There are many theories around the origin of the red velvet cake. Be it the story of a 1950s housewife mixing in a lot of red colour into her cake batter, careless measuring or an American corporation selling red food colouring during the “Great Depression” many assumptions circulate around this popular cake.
Visual appeal being an important aspect of the way one perceives food, there is no doubt about the popularity of this cake owing to its vibrant hues.
I love colours! There is no denying that. But I do shy away from using artificial colours in my kitchen. And considering the widespread fame of the said cake, I started to chase the dream of making an all natural red velvet cake that would score brownie points in both the looks and the health aspects.
Using beets in a red velvet cake is not something new. But, I did play around with my chocolate cupcake recipe to get that lovely hue making many alterations in the bargain. I read in Harold McGee’s phenomenal “On Food And Cooking The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen” that beets owe their hues to betain pigments and that they tend to lose their vibrance in alkaline conditions. So, this meant skipping the soda bicarbonate.
The result was a soft and moist cake with a resonating and rich, reddish pink hue and the best part was no trace of the beets was reported by folks who tasted them.
These little beauties won rave reviews from everybody who had them. And the fact that Hari did not eat them (the picky eater that he is) was compensated by his 2 friends enjoying every morsel of the cake.
The deep reddish pink colour of the cake contrasts beautifully with the creamy white colour of the frosting making it a visual delight. You could keep the frosting plain or sprinkle it with a few sprinklers to add more charm if children are going to be eating them.
And knowing the source of this beautiful colour makes sure there is not much guilt attached when I feed them to my family and friends.
Eggless And Natural Red Velvet Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
It is important to boil the beets with their skin to get maximum colour from them.
For the Cake
3/4 cup beet puree (directions follow)
205 gm (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
4 tsp cocoa powder
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk + 1 tbsp vinegar
220 gm (1 cup) granulated sugar*
125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil (preferably rice bran)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Take 2 medium sized beets (measuring roughly 200 to 225 gm), wash them and cook in a pressure cooked until tender without peeling them. This ensures that you get the maximum colour out of the beets.
Once the beets are cooked through, allow to cool and peel the skin. Chop into pieces and blend to a puree using approximately 4 tbsp water.
Line a 12 numbered cupcake or muffin pan with cupcake liners.
In a bowl assemble all the dry ingredients the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together and sieve once.
Pre heat the oven to 175 C/350 F.
In another bowl put in the milk and vinegar and allow it to sit for about five minutes. Put in the granulated sugar and oil and blend with a blender until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the beet puree and the vanilla extract.
Now put in the sieved dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients and beat until well mixed, about 3 to 4 minutes.
With the help of an ice cream scoop or a spoon drop the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.
* Using granulated sugar increases the weight of the sugar. If using powdered, castor or icing sugar, use 1 1/4 cup.
For the Frosting:
1 226 gm (8 ounce) package cream cheese, at room tempertaure
50 gm (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
1 to 2 tbsp cream or milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Beat all the ingredients together with an electric mixer or stand mixer until smooth and fluffy.
Makes 12 cupcakes or one 9" cake