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Red velvet cake has always fascinated me, but I really have no idea why. I’ve never even tasted it (the whole food coloring thing doesn’t sit well with me), let alone attempted to make it.

I wanted a festive dessert for the 4th of July, so I decided to make a somewhat healthier, all-natural version of red velvet cake, one that is colored with beets.

I am not trying to pass this off as a substitute for one of those traditional red velvet cakes made with an entire bottle of food coloring. I repeat – this is not a bright red cake! This red velvet cake with beets has more of a deep reddish-brown hue. I think it’s beautiful as well as delicious.

It is very rich, though- appropriate for an occasional celebration, but not suitable for your everyday healthy diet!

I’ve made chocolate cake with pureed beets before, and I really liked the results. Contrary to what you might imagine, beets in baked goods can add natural sweetness and moisture without adding a pronounced flavor.

Using The African American Heritage Cookbook‘s red velvet cake recipe as inspiration, I adapted my beet chocolate cake recipe into a red velvet cake.

To top the cake, I did not make the typical cream cheese frosting that usually accompanies red velvet cake. I opted instead for a creamy frosting made with organic ingredients. Then I covered the cake with fresh berries (ala Ricki Heller’s Sweet Freedom cover!)- it was a big hit with my 4th of July guests!

Recipe for Red Velvet Cake With Beets

Inspired by The African American Heritage Cookbook by Carolyn Quick Tillery.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

*6 organic beets, boiled for 40 minutes, and then cooled, peeled, and chopped coarsely
*1/2 cup organic applesauce
*1/2 cup organic butter, softened
*1 1/2 cups organic sugar
*2 eggs, preferably organic and free-range
*1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
*1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
*1 cup organic plain yogurt
*2 tablespoons organic cocoa powder or organic raw chocolate powder
*1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
*2 cups sifted organic spelt flour or all purpose flour
*1 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the frosting:

*6 tablespoons organic spelt flour or all-purpose flour
*1 cup water or organic milk
*1 cup organic butter
*1 cup organic sugar
*1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

For the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9 inch round layer pans. Combine chopped cooked beets and applesauce in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. In a large mixing bowl in an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla, and then add the beet mixture, mixing well. Add the vinegar and the yogurt and mix well again.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the cocoa or chocolate powder, baking soda, flour, and salt together. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until well blended.

4. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from pans and allowing to cool completely. When the cakes are cool, you may frost them.

For the frosting:

Bring flour and water to a boil, reduce heat, and stir constantly until thick and slightly clear. Cool in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and continue to beat until fluffy. Keep the frosting refrigerated before use.

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21 Comments

  1. 1

    Twitted by food4 — July 6, 2009 @ 7:20 pm

    [...] This post was Twitted by food4 [...]

  2. 2

    bill — May 26, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

    Can you give an amount of beets by weight? I’m not sure how much “6 beets” should be, since they can range tremendously in size.

  3. 3

    HoneyB — July 3, 2010 @ 7:56 am

    Very unique! I love that you made this with beets!! Also decorated very prettily!

  4. 4

    Alta — July 3, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

    Wow, so glad you made a version with beets. This is a red velvet cake I could eat!

  5. 5

    Heather — September 25, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

    I made this cake for a family reunion in August and it got rave reviews. Was a delicious moist chocolate cake. I reduced the amount of sugar to just under one cup and I didn’t use all organic ingredients. As a few of my cousins and brothers are eating wheat free, this was a nice treat for them.

    For the beets I used two fist size beets and 2 small beets.

  6. 6

    J White — January 25, 2011 @ 12:04 am

    This looks great – I’ve been longing for a red cake without the food coloring.
    By the way, the recipe is not wheat free if you are using spelt, all purpose, or cake flour. Those are all made from some form of wheat.

  7. 7

    Kim — February 21, 2011 @ 11:26 am

    i made this for valentines day and even though the cake wasn’t overly red we both LOVED IT.
    The cake had a great flavor and it was so moist. I will definitely be making this one again.
    Thanks for the great recipe :)

  8. 8

    Chris — April 15, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

    I made this cake last night and it tasted like beets. Not sure if anybody else has had this result… seems like I might be the only one… but my guests couldn’t eat it, they said it was terrible. And, honestly, it was…

    • Winnie replied: — April 15th, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

      Hmmm Chris,
      Obviously don’t know what to say because I had a great experience with it as did others who’ve commented…I posted the recipe a long time ago and if I were to do it again today, I would post more specific instruction for how large the beets should be and/or measure them by weight. Were yours very large? I’ll be making this again soon so that I can update the recipe…did you make any changes otherwise or did you follow it exactly? Would like to know why it didn’t work out for you.

