Loved it. Thanks. -Claire

    • Ashleen March 28, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Claire! I think experimenting with different substitutions is one of the best parts about baking. I hardly ever follow a recipe exactly how it should be :)

  11. Katie March 20, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Thanks for the most useful information…I just baked a Red Velvet cake and it had the prettiest maroon/red batter but when it baked it was a was a Brown Velvet cake instead…next time I will use fresh beets instead instead of the canned ones I used.

  12. Katie March 20, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Thanks for the most useful information…I just baked a Red Velvet cake and it had the prettiest maroon/red batter but when it baked it was a was a Brown Velvet cake instead…next time I will use fresh beets instead instead of the canned ones I used.

    • Ashleen March 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

      Glad you liked the post :)

  13. Melody March 28, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Supper yummy I made this cake and put a layer of cheesecake in the middle, the idea came from http://www.recipegirl.com/2011/11/28/red-velvet-cheesecake-cake/#comment-70014 but I didn’t want to use food coloring.

    One question…how in the world did you get 1/2 cup raspberry juice…I microwaved 1 cup of frozen raspberries for 3 minutes or more and tried to juice them through a strainer and got a teaspoon of juice. I gave up and took out a bit of sugar and replaced it with1/3 cup raspberry preserves.

    • Ashleen March 28, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      Hmm… I had no problems getting raspberry juice! It is ok to use a bit of puree too :) Oh and how delicious does that cake from Recipe Girl look?! I want it right now!

  14. Marianne April 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Hi
    I was wondering could I use raw cacao powder?If I don’t use raspberry juice could I just add more beet juice?
    Thanks

    • Ashleen April 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      Hi Marianne, you should be able to make those changes no problem! The reason I used raspberry juice was to mask the flavour of the beets. If you don’t mind a beet taste in your cake, then just go ahead and add more beet puree and leave out the raspberry juice :)

  15. Abhilasha Singh April 14, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Thanks for the informative post. It solved the mystery as to why my beetroot cake turned brown. Seems I was doing everything I was not supposed to. Glad to find this post. :)

    • Ashleen April 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      Great! I’m glad you found it helpful :)

  16. Tanti April 22, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    hi ……thank you for your post. I love red velvet cake but little bit worry about food coloring. I am glad to find your post. In my country is rather difficult to find raspberry so I will use strawberrry instead. I cannot wait to try this recipe. Thanks again….its very helpful…

    • Ashleen April 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

      Glad you found it usefull :) Let me know how it turns out!

  17. hawa May 10, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Cannot wait to try this RVC as I’m in searching for a red RVC without the dyes, one question can I use one cup of cultured buttermilk instead of half cup yoghurt and half cup buttermilk, and can I use raspberried in a tin?

    • Ashleen May 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      Yep, you can definitely make those changes! Should still turn out nicely :)

  18. Lena May 12, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Very happy to find ur recipe.Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing Asleen….

    • Ashleen May 13, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      You’re welcome :) Let me know how it turns out!

  19. Halimah May 18, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Hi Ashleen, thanks for the informative post. I tried making a vegan version with all your points in consideration and mine still turned brown. I even added cream of tartar, white vinegar, lemon juice and used natural cocoa powder and only used baking powder. Tried it with cake flour as well with limited results. Where do you think I could be going wrong? I used soy milk instead of buttermilk and increased the vinegar because of the lack of acidity in the other ingredients (buttermilk and yoghurt) I also added raspberry puree (frozen raspberries that were blended) with limited success. Ended up with a tangy moist cake that was reddish brown at best :(

    • Ashleen May 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

      Hmmm that’s a tough one because as you can see from my post, the red pigment is quite sensitive and can be affected by many different factors. Did you find that the outside of the cake was more brown than the inside? How much beet puree did you use? My suggestion would be to really be sure that you aren’t baking the cake too long. Once it is close to being done, keep an eye on it because even a few extra minutes in the oven can make it turn more brown. Also, you could try increasing the amount of beet puree slightly and add a bit more acid. It sounds like you are on the right track but may just need to tweak the recipe a bit more. You can do it! :)
      Let me know how these suggestions work out for you and maybe I can come up with more ideas for you!

  20. hawa May 21, 2012 at 3:11 am #

    Hi there, I tried your recipe, I got a moist, delicious sweet, sour cake, that was enjoyed by my “testers” the only problem was the colour, I didn’t get a bright red cake I was hoping for, I used a cup of raw beets en pureed it with a bit of buttermilk hence using no water, what could have gone wrong?

    • Ashleen May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

      How long did you bake the cake for? This cake will turn brown if baked even just a little too long. Did you use a full cup of beet puree or a full cup of non-pureed beets? Did you make any changes to the recipe? I’m sure we can come up with a solution so you can get a nice bright red colour :)

  21. hawa May 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Hi, I made a cake en not cupcakes hence the time in the oven increased, I read through other blogs to see what went wrong, en one suggested the cocoa, if I half the cocoa amount the next time I bake it?

    • Ashleen May 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

      The risk in doing that is having the beet taste become too overpowering. Are you making a 9-inch round cake? How long exactly are you baking it for? I think you could try adding a bit more beet puree to the mix but leaving the other ingredients the same. We’ll get it eventually ;)

  22. Rebecca Coon May 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Thank u soooo much for this amazing info and awesome recipe! I feel like I just got a free cooking class!! Just made the batter. I had thought for years anout making RVC w/beets because red dye is so horrible. I’m so glad I google searched before experimenting on my own–never thought about acidity effecting color–great info :-) batter tastes lovely (I’m blessed to own both a Vita Mix blender and Kitchen Aid food processor– blended up the beets and berry juice quite nicely) I cant wait to have my friends sample these cupcakes. Not being vain, but I have quite the reputation as a baker, have a feeling these cupcakes will NOT disappoint.

