I wanted to make my mother’s red velvet cake for Independence day, adding fresh blueberries on top made it quite the patriotic dessert. I also wanted to find a natural substitution for the red dye traditionally used to give the cake it’s blush hue, and I found it. The almost walnut sized deep red beets that I bought at the farmer’s market made this cake beautifully rosy. And whad’ya know, beets are in season! Be sure to stop by your local farmer’s market and pick up some small, homegrown beets to bake this cake; or better yet pick them from your own garden! Be sure to use the entire plant by adding the green tops to a fresh salad.
Happy Independence Day!
naturally red velvet cake
for the cake:
1/2 c butter, coconut oil, shortening
1 cup sugar
2 flax “eggs” (2 Tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 Tablespoons water)
1 cup finely grated beets
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 to 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Grease (I use coconut oil) and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans, set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar, add flax “eggs” and beets. Sift together 1/2 cup cocoa, flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk. Add vanilla, mix thoroughly. Stir in soda and vinegar, barely mixing in.
Add extra 1/4 cup of cocoa by the Tablespoonful if the batter is too thin, it should be similar to or a little thicker than the consistency of pancake batter.
Spoon into cake pans, bake in preheated 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes or until middle is set.
Remove and let cool on rack for about ten minutes, then invert until the cake releases on its own. Let cool completely, or let it chill in the freezer for a little while, then frost like a normal layer cake with strawberry or other berry jam between the layers; preferably homemade. here’s a helpful article on icing cakes.
- I have heard that if you try wrapping a damp towel around the pan it helps the cake to cool and release easier.
- If you want the cake to be more red, less chocolate, replace 1/4 cup of cocoa with cake flour. The amount of chocolate versus beet in the cake makes it inherently more brown, rather than red. The original recipe only called for 2 Tablespoons of cocoa, and I’m sure the rosy hue would be more noticeable if you were to use less. Even though this cake is called red velvet, it’s more of a chocolate velvet, call me crazy, but i like my chocolate.
for the buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup natural shortening
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
3 – 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons flour
1/3 cup milk
1 – 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
Cream together shortening, butter/oil and sugar. Add flour one teaspoon at a time. Slowly incorporate milk and vanilla, then add salt. Beat until fluffy. If it’s too thin add more powdered sugar, if it’s too thick slowly add more milk until it’s at the consistency that you like. Let the frosting chill in the refrigerator for a bit before frosting the cake.
a couple notes:
If you’re not into this frosting (I’m not a huge buttercream fan) try Erin McKenna’s vanilla frosting, I haven’t tried it yet but it seems fabulous and I’ve heard great reviews. Although you may need to make a special shopping trip to get all the ingredients (you can find them all at good earth or whole foods).
I made these in mini angel food cake pans for individual cakes. I cut down the baking time, filled the middle with blueberries and frosted like a regular cake. Everyone loves individual sized servings.