Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Can't Beet a Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing

I can substitute red food coloring with beets?

You can't beat a Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting, made completely from scratch.

But you can when you substitute beet puree in place of the ridonculous amount of red food coloring that normally goes into a 2-doz. batch of red velvet cupcakes (seriously, two full bottles of red food coloring... gross!). Oh my god, a healthy red velvet cupcake!

I thought it was so weird when I first found that out on the internet, but then you realize that people have been using vegetables and fruit for centuries around the world to sweeten their pastries while keeping them moist. Think: carrot cake, fruit cake, any kind of cherry chocolate, strawberry, banana squash cakes, and the list goes...

And if you think about it, beet substitute is even better because it not only naturally dies the batter, but keeps the cake very moist, and is great for folks allergic to food coloring. Mmm... it's so good.

To be honest however, the most difficult part is getting the vibrant color to stay when you're baking... It won't be the bright, bright red that you normally see with red velvet cupcakes. But accessorizing the cupcake will bring out more of the red (red sprinkles, red liners, red box). And besides, who wouldn't want to eat healthier red velvet?

This is the batch I made early this week with cream cheese frosting and chopped pistachios on top. I didn't use enough beet puree, so you can see the beet color didn't stay so well... but it sure tasted fantastic.

I used a great Red Velvet Cupcake and Cream Cheese icing recipe from The Repressed Pastry Chef, and tweaked it a little with the beet puree. She's posted her 1 doz version, and the original 3 doz version on her site. I've reposted the 3 doz recipe at the bottom of the blog to show where I substituted beet.

So just some quick notes:

You definitely need a lot of beet puree -- about 2 to 3 cups of beet puree (blended with about 1/3 cup beet juice or water) for a batch of 2 or 3 doz. Otherwise, it will still look fairly choco brown.

However, rather than peeling fresh beets and dyeing your hands red for the next 7 days,canned beets work just as well -- 2 to 3 cans of beets (sliced works fine). I used only 1-1/4 cup of beets for the recipe that made 3 doz, so it was only at half the amount needed and didn't turn out red, but it was moist.

Check out the vibrant magenta of beet puree...

Beet substitute most likely won't get as red as food coloring or your standard red velvet, but you could always use less cocoa powder if you're not a huge fan of chocolate.

It's OK to give in and use some red food coloring. But use the coloring gel as it works wonders (and waaaaay better than liquid). Since you've already got the beet puree creating the majority of the base red color, you'll only need to add about 3 little toothpick globs (hmm...approximately 1/4 tsp...?) to the mix, rather than 2 full liquid bottles.

I separated out my batter, and did half beet puree only, and the added Christmas red gel to the other half. Can you see the difference below?

Combo tray with beet puree only on the left, and combo beet and gel on the right.

Baked with only beet puree as substitute.

Baked with beet puree and some red gel as substitute.

Here's the recipe with the beet substitute, it's truly incredible. Enjoy!

- 3½ cups cake flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 2¼ cups white sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cans sliced beets to yield 2-1/2 cups puree (or 2 cups fresh beets; washed, peeled and sliced)
- 1/4 tsp red coloring gel (*optional*)
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla
- 1¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2½ teaspoons white vinegar

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line 12-cupcake pans (or 24 mini-cupcake pans) with cupcake liners and spray with cooking spray.
- Drain liquid from canned beets into a bowl/cup. Set aside and measure out 1/3 cup of beet juice. Pour sliced beets into blender/processor. Pour half of measured beet juice into blender/processor, and blend for 1 minute. Add the remaining beet juice and continue blending for another minute or until beets look pureed. Set aside.
- Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
- Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time.
With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring (and water or syrup, if necessary). (Take care: it may splash.)
Add vanilla.
- Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
- Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
- Divide batter among 12-cupcake pans, filling each about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 17-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (My standard-size cupcakes baked for 17 minutes, and my mini cupcakes baked for 11-12 minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on them, or check every few minutes after the 10 minute mark).

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