    Bless you for sharing your recipe!

    Rebecca

    • Ashleen May 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      Thanks for commenting! Glad you found this information helpful :) How did it turn out?

      • Rebecca Coon May 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

        They are absolutely delicious! Moist and dense and nothing like the chemical flavor of real rvc! I didn’t have enough beet puree, we had one lone beet left & it was just under 1/2 cup, so I compensated with more raspberry juice and water–that gave it more of a berry flavor, but the color was nice and taste & texture is amazing. I iced with my version of cream cheese icing–which is one stick butter/one 8 oz pkg cream cheese, 2 teaspoons vanilla and a splash of cream, then enough powdered sugar to make it icing texture (I’m terrible at actually measuring). Was really nice. Favorite taster friend loved it as well.

        I’m curious if I can replace the butter with coconut oil next time, we’ve slowly switched out our love of butter to extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil, so far the sweets have been great–but I didn’t want to try on this since it was my first experiment. Anyway…THANKS AGAIN, I’m now going to be enjoying your great blog posts as well :-)

        • Ashleen May 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

          Great! I’m so glad it worked out well for you :) As for the coconut oil, I bet you could replace the butter with it although I’ve never actually tried myself. I’ve also recently become a huge fan of coconut oil and find that I can replace butter with it in all my favourite recipes. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!

          • christina February 13, 2013 at 10:51 am #

            another great substitute for butter or oil is ground flax seeds. i believe 3 tbsp of ground flaxseeds replaces 1 stick of butter…not sure on the oil replacement ratio, but it is amazing that it really works. I used the substitutionin my pumpkin bread this past fall and on the first batch they came out almost too moist, so I made some adjustments and removed all oil butter an only used the ground flaxseed and it was perfect!

  23. Diana May 30, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    How do I need to adjust the recipe if am using all-purpose flour instead of cake flour?

    • Ashleen May 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

      Hi Diana, a rule of thumb for substituting cake flour with all-purpose flour is to remove 2 tbsp. of flour for each cup and replace that 2 tbsp. with cornstarch. You could also make this cake with just all-purpose flour and not substituting with cornstarch, but you would end up with a more dense or slightly more tough result. Another thing to consider is that cake flour is more acidic than regular flour so you could compensate by adding a little more lemon juice than you would otherwise. Having said that, you could probably just use all-purpose flour in this recipe without making any other modifications and still end up with a great result. The choice is yours :)

  24. Liss June 5, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    I didn’t read through all the comments on this post (so many) so I hope I’m not repeating someone’s question…. I too have been searching for a recipe for red velvet cake (unsuccessfully) using beet powder. Do you think I could alter your recipe to use powder instead of pure? Please help! ;)

    • Ashleen June 5, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Hi Liss, I bet you could! I’ve never actually used beet root powder so I can’t give you a for sure answer on how to go about doing adjusting the recipe. This was actually something I was looking into when I was coming up with this recipe but because beet root powder wasn’t very easy for me to find at the time, I never ended up trying it. I think you should just try experimenting with it. You probably won’t need as much beet powder as you would use beet puree though. Let me know how it turns out!

  25. donna June 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    I made this cake and it was very heavy and dense. i was a little confused how you can suggest 1/2 – 1 cup beet puree yet not adjust the other moisture in the cake. mine was good but very heavy.

    • Ashleen June 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi Donna, most cakes that use fruit puree in them are more dense (like banana bread for example.) You don’t need to adjust the rest of the recipe if you add between 1/2 – 1 cup beet puree. I didn’t find it affected the texture too much- more the flavour and colour. I encourage people to do their own experiments with this recipe to suit their own tastes. Some may not mind a beet flavour whereas others dislike it. If you would like this cake to be lighter, you could try separating the eggs, whipping up the egg whites, and folding them into the batter, like you would make a sponge cake. I’ve never tried whipping the eggs separately with this particular recipe because I liked dense cake but that is definitely something you can experiment with. Hope that helps!

  26. marie June 12, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Hi there! LOVE YOUR BLOG!
    Would someone please be able to tell me if I can make a sheet cake using this recipe? I would be using an 18 x 12 sheet cake pan or a slightly smaller jelly roll pan (11 x 17). thank you!

    • Ashleen June 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Hi Marie,
      Thank you for the blog-love!
      You can make this into a sheet cake; however I wouldn’t suggest making a jelly roll type of dessert because I don’t know how well this cake would roll (you would typically use a sponge cake for this purpose.) For baking time, I would suggest trying 30-35 minutes but watch carefully and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Hope that helps! Let me know if you end up trying it :)

  27. Diana June 21, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    If I use the beet power, do I need to adjust the recipe? Do you know how much beet power I should use?

    Thank you.

  28. Ashleen June 22, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Hi Diana,

    Sorry, I’ve never used beet powder so I don’t have a for-sure answer for you. You will probably have to add a bit more liquid. You could try making a paste with water + the beetroot powder to get the “beet puree.” But again, I’m not sure what kind of results you will get. Best way to find out is to try it and see how it works :)

  29. Alison July 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog (well after searching for red velvet recipes for literally months) and it’s adorable. I’m wondering if you remember what this one tastes like. I’m making red velvet for a friends wedding cake in a month and I’ve made five recipes (some beets, some without beets) but he’s not 100% sold on one yet. I made a recipe today that I was really hopeful about and it’s delicious… it just doesn’t really taste like red velvet. It has tones of chocolate but no tang at all. I’m looking for a chocolate/tangy balance and as of recently, I can’t get the tang. Is yours tangy?
    Thanks!!
    P.S. Have you ever experimented with ratios of butter/cream cheese/sugar in the frosting? That’s my next goal. :)

    • Ashleen July 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      Hi Alison,
      Thanks for your comment :)
      This one does taste tangy because of the acidity of the ingredients BUT it does taste a little different than your typical red velvet cake. It has a slight raspberry and/or beet flavour depending on how sensitive your taste is. I say just try it and see what you think ;)
      Let me know how it turns out!
      I haven’t really experimented with cream cheese and sugar etc. in the frosting because I like the recipe just how it is. I have added extra sugar and used shortening in the past for a thicker icing (but it just doesn’t taste as good!)

