Recipe: Red velvet cake. Have your heart beet cake, and eat it too


Valentine’s Day is approaching, in case you had forgotten.

Pink, red, hearts, roses and chocolate will be everywhere and whether you are a fan of the holiday or not (I for one, unabashedly love it,) the following recipe is worth considering. Make it for your valentine, for your friend or for yourself. Besides, who needs a valentine when you have cake?

I was in search for an all-natural alternative to the loaded-with-toxic-food-colouring-yet-still-unrelentingly-popular “red velvet” cake, when I stumbled across this brilliant technique for using beets.

Say what?

Did you know the original red velvet cakes from the depths of history were in fact made with beets? The colour and texture that this intensely pigmented veg gave to the cake is actually where its name comes from.

It was only much later, when food colouring companies jumped at this perfect advertising opportunity, did they introduce loads of artificial dye to the recipe to help increase sales.

Well it worked and nowadays, red velvet is almost an entirely different bright red beast, with an upsetting amount of fake colour. I say we get back to our roots (pun intended) and make red velvet the way nature intended!

The key is to use raw beets (not cooked), keeping the colour of the cake vibrantly fuchsia instead of rusty brown. The crust is tender and moist, with just the slightest hint of sweet/earthy beet flavour that pairs charmingly well with cream cheese frosting. You can make a gorgeous all-natural red velvet cake and it will be even more flavourful than the fake stuff.

Bonus points if you have a heart shaped cake pan, then it is truly a “Heart Beet Cake.”

Heart Beet Cake

recipe from Yossy Arefi

1 cup beet purée, from fresh red beets (not cooked)

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 Tbls white wine vinegar

2 Tbls lemon juice

1 Tbls vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups cake flour

3 Tbls cocoa powder, not Dutch-process

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

Step One: To make the beet puree, use raw, peeled beets, cut into chunks. Throw them into a food processor and blend until you have a decently smooth puree.

Step Two: Preheat oven to 350º F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans (OR a heart shaped pan!) and line them with parchment paper. If you like you can make cupcakes instead, preparing cupcake tins with paper liners and decreasing the baking time.

Step Three: Add the beet purée, buttermilk, vinegar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract to a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until very smooth.

Step Four: Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt together in a bowl. Beat the sugar, oil and butter together in a large bowl until creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition.

Step Five: Alternate adding the flour mixture and beet mixture to the bowl, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide between the prepared pans and bake until a cake tester, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes.

Step Six: Cool the cakes on a rack for 20 minutes then invert onto the rack to cool completely. Once the cakes have cooled, you can choose to wrap them well with plastic and freeze them until you are ready to use them, or until Valentine’s Day.

Step Seven: A frozen cake is actually much easier to frost! Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese frosting…

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 cup cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 pound powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Step One: Beat cream cheese and butter in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time. Mix until each addition is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Once you have added all the powdered sugar and the frosting is nice and smooth, beat in the vanilla.

Step Two: Spread, swoop, swirl or pipe your frosting onto your cake or cupcakes, and garnish with fresh raspberries if desired.

Step Three: Ta-da! Stand back and admire your creation, then devour! You can feel good, because you are sneaking in an extra serving of vegetables. Happy Valentine’s Day my friends, and happy baking.

Larissa is a Baking and Pastry Arts student who is addicted to baking and will find any occasion to celebrate.

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