I have chronicled my trials and tribulations with the formidable red velvet cake before. From the not-so-successful results to successful but potentially toxic results to preparing for a more natural version of these vividly colored cakes (and the mess that ensued).
The use of peeled, juiced raw beets achieved and maintained the color desired. In my study of the topic, and in the desire to avoid food coloring, I learned that cooking the beets would dim or destroy the red color (the main reason for using beets!). Perhaps there is a way to account for and prevent this (using lemon juice in the cooking, perhaps?), but it seemed just as easy to peel a handful of beets and throw them in a juicer to get pure, raw beet juice and fine beet pulp, which turned out to be ideal for these cakes.
In addition to the raw beet juice, I changed the recipe slightly from the original recipe I had used (I may try the original recipe again just to see if it makes a difference).
(Beet) Red velvet cupcakes
3/4 to 1 cup of beet pulp
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon cocoa (unprocessed, natural cocoa powder)
(To make the beet puree, I used a juicer. I peeled four or five beets, threw those into the juicer, which separates juice from pulp. I used the resulting 1 cup of beet pulp and then used some of the beet juice to achieve the right level of liquid – I did not measure this, so it might be a trial and error process for others who attempt this.)
Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
Mix the beet pulp, lemon juice, rice vinegar together.
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then the vanilla. Add the beet puree mixture.
Sift together dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa) and mix the dry mixture into the butter-beet mixture alternately with the buttermilk. If the batter is really thick, you can add a bit of the beet juice from the juicing process. You do not want this batter to be too thin, however.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes in lined cupcake pans. A toothpick inserted in center of the cupcakes should come out clean. Cool in pan on rack for two or three minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pan and allowing them to cool completely on racks.
Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup or 85 grams) butter, at room temperature
3 cups (330 grams) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice [juice of 1/2 a lemon]
Cream together cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl.
Slowly sift in powdered’s sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated. Mixture should be free of lumps.
Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.
I did not use this exact frosting recipe and ran out of powdered sugar, so my frosting was a bit less than solid – but no one seemed to mind much. The handful of people who provided feedback, as lab guinea pigs do, said they were really good. Still, I think this is one recipe that can continue to be improved on. And filled with beets, perhaps we can convince ourselves they are slightly healthy! (And just for Janne and Esteban: Remolacha!