  30. Narelle July 12, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Hi from australia!

    I’m wondering if you could tell me what ‘cake’ flour is? Is it just like self-raising flour?
    I’m hoping to try this on the weekend!

    Thanks!

    • Ashleen July 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      Hi Narelle,
      Cake flour is not the same thing as self-raising flour. You should not use self-raising flour in this recipe, since you are already adding baking powder.
      Cake flour has a lower protein content than all purpose flour and it is treated to be more acidic. Having said that, I’ve made this cake with all purpose flour too and it worked! Hope that helps :)

  31. MSV July 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Thanks for a great recipe. I was able to produce my very first cake ever using it. I did make a couple of a priori modifications that worked extremely well that I thought I’d share. I used only the outer layer of the beet that contains higher concentrations of pigment than the interior. More importantly I substituted ascorbic acid for ~ 1/2 the vinegar and lemon juice. I made only a 8×8 cake, and used 1500mg of crushed vitamin C pills in the blender, so the recipe above would need at least 3800mg, or about 8 500mg pills. Ascorbic acid has little characteristic aroma and is less volatile than acetic acid so will stay around while the acid in vinegar will evaporate during baking. It’s also a good reducing agent which keeps other things like pigments from oxidizing. Plus most folks could use more in diet. I got great color — 8c2020 in html speak. I would like to have had more chocolate, and a bit more fluff (maybe use some seltzer/carbonated water which is acidic in addition to baking soda?)

    • Ashleen August 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

      Thank you!
      Those modifications sounds great! Let me know if you try the carbonated water :)

  32. Amy August 5, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    I tried your recipe twice this weekend but no luck so far and I think I will have to look for another one. On my first try, I used an organic cocoa powder which doesn’t label as dutch processed. I baked in 8″ square pan til the tester came out clean but the cake is dense and mushy. The color is not really red but more like a dark pink throughout. The texture is just not right. I gave it a second try using natural unsweetened cocoa. The external color is darker than before but it is more brownish red inside. This time I baked a dozen of cupcakes for 21min. The second they came out of the oven, the slight dome flattened. The bottom half of the cupcake is dense and mushy like the first try. I am wondering if it is the choice of flour. Sorry, I envy the red cake that you can make but I just have no luck.

    • Ashleen August 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      Sorry to hear that you haven’t had any luck! Feel free to email me with questions and I can try to help troubleshoot. Have you ever checked the temperature of your oven? It sounds like it might not be baking at a high enough temperature. This cake is more dense and moist than a typical red velvet cake, which is a result of the beet puree; however, it shouldn’t be mushy and cave in as it cools- this is a sign they are under baked. I would try increasing the temperature of your oven by 15-25 degrees F and see how that works. Good luck!

  33. Patti August 8, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    I took a chance & used this recipe to make cupcakes for my granddaughter’s birthday party… with no back up for failure. Although the cupcakes were somewhat dense, that did not interfere with anyone coming back for seconds and thirds! I used a heaping half cup of beets and no one suspected there were beets until I told them. I thank you for your expertise and sharing! I will certainly use this recipe again.

    • Ashleen August 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      That’s great, Patty! Phew, I’m glad they turned out… I always have a backup plan since I have so many accidents in the kitchen ;)

  34. michelle August 9, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Hi, Thank you for sharing this great recipes. Just wondering if I can substitute buttermilk with sour cream? in country they don’t have buttermilk. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks in advance.

    • Ashleen August 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

      Yes, that should work. You could also just use more yogurt. If you do end up using sour cream, you could just water it down slightly. If I don’t have buttermilk on hand, I usually just use regular milk, add a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to it, and let it sit for a few minutes. That works too :)
      Good luck! Let me know how they turn out!

  35. Jelly August 22, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Hi Ashleen,

    You mention in one of your comments you substitute coconut oil for butter. What kind of coconut oil? I’ve seen refined and extra virgin. Also, is the substitution equal parts? Would add the same amount of coconut oil to replace the butter or would it be less?

    THANKS!

    • Ashleen September 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

      I use extra virgin coconut oil and sub equal parts :)

  36. kahi August 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    I’m making this cake at the moment.. It looks like it’s boiling. Is that normal?

    • Ashleen September 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

      It might bubble a bit… how did the cake turn out?

  37. Natasha September 7, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Hi,
    In one of your comments on how to purée the beets you suggested using a juicer. But you also suggested not using juice. If I use a juicer for the beets, would I combine the juice and the pulp then? Thanks!

    • Ashleen October 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

      I’ve never used a juicer for this so I’m not entirely sure- but I would think that yes, you should combine the juice and the pulp because that would be more similar to a beet puree. I would recommend using a food processor rather than a juicer, if possible. Hope that helps! :)

  38. Kay September 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Hi Ashleen,

    I saw your recipe and thought, how great! I can save time by not baking the beets and don’t have to raise my house temperature any more in this heat. But sadly, the cake that came out did not 1) achieve that level of rich redness yours has – rather it was in between your example of the canned beets and fresh beets and (2) it tasted sour actually and like you said, nothing like an RVC at all. My husband did not care for it at and all neither did I.

