Red Velvet Cake With Beets

Winnie Abramson, ND

By Winnie Abramson, ND

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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!

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Recipe for Red Velvet Cake With Beets

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


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


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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