  9. 9

    Chris — April 15, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

    Thanks for the reply! For the beets, I used 6 organic beets that would have measured a maximum of 4″ tall and 3″ wide. Some were smaller than that. When I blended them I added just a little extra applesauce and a few teaspoons of water because they were lacking in moisture and wouldn’t puree as nicely as I had wanted. The only other two deviations I made were that I peeled them before boiling and that I used whole wheat flour, rather than all-purpose. I can’t imagine the flour enhanced the flavor of the beets. I’m not sure if the beets would lose some of their natural sweetness in the boiling water if they’re peeled first and, as a result, become a more pronounced flavor since there isn’t as much of that sugar to mask it. I’m not that well versed in the chemistry if it all, but it was definitely something I considered after the fact.
    Aside from that, I will say that the cake was incredibly moist and had a beautiful color.

    • Winnie replied: — April 15th, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

      Huh. I am so stumped because we tasted no beets…a whole bunch of kids ate the cake and loved it. I’m going to try it again and see what happens. Please know I really am sorry it did not work out for you and I am so glad you let me know, so I can fix the recipe, if necessary. Have a great weekend!

  10. 10

    christine — May 20, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    Thank you for this recipe. Like you, I too try to use organic and unprocessed ingredients in my kitchen. My first try turned out awesome. It was so good and moist, even without frosting. I do have a recipe for cream cheese frosting and that’s what I will use. I used 1 1/2 cups pureed beets.My only question is that when I used 2 9-inch pans, the cakes were around 1/2 thick. it could just be me since my oven was malfunctioning.

    • Winnie replied: — June 2nd, 2011 @ 11:04 am

      Sorry I did not respond right away- re-testing this recipe is on my to-do list and I am hoping to get to it this weekend!

  11. 11

    Kim — May 29, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

    This looks fantastic! Do you think I could get away with using apple butter instead of applesauce? Flavour-wise, I think it could be interesting, but I’m worried about consistency and such (the batch we made is pretty close to applesauce in texture, though).

    • Winnie replied: — June 2nd, 2011 @ 11:04 am

      Yes, I do thing it would work fine. Please let me know how it turns out :)

  12. 12

    kzerbin — June 2, 2011 @ 9:44 am

    the taste of the cake was great, a little too much like beets for some, but it did not rise? not sure what happened there. Any suggestions?

    • Winnie replied: — June 2nd, 2011 @ 11:03 am

      I have been so busy I have not had time to re-test the recipe! I am totally planning on figuring out why a few people have had trouble with the rising. Thanks for your feedback…I am hoping to be able to make the cake again on Saturday :)

  13. 13

    christine — June 2, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    Winnie, I just figured out why mine did not rise, it was such an amateur mistake. I used baking powder instead of baking soda. It was at the end of the day and I was really tired so I didnt even read the label. Thanks for your reply and I will try the recipe again.

  14. 14

    Jessica Winter — July 6, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

    Thanks for the delicious recipe. I made it for the fourth of July and everyone loved it. I also shared a little about my experience here: http://olymomma.blogspot.com/2011/07/your-weekly-peek-red-velvet-cake-with.html

    Thanks again! Jess @ OlyMomma

  15. 15

    Grace — March 3, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

    Delicious recipe. Only thing are the beets. It only says “6 beets” so I went and bought six beets but wasn’t sure if they should have been big or small or what weight for all six beets. Anyways, I ended up with a not so fluffy cake. The inside was too smooth. Next time, I will only use 4 small beets, maybe even fewer and hopefully I won’t be as disappointed.

    • Winnie replied: — March 4th, 2013 @ 11:10 am

      Hi Grace,
      This was one of my first recipes on this blog and I apologize for the ambiguous amount of beets. I will be making the cake again soon so I can update the recipe with a more specific amount of beets by weight. Thanks for your feedback!