    I wanted so much to report good findings and a positive experience, but this was how it turned out. I think I’ll stick to baking the beets first because that worked out beautifully and deliciously.

    Anyhow, I enjoyed reading your methodology and all the science you put behind this. It was worth a try.
    Best!

    • Ashleen October 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

      Sorry to hear it didn’t turn out for you. Did you bake a cake or cupcakes? It is easier to keep cupcakes a bright red colour because they aren’t in the oven as long. Hopefully you find a recipe that works out for you :)

  39. QuirkeySphinx September 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    I have been looking everywhere for a recipe that uses real beets rather than food colouring. Thank you for this and the chemistry behind it all.

    • Ashleen October 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

      You’re welcome! Let me know how it turned out :)

  40. ian October 3, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    Hello, great post! You say between 2 – 21/2 cups of flour . how do you know how much ? Thank you!

    • Ashleen October 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

      Nope- that’s 2-1/2 cups, meaning 2.5 cups of flour :)

  41. Diana October 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Hi there, a post form far away Slovakia. I totally accidently got directed to your blog and found this precious recipe just when making my 1st RVC ever :) The result blew my mind (and my taste buds) Thank you for great inspiration, all the information about acids and THE COLOR.
    You just earned a new follower :)

    • Ashleen October 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

      Thanks so much! I’m glad I have readers all the way over in Slovakia :)

  42. Breanne October 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    I just tried your recipe for a cake i will be making next month. It turned out amazing! The cake is so moist and delicious, and such a beautiful colour. It really does have a raspberry taste that goes wonderfully with the cream cheese icing! yumm. Thanks for the great recipe. :)

    • Ashleen October 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

      Thanks, Breanne! I’m glad it turned out well for you :)

  43. Lisa October 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Just made this~ it has a lovely violet color, more than red. If you have a little girl who loves the book “Pinkalicious”, this might be your cupcake recipe! The flavor of mine is definitely more raspberry than chocolate, and I cut the sugar down to 2 cups so it’s a bit tart. (which is good!)

    • Ashleen January 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Glad you liked it :)

  44. Ellen November 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Wow, thanks so much for posting all of this information about your recipe!
    One of my roommates has a culinary degree, so for his birthday I wanted to make him a cake that would really impress him. When I requested a challenge he asked for a red velvet cake, a real one, no food coloring involved. After doing some research I decided that your cake recipe was most likely to yield the best results. I followed your recipe very carefully and let’s just say that his facial expression said it all! When he cut into the cake and when he took his first bite I could tell that he was very impressed.
    Everyone liked the cake, including myself (it was the first time I had even had RVC!), but we all agreed that the consistency was not that of a traditional cake. It was very dense, but not heavy. It had a creamy texture, more similar to a light cheesecake than of a cake. We came to the conclusion that the density of all the ingredients is no match for the baking powder to allow the cake to fully rise and not completely fall after baking.
    So, we all decided that baking soda should be used instead of baking powder. Because although baking soda is alkaline, the addition of the cream of tarter will neutralize it so the color won’t be compromised and the cake will be able to rise to have a more traditional cake-like consistency.
    Hope this helps others! And thanks again for your recipe!!

    • Ashleen January 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

      Hi Ellen,
      Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe :)
      If you do end up substituting baking powder with baking soda, keep in mind it has a very strong flavour if you use too much of it. It can leave your cake tasting bitter. If you prefer a fluffier cake, you might like to try beating the egg whites separately into stiff peaks and then folding them into the batter. I haven’t tried it this way for this particular recipe but if you are up for some experimentin’ that might yield a fluffier cake :)

  45. Rita November 25, 2012 at 2:40 am #

    Hello Ashley,
    The idea of raw beetrot puree is brilliant!
    I tried your recipe yesterday and i love the taste of the cake: subtle cocoa taste mixed with the tanginess of the lemon; i think maybe i would try bit less lemon next time.

    I only have a 16 cupcakes tray so had much batter left and had to fill in two small cake tins. Put everything in the oven which had probably been heating up for quite a long time maybe about 30 minutes. The cupakes were on the centre tray and the cakes two slots above it. I did think it would have been better to put the cupcakes a bit lower and the cakes just above the centre but i thought of it too late.
    A few cupcakes began rising but the rest not really, they just became a little bit rounder at the top.
    I left them a bit longer than your cooking time hoping something would happen but i kind of knew it was a lost cause. When i took them out even the ones that had risen collapsed.
    They looked quite red/ pink for most of the cooking time so i think i went definetely over the time frame for redness as they now look a brown colour that tends to red.
    i tried one and it was soft even though dense.
    I let the the cakes cook a bit longer, they seemed to be rising in the beginning but didn’t At ALL so they are exaclty the same thickness of the batter. Ihavent tried them yet but they do look like a layer of dough that hasnt risen.
    Ive used self raising flour which is really popular here in the Uk but ive added one teaspoon of baking powder anyways, (there is a recipe for a victoria sponge on the side of the package that calls for baking powderadded to self raising flour).
    I know its dificult to say however, any idea where i might have gone wrong?
    Many thanks,
    Rita

    • Ashleen January 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      Hi Rita,
      This recipe gives a pretty dense cake so they don’t rise too much. Even if you are using self raising flour, you could try adding a bit more baking powder or beat the eggs longer.
      If you didn’t get a nice red colour, it might be because you over-baked them.
      Hope that helps!
      Let me know if you have any other questions :)

  46. Dana December 3, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Hi,

    I will try your recipe for the beet cake, it sounds fabulous. But let me make a comment here: I have this tip from my mom who cooks beets/ soups, salad, and they are amazing!! For the beet not to loose its color, you have to boil/ bake them in the skin and not cut anything..nothing.. nothing.. just wash them and bake or boil them. After they are done ( aprox. 1 hour) you peel the skin and they have preserved their beautiful color!! I will send you pics with my favorite soup that my mom makes: beets soups:). It is sooo red and delicious!!

