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Red Velvet Cake (with beetroot juice)

Red Velvet Cake (RVC) is a mysterious cake to me. Why? Because lots of people crave and rave about it, not to mention even bake it and eat it. But not me.... why not? I don't really know but that bright blood red looking slice of layered cake simply doesn't turn me on. Quite the opposite: my immediate thought was that there must be a horendous amount of food colouring in it. So how come I'm making one today? Well, it all started one day while twittering: Davina, who loves RVC, upon hearing that Aparna & I have never made one before, urged us to try it. That got Aparna & I talking about it, how did RVC got it's red colour, it's origin etc. Little did we know that our curiosity would turn into adventure with Alessio & Asha on board (aptly named the " 4 Velveteers"), each of us trying to make au naturel RVC.

So what is Red Velvet Cake? It's apparently supposed to be a rich, moist layered chocolate cake with a dark red, bright red or red-brown colour with either cheese or buttercream frosting - very popular in Southern U.S. The red colour in question comes from either uses of food colouring to get the artificial bright red colour or chemistry reaction between ingredients to get the natural crimson colour - the acidic vinegar and buttermilk brings out the red anthocyanin in the cocoa. From what I understand, with the use of more alkaline « Dutch Processed' » cocoa, the red colour is more prominent. It is said that the natural tinting might have prompted the name 'Red Velvet' or 'Devil's Food' and other similar names for chocolate cakes.

My quest to make an au naturel RVC took me through a sea of recipes on the net - all demanding a lot, I mean really a HUGE, amount of food colouring like 6 tbsp to 4 bottles of food colouring. All the recipes are quite similar from one to another so I decided to ask Davina for her favourite recipe. And this is what I used and adapted from there.

Red Velvet Cake
  • 207 g cake flour (not self-rising flour)
  • 113 g butter (melted)
  • 250 g sugar
  • 4 eggs (separate egg yolks and whites)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 9 tbsp beetroot juice
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 180 ml buttermilk

Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

  • 180 ml heavy whipping cream or crème fraîche
  • 114 g cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 114 g mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • a few tablespoon beetroot juice
  • 55 g icing/powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven at 175°C (350°F - gas mark 4 ).
  2. Lightly greased 2x 22 cm cake pan, lined the bottom with baking paper.
  3. In a small bowl, mix well the cake flour together with the cocoa powder. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk until it is light and double the volume.
  5. Slowly beat in the cooled melted butter and beetroot juice.
  6. Fold in the flour mixture into the batter until combined.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a dash of salt until the peaks are stiff.
  8. Gently fold it into the batter until all is combined.
  9. Divide the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  10. Let the cake cool on the wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting it.
  11. Once the cake is cooled completely, spread a layer of cream cheese-mascarpone frosting on top of the 1st cake. Gently placed the 2nd cake on top of the 1st cake, spread a layer of frosting on tope and the sides.

Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

  1. Process your cream cheese and mascarpone cheese either in a food processor or handheld mixer until smooth.
  2. Add beetroot juice, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth.
  3. Add in the whipped cream, whisk until stiff peaks form. Your frosting is ready to be used.
Red Velvet Cake
The Verdict

The cake came out surprisingly well. There is indeed a hint of red colour - not the chemical red kind. It's more of a earthly red tone - I kinda like it. Maybe it would be dark red if I had added beetroot puree instead of juice only.

The cake has a kinda spongy like texture which is quite nice, however it is lacking in the taste department. There was only an extremely light hint of chocolate taste in the cake but Pierre would beg to differ on that, finding it really bland. LOL! The frosting is OK but we aren't a big fan of rich creamy frosting like this either.

Do I want to make another attempt to experiment with it to get a better taste and colour? No, I don't believe it is even worth it. When I asked Pierre that question, his immediate reaction was: 'Oh, no. Please get over it and move on.' LOL! That sums up how much we love this cake. So we still don't understand why all the Red Velvet Cake lovers out there are willing to hand out their money for an artificially heightened Red Chocolate Cake. If it is chocolate cake you want, might as well get a real rich chocolately cake sans 4 bottles of food colouring in it, no?


To make your own cake flour: for every cup of plain flour, replace 2 tbsp of it with cornflour or cornstarch. Sieve it together at least 5 times or more to make sure it is well incorporated together.

To make beetroot juice: Cut your beetroot (cooked) into small pieces, process it in food process until it is a puree. Put the beetroot puree in a muslin cloth, twist it and press out the juice.

Red Velvet Cake

Now that you have seen mine RVC, let's check out the other 3 Red Velveteers: Aparna (her eggless RVC using beetroot puree), Alessio (using his genius brain to create his raspberry RVC) and Asha (tried her hands at chemistry) and see how their experiment turned out.

