Can I Make Red Velvet Cake With Beets Instead of Dye?

published Feb 14, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Q: I’ve been looking for a recipe to make red velvet cake or cupcakes using beets instead of red food coloring. I had tried an organic food coloring derived from beets, but it turned purple after baking. I’m guessing the color reacted to the chemical leavener.

Have you come across a recipe, or way to adapt a recipe, to do this?

Sent by Stacy

Editor: Oh, the great dilemma of the natural baking world! A quick recap: The scarlet red velvet cake that is currently so popular gets its color from not one but two bottles of red food coloring. (Old-fashioned red velvet cake is not nearly so red; it has an earthy reddish tone from the light touch of cocoa interacting with the leavener.)

But if you like to avoid red dye in your food, then this color is much harder to come by. We’ve tried shredded beets and pomegranate juice, but with no luck. The problem is that yes, the natural colors are turned brown by the chemical reaction with the leaveners.

The answer is to make cake without baking soda or baking powder. I actually was going to present you with an angel food or pound cake cupcake today, dyed bright red with beet powder. The only problem is that I really was not a fan of the strong taste of beet powder in both batches of my cupcakes. You can get pretty great color, though, by adding beet powder to a cake recipe without baking soda or baking powder.

This is what Stephanie Jolly did over at Suite 101 — here’s her recipe (pictured above) for red velvet cake sans dye. It does use beet powder; I just didn’t care for the taste. But try it and see what you think!

Readers, any thoughts? Have you tried the recipe above?

(Image: Stephanie Jolly)