    Thanks so much!

    • Ashleen January 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

      Hi Dana,
      That trick you mentioned does work; however, if you are then using the beets to bake in a cake afterwards, they do tend to lose their colour in the batter. During my experiments I did try your method before pureeing them but I still found the results to be better when using raw beets :)
      Let me know what you think of the recipe once you try it!

  47. Feeza haris December 4, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Hi can i change the plain yougart to strawberry yougart and instead of raspebrerry juice to strawberry jam not juice and put a bit of vanilla flavour in it …?

    • Ashleen January 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      Hi Feeza,
      Try it and see how it goes, although I doubt the strawberry jam will give you as nice a colour as raspberry puree will. Hope that helps!

  48. Buzzbee December 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    I want to try this recipe but what can I substitute for the raspberries ?
    This recipe sounds really interesting

    • Ashleen January 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

      Is there a certain reason why you wouldn’t like to use the raspberries? I found them to be pretty important for masking the beet taste.

  49. Rosanne January 1, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Hi,
    Happy New Year! I discovered your site yesterday while looking for a red velvet cake with beets and LOVE the way you write and think about food. Have subscribed instantly :)
    Anyway: I tried your recipe and it was a big hit at the dinner party. I added some beet juice to the icing to color it pink!

    The flavour of the cake was great (perfectly not too sweet), but I had a couple of issues. First: it didn’t turn out red, but more a deep dark brown color (also very seductive, but not the red velvet of it’s name). I used three cooked beets, as I had bought them before reading about your experiments. I pureed them and drained most of the liquid out through a dish cloth. Secondly: the cake turned out a little greasy for my taste.The moistness is very good, but just a little too just maybe. Do you think tinkering with the butter-flour ratio would solve that? Or is it something else?
    I should add that I suspect that my oven didn’t help matters much. The cake raised and collapsed like it was a soufflé.
    Anyway, would like to try making it again and am curious for any thoughts or suggestions you might have.
    Thanks,
    Rosanne
    /Users/rosanneveger/Downloads/photo.JPG

    • Ashleen January 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      Hi Rosanne,
      Thanks for subscribing!!
      I suspect your cake did not turn out red because you used cooked beets. Definitely try using raw puree and be careful to not overbake. Overbaking even just slightly can make them go brown.
      I found this recipe to work much better as cupcakes because they aren’t in the oven as long so they keep the red colour better.
      If you found the cake to be too greasy, definitely just cut back on the butter a bit. Everyone has their own preferences so I always suggest that people change the recipes slightly to suit their own tastes.
      Hope that helps! Let me know how the next try goes :)

  50. Erik January 3, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Use a Japanese “oroshigane” tool instead of grinding the beets up in the food processor.

    http://www.amazon.com/Kotobuki-Stainless-Steel-Grater-Large/dp/B00462R92K/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1357228772&sr=8-3&keywords=oroshigane

    They look like a grater, but if you look closely, it is simply a sheet of metal with small pieces of metal sticking up, or a piece of sharkskin on a paddle. The end result of using an oroshigane on a beet root is a much finer texture puree without the need to add water to the beet that you would need for a food processor to do the same thing.

    These are what is used to make the white puree stuff you see when you get sushi (daikon oroshi), or ground up ginger (shoga oroshi).

    Happy baking!

    • Ashleen January 8, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      Nice! Thanks for sharing, Erik! :)

  51. Brian January 20, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Hey there, I was thinking of giving this a shot for the fiance for valentine’s day, and was curious about your opinions on rice or cider vinegar over white….
    I worry about it coming out too sour, and thought maybe a sweeter/milder vinegar might help there…

    I’ve never tried to make a red velvet before and I’m not sure she’s ever even had it…. so I want to maximize it’s appeal while keeping a nice dark red….

  52. CS February 2, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Love this post! Also that this is almost the same as a recipe I developed myself last year after being frustrated by not being able to find a natural recipe. I used AP flour instead of cake, no lemon juice but more vinegar (cider), and I used more cocoa than you did. Also no raspberry juice because (#1 I didn’t think of it :) I don’t mind the taste of beets (love beets, in fact) and I think, without looking it up, that I used a little more beets. I bet the raspberry juice adds a lovely flavor note.

    I frosted my cake (2 8″ layers) with traditional cream cheese frosting and after a couple of days, I was amused to find that my frosting was becoming a lovely shade of beet-red, lol!

    I loved your information about using raw beets. I roasted my beets in the oven before pureeing them, I think that added an interesting level of deep sweetness to my cake and it was still quite red perhaps not as much as with commercial food coloring, but still perceptibly red. I would be interested to see what the difference would be with raw beets… probably won’t be able to make myself check though, as I liked my cake too much to change it. I’ll probably just tell myself I should do that, and then never get around to it!

    RE: Pureeing raw beets: Just this year, I was gifted with a VitaMix, after wanting one for 30 years but being too cheap to buy one for myself. It’s not as good as I had hoped for many tasks like grinding grains, but for pureeing raw beets, I bet it would be perfect!

    You have such a fun blog. I will subscribe. I love the chemistry aspect, so important and so often given short shrift. Thanks!