Psss... this is just the beginning of the adventures of us 4 Velveteers. Remember to keep a look out... you'll never know what we are up to next!;-)

#1, by Alessio (02/12/2010)

Hey Pam, I agree on the taste department. Even mine was pretty bland... just sweetness at least I used raspberries, that imparted a little bit of extra flavour. Will definitely rise the amount of cocoa next time!:-D I quite like the shot of the slice of cake, very springy and sort of Japanese in mood;-)

One for all, and all for one!

#2, by Asha@FSK (02/12/2010)

You guys din't like the taste?? I loved mine! I do see yours uses half the cocoa I did.. but mine did not taste of chocolate really.. I can't explain it but I just liked it a lot, especially I wasn't expecting a whole lot from it!!

#3, by Aparna (02/13/2010)

Love your pretty pink heart cake. You used beet juice, great. I thought beets meant puree and that's what is used. LOL Can't complain since I got my red! But it was very tangy becuase mine had a lot of lemon juice in it.
My husband didn't like it too much, though my Mum loved it.

Looking forward to out next adventure.:-D

#4, by Michelle (02/13/2010)

The 4 Velveteers...so cute! Can't wait to see what you all do next!

We made Red Beet Buns this week so there's a lot of beet juice happening this week.

Adding a TBL of Balsamic will enhance the chocolate flavor. I add it all the time to my chocolate desserts.

#5, by deeba (02/13/2010)

So this is what the 4 Velveteers were all about ... RVC=YUM! Love the little tutorial on RVC. Funnily enough I made a red velver cake roll yesterday but did use food colouring. Just 1 tbsp and the rest of the colour was enhanced by cocoa. If I had known, or even thought out of the box, might have used beets to go natural. I've been intrigued by RVC for years but have never dared bake it for the same reason you mentioned...too much red colour! LOL ... Next time will try your 'red'! Lovely cake!

#6, by Ching (02/13/2010)

How sweet looking! Happy Lunar New Year and have a sweet Valentine's Day!

#7, by Cynthia (02/13/2010)

That colour combo has me swooning.

#8, by Sarka (02/13/2010)

I totally agree with you. I made Red velvet cake once and I threw away most of it!:-) I like your photos. The cake at least looks delicious!;-)

#9, by Sarah, Maison Cupcake (02/14/2010)

I have been flummoxed with red velvet cake too, although I wonder whether the type of food colouring I used had anything to do with it not going red. I haven't used beetroot in the red velvet cake before although I did make some beetroot fudge and that was still brown rather than red or purple.
I am going to give it another go with my new gel food colourings as I have seen the difference these make to pigmentation of sugar paste, but even with these you have to use quite a lot. At least gel colouring doesn't taste as horrid as the liquid stuff. Bleugh.
I like your pink icing very much.

#10, by Su-yin (02/14/2010)

Oooh I love that pink icing, it's so pretty! Great idea to use beetroot juice, when I made mine I only put a few drops of red food colouring (couldn't bring myself to use any more than that) and it turned out brown haha. Still tasted amazing though so I couldn't complain!

p.s. Love the name '4 Velveteers' :P

#11, by teczcape - an escape to food (02/15/2010)

I have seen it many times in blogs but I have never tried the cake. The "red" looks too sweet for me ;O

#12, by Mallika Basu (02/15/2010)

What a brilliant blog name you have. The velvet cake looks yum!

#13, by Kitchen Butterfly (02/15/2010)

Love the flowers and thanks for the ''how to make your own cake flour'' tip! Beetroot juice too...hmmmmm

#14, by diva (02/16/2010)

aww glad you made this! I love that you've used beetroot juice - that's a lot healthier I suppose? My RVC is always packed with sugar and colouring (Because i don't really mind the stuff) and to me, RVC is a real treat so really don't mind it at all!! People don't really know what cake flour is here, but it gives such a wonderful texture and fluffiness doesn't it?:-D Go Velveteers! xxx

#15, by Margot (02/16/2010)

Beautiful cake, my daughter would love it. Made once brownies with beetroot and everyone loved them so I'm very curious how this cake would taste.

#16, by A Bowl Of Mush (02/16/2010)

SUCH a beautiful cake!! What a great idea using beetroot juice!:-)

#17, by Jeanne @ Cooksister! (03/15/2010)

RVC is one of those iconic cakes that you always hear about but somehow never end up making! I suspect I would have loved it more as a kid, when the idea of a red cake would ave been intriguing... Clever idea of using beetroot juice though - it looks gorgeous even if it tasted bland!

#18, by nachiketa (04/06/2010)

What a fabulously pink cake..... took my HEART away..:-)

The Variable - Nachiketa
Crazy Over Desserts - The Variable, Nachiketa

#19, by Maggie (04/17/2011)

RVC originally got it's red colour because it was made with beetroot...it is supposed to be made using beet purée not copious amounts of red food coloring!