  53. Amelia February 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Hello,
    This sounds wonderful, I’ve been wanting a non-red dye #40 red cake rec.
    For tomorrow (V-day) I’d like to make a pink cake. Do you have an suggestions for modifying a white cake rec to make a pink cake?
    Thank you so much,
    Amelia

  54. Yvette February 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Hi Ashleen

    Have just but a beautiful looking and tasting batter into the oven. I used a heart shaped tin for valentines day, and your receipe was easy, I left the raspberries out even though we have them in our garden, but I like the taste of beetroot. We have an abudance of beetroot in our garden so very happy to find your receipe, last night I made beetroot crisps! Havn’t ever tasted red velvet cake as we don’t have them in Australia but I bet I love it, I will let you know.
    thanks
    Yvette

  55. Arati February 14, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    Hi Ashleen,

    I was truly impressed by your research. I constantly look out for natural ingredients, so this one was sure in my mind for some time.
    I made the cake using proportion of 2 eggs. The cake is moist and dense and light brown :(. It is noticeably sour too. I did not have raspberries so I used 2 tablespoon of grenadine syrup, made sure it was acidic. Puree of raw beets was good. My little tester said it was good, but I am not satisfied with the cake myself :(. It did not get baked in 25 min, so had to bake it 15 min more. 175deg C is what I used. I am not sure whether to put the icing, as i fear of wastage.
    At the end of all this the red colour is missing, I already have many recipes that give me a healthy brown coloured cakes :(. Wish I could get to that red colour of yours. Maybe I should try the cupcakes.

  56. Helena February 14, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    Wow! I made the cupcakes last night for my son’s class. I followed the recipe to a ”T” except for roasting the beets (my food processor is broken, I needed something easy to puree). I used a full cup of beet puree, since my kids love beets. They turned out awesome, with a very deep red colour and a deliciously tangy flavour.

    I wanted to test how different types of cocoa would affect the results, so I made a tiny batch with dutch-processed powder, and they were noticeably less red. I would suggest that perhaps this is the reason why some of the other posters had poor results?

    I’m anxiously waiting to hear if the cupcakes were a hit.

  57. Rachel February 16, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    I made this cake over Christmas, and it was the best I had ever had. I did roast the beets, and I used raspberry juice instead of puree. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the red color, but the cake was so moist and dense (which is how I like my cake) that I did not care. I made a chocolate mint butter cream to top it. The combination of the tarty cake with the mint chocolate was divine. I left it on my counter in a covered glass cake stand for days as my family and I ate it. The cake got even more moist and flavorful with time. I would get a piece and sit by the Christmas tree in the evening in utter bliss.

    I have tried two other cake recipes with simpler ingredients trying to find a similar result with no luck.
    What ingredient is giving it the dense moist texture? Is it the yogurt? I made a chocolate beet cake today, and I was bitterly disappointed with how fluffy it was as opposed to moist. I would like to alter other cake recipes so that they keep their flavor but have a texture more like this one.
    Thank you for this wonderful creation.

  58. Christine February 19, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Hi, your blog has really helped to explain the science behind using beets instead of food dye. I tried using canned beets before and you were absolutely right!!!!!!! I really want to try using plain fresh beets but I can only make these vegan and gluten free, I used this recipe from the following link and they turned out delicious, you’d never know it was vegan and gluten free but I wasn’t sure how adding the beet and raspberry puree would affect the texture. When I used the canned beet juice, I couldn’t taste it and I used 3/4 cup of it as well, texture was also fluffy and exactly like regular cake with eggs.

    http://www.bowandarrowartblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/red-velvet.html

    Do you think if you have time you could check it out and see if your beet root puree would work with this? If not, its ok, I’ll just experiment anyway.

  59. Olenka February 26, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    Hi, love Your recepie and I intend to makie it soon but the cream of tartar is not easely available in my country (I’m from Poland). I guess I coud by it online but I sort of need it for tomorrow. So I was thinkig… The cream of tartar is an antioxidante so mabe I cen sub it for an other antioxidante like Ascorbic acid (vit, c) I have it i fom of liqid (drops for kids). Do You thin it will work?

  60. JenT March 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Hello,

    This was definitely an undertaking and a labour of love. My son’s favourite cake is RVC, so I’ve been trying to find one the did not have food dye in it. Also, I’m baking cakes and cupcakes from home and one should definitely have RVC in their repertoire. However, when I baked my cupcakes today they turned out almost a brownish red, or purplish colour. I knew the flavour would be a little different, and that I’m fine with, they were a hit with the taste testers (my family), even without the cream cheese icing at first. However, I really want to solve the colour issue. I did the beets exactly like you said and I actually have 3 more cups in the freezer for future batches (Yay!). As for the raspberries, that was my favourite addition. I’m wondering if where I went wrong was using the cocoa powder I had on hand, which was dutch processed. How do you know if the brand you are buying is Natural? I looked at a couple today, but the list of ingredients had something else instead of just cocoa, and on one of the containers with the same list of ingredients, it said it was dutch processed. Could that have been the one thing I did wrong? I was really checking the time. Whenever I bake I always set my oven timer for the shortest time and continue to check from then on. They were just done when I pulled them out of the oven. Any suggestions? I do like the flavour. Can’t wait for the icing :)

    • Sissi May 5, 2013 at 7:33 am #

      Usually cocoa powders that are natural say exactly that on the package :)
      The big difference is in the ingredients. Check there that it really only has one ingredient: cocoa. The dutch one has usually two: cocoa, cocoa processed with alkali. :)

  61. HanloG March 7, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    I was searching the whole net for a natural red velvet cake recipe and was excited to come upon this blog. Needless to say I went to the shops for all the ingredients needed and went to work straight away.
    The end result was amazing. This must be the best cake I have ever eaten in my life and my household agrees.
    The only things I did wrong were that I used beet juice and alkalised cocoa powder. And this is where my question comes in:
    Can I use organic cocoa powder? I guess it is the same as natural but I really want to make the next cake I bake look as great as it tasted. Yes, even though it was more brown than red, it was amazing.

  62. Emily March 10, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    These were so yummy! I made them for Galentines day and they were a hit. I loved the hint of raspberry in them! Thanks for the recipe!

  63. Helen March 10, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    What a lovely cakes!

    I have tried to make a all natural red velvet cake (and cupcakes) several times butnever got the darkish red.I always end up with pink.So far I haven’t tried to use raw beets (only roasted and then pureed).

    I was wondering if it is possible to omit the cacao powder. I live in the Netherlands and never found any caco powder except for the dutch processed one (also in health stores). I did try to use chocolate milkpowder from the uk one timebut this didn’tgive it any extra flavour. I was wondering if the caco was used in old times to get the red hint and is pretty useless now since the beets/rasberry give the colour in this recipe.

    Thank you so much in advance.

    Kind regards,
    Helen Jones.

  64. Ros Norris March 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Hi,
    Just wanted to say that my niece and I made this cake today. It was excellent- moist,tart and a lovely flavour. We used cooked beetroot but still had a wonderful red colour, almost the same colour as yours with the raw. We used white wine vinegar and whipped two of the egg whites separately and added them last, otherwise we followed your recipe closely. We were very pleasantly surprised by the taste, colour and texture. Thank you for posting the recipe.
    Ros

  65. Jock March 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I suspect that after a year+, Ashleen has probably stopped monitoring the comments on this recipe. However, and for what it’s worth, here is my 2 cents worth…

    I made these yesterday as a trial run for some RVCC I am making for a colleague of my wife’s at work. I don’t make cakes too much (not a huge fan) and I’m always put off by the vibrant red color of RVC and thinking of the gobs of food coloring used to get it that color. I was thrilled to find this blog and learn about the science behind the beet pigments. (I am a food science geek, so this was right up my alley).

    Anyway, I made half a batch because there’s only the two of us in the house. I halved everything except the beets. By mistake I put a whole cup of beets in the batter. Needless to say, the cakes tasted strongly of beets! We both like beets so it wasn’t horrible to eat but definately not right.

    I made another batch today with the correct proportions and I used coconut oil instead of butter, thinking the mild coconut flavor will a) taste good and b) help to mask any beet flavor. It took a very long time in the KA food mixer to get the oil and sugar to combine. It didn’t cream the way butter and sugar does, but with a bit of patience it did finally come together. Yesterday’s cakes were moist but a little dense and while that was OK, I thought today I would try to lighten them up a bit. Taking Ashleen’s suggestion to another poster, I separated the eggs and whipped the whites to fold into the batter.

    Today’s cakes are definately not as red as yesterday’s and the muffin tins were a bit oily when I took the cakes out to put on the cooling rack. Interestingly enough, today’s batter was noticably thinner than yesterday’s. Is that a result of using oil instead of butter, I wonder?? Still, they baked up nicely but the domes dropped a bit as be cakes cooled. Not a total collapse, but not the beautiful domes that came out of the oven.

    And how do they taste? Good, I guess. There is just a hint of the coconut, with raspberries and chocolate in equal measures. The texture is moist, not dense (good idea with the egg whites) but a little oily in my opinion (not such a great idea with the coconout oil perhaps). My wife likes them but as I mentioned, I’m not a huge cake fan so I tend to be a bit indifferent to them. The exception to that being chocolate cake. Love chocolate cake :-)

    Overall, this is a really good recipe with an excellent scientific basis. I will make them for my wife’s colleague but I am not enamoured enough of cakes in general to make them again. Pureeing the beets is a messy time consuming process that isn’t worth the trouble to me. But for those who like RVC, this is a first class recipe avoiding the poison they call Red #40.

    Thank you Ashleen for posting this.

    Jock

    • Sissi May 5, 2013 at 7:45 am #

      What I know about baking with coconut oil, it doesnt really substitute butter. You can use natural vegetable butter/shortening (i buy mine from whole foods) and it will give you the same consistency as butter when the cake is baked. Because oil has a different consistency than butter i wouldnt recomment substituting all the butter for oil. I will make this cake next week and i thought about substituting a little bit oil for a little bit butter because the coconut flavor is so nice. Maybe i make it half half :)
      Also i melt the coconut oil before use because its almost impossible to get it creamy. :)

      Thank you for your input on the coconut oil. So i can save time experimenting

  66. U.d April 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    fyi- Concentrated tart cherry juice works well rather than the raspberry.

  67. Sandra J May 3, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I wish I found your blog this morning before my second attempt at Red Velvet Cake (muffins) with beets. My 1st: I used canned beets and heated the 1 cup juice reducing to 1/4 cup– using some in batter, reserving 2T to tint coconut and icing (non traditional, but pretty). Muffins came out tasty but brown with pink tops.

    Today for my 2nd attempt: I used fresh beets; roasted, then mashed them with immersion blender–no food processor. My recipe was a bit different as I was making muffins but did use baking soda. The batter was bright red and thick. Baked at 350 for 20 min. They rose nicely and had a wonderfully light texture, however, some of the beets did settle to the bottom–yet they did not have an overpowering beet taste. The tops were more brown, and the bottoms more red (could it be because the beets kept it cooler? or color concentrated?)

    Next time I will try your chemical tip and use Cream of Tartar, increase the vinegar/lemon juice and blend the beets to a finer puree.

    Thanks for your smart tip….enjoyed your blog. Sandra

  68. Sissi May 5, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Hi Ashleen,

    I know that you haven’t been online since a few month, but i have an suggestion for beet taste problem you had before your raspberry idea. Did you ever try natural oils? They make flavored oils for flavoring candy (so you barely need any to cover the beet flavor because they are very intense )
    They are not as easy to get as raspberries but might be able to make the cake more chocolaty.

    Let me know what you think of that idea.

  69. Deb May 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi, just wondering if you think this would work, instead of grating beetroot, after juicing beetroot you are left with the pulp that normally goes to the compost or chickens do you think using the left over pulp from juicing would work??
    thankyou
    Deb

  70. Darylene Foster May 31, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    I had always heard that RVC originated with beets for the colour. However, the recipes I have found use food colouring. I even used a cake mix that my sister got in the U.S. ( I am in Canada ) and was really excited. The red colouring stained everything and I basically still had a brown cake. Our local ‘ best bakery’ serves divine baked goods but their RVC cupcakes are white cake with red colouring. I was just going to give up but really wanted some RVC cupcakes for my angel Granddaughter’s upcoming christening. My daughter told me to Googlr RVC with beet juice. Your blog is the most magnificent article I have ever come across. Obviously you also searched to see how these RVC’s could be traditional. I am so excited that I am going out in the morning to buy the exact ingredients and will not vary at all. Your research and explanations are spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing. This could have been a wheel kept secret or you could have made a ton of money with the ‘secret recipe’. I will post on the outcome but right now I am so hyped to try these and present them to family and friends. If I accomplish your results I will call them ‘Charlotte Cupcakes’ after my angel Granddaughter. ( I do not publish nor sell recipes nor my baked goods. Specialities like these are kept for the special people they are made for. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Will definitely post results.

  71. cindy June 8, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Hello! I really enjoyed reading the science behind this cake… however I made it and it came out brown… it looks like a chocolate cake… the taste was ok but I am really aiming at a red red velvet cake… what could have gone wrong?

    thank you!

  72. Beej August 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Any reason why you don’t use Dutch Cocoa powder?

    • Jock October 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      Beej, I suspect it is because Dutch processed cocoa has been treated with an alkali to neutralize some of the predominant acidic compounds in ‘natural’ cocoa. A Dutch chemist in the 19th century, who liked his drinking chocolate, discovered that if you neutralize these acidic compounds it allows the 200+ other, more nuanced flavor compounds to shine through and make a more pleasing beverage.

      Since the success of this recipe depends to some extent on stabilizing the red pigments with acid (hence the vinegar, cream of tartar, etc) using natural cocoa would contribute some additional acid that the Dutch processed cocoa wouldn’t.

      Just a guess.

      Jock

  73. Nikkersj December 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    I would like to try this in a bundt pan. My daughter wants a rose cake for her birthday. How would you adjust the baking time and do you think it will work????

  74. consuelo December 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Do you use unsweetened cocoa powder?

  75. kathy December 31, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Great work and very detail on the topic. I was struggling to find beet root powder locally here in Asia. As most of the baking shop only have red coloring. I was amaze with the amount of knowledge sharing and effort you put into the topic ! we all learn alot from ya :) well done and keep it up .

  76. Samantha February 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    I am SO happy I found your recipe! I’ve been searching for a cake made with beets and not red food coloring…I do have a question about a substitution though. I’m not sure if you know the answer but I have an allergy to gluten so I’d like to attempt to make this cake with gluten free flour. Do you think I would have to change any of the ingredients because gluten free flour is so different?

  77. Eric Nakashima February 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    Hi, I want to make these for my fiancée on valentines day, but I want to make pancake not cupcakes. How would I adjust the batter so that I could do this? I’m not an experienced baker like her so I don’t know the difference between the two types of batter.

  78. Eric Nakashima February 6, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Also, can i make the purée in advance or will that ruin the integrity?

  79. Janet February 22, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    Just baked these tonight for a science fair project. They came out FANTASTIC. The color is bright and awesome and they taste great. We followed your recipe and used the full cup of beets. We taste the berries, but don’t taste the beets (or maybe I just don’t know what beets taste like). So – in the interests of science – do you think that a lower pH (ie more acid) would brighten the color even more? (that is our hypothesis – we will try!)

  80. yulers February 28, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Hi, I really want to make this cake for my friend’s birthday, but I don’t want her to notice the beet flavor. Is this possible? How different does it taste from the traditional?

    • yulers February 28, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

      PEASE RESPOND ASAP!!! :)

    • Janet March 1, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      We thought these were delicious – my husband and 10 year old loved them, as did I. They don’t even need frosting. We used this recipe for a science fair experiment (and won a prize!) and we also donated the excess to the bake fair, and they sold out. You totally can’t taste beet (or maybe I don’t know what beet tastes like?) You do taste the berry and hint of lemon.

      • Janet March 1, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

        I should add – they are delicious but they don’t taste like the original. I think they are better (way moister) thought my daughter still prefers the original.

        BTW, if you decide to do original – just use natural cocoa instead of dutched, and you can get away with MUCH less red color. Normally these recipes call for as much as 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) but we use way less. You only need loads of color if you are competing with dutched cocoa.

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  84. Jo McPhee March 22, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    Thankyou for this post! I thought I was being clever by making my son a marble cake for his birthday with beetroot juice as the pink colouring only to be dissappointed when i cut the cake and discovered the beet colour was no longer there! So Googling to find the answer behind “what went wrong”! Now I know the science behind it!
    Back to the drawing board!

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  87. Rae June 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    Iam enamoured. I hope to try this soon with cherry juice or cherry purée for the raspberry juice.

  88. Angel June 23, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    This is awesome! I have been looking for a alternative for red dye but to keep the deep red color! Ice been wanting to try this myself but now that I see it works, let the baking begin! Thanks

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  91. Sharon August 20, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    I made this recipe twice. The first time with frozen raspberries and cocoa powder and the second time with fresh raspberries and no cocoa powder. The first time the cupcakes were a beautiful red on the top of the cupcakes but the inside was more of a mauve color. The second time they were gorgeous ruby red all the way through. My conclusion is the more raw ingredients you use the better the color preservation. I really like them but there was a “beety” aftertaste.

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