As I mentioned in an earlier blog I have worked on a new version of my red velvet cupcakes. I am working on a third brighter version 3 early this coming week, so watch for the blog!
But lets talk about why and what though a bit. Red Velvet cake and cupcakes have been hot, hot, hot the past couple years. Especially around Valentines Day. But the thing is they were not always freakin’ fire engine red. At one time they were a dullish red-brown caused by the reaction of cocoa powder/buttermilk/vinegar/baking soda/etc. That changed over the years and became a dumping ground for tons of artificial red coloring. Many recipes call not just for say a teaspoon but rather and ounce (2 Tablespoons or often a bottle) or even worse 2 whole bottles. The cake is a mockery of what it once was. And of course there is the debate that never ends: a pinch of cocoa powder or a lot? That debate is an argument of its own! I was standing behind a gentleman at Costco today while checking out, he had one of the massive RV cakes that were on sale. It was so red it could have put Clifford The Big Red Dog to shame. Not only was the cake bright red but they had dusted the white frosting with even more red food dye. Y-U-C-K. Artificial red dyes are BAD BAD BAD!!!! We don’t need them, our kids especially do not need them. Red dyes were/are a major trigger for my migraines. Once I removed all artificial coloring out of my diet (thanks to the recommendation of my Neurologist) about 5 years ago the vertigo migraines stopped (of which I am forever scared will come back). But once you remove coloring out of your diet you realize how it used in so much food now. How does eating a bright red cake make it taste any better than if it were pale red? It doesn’t. Last fall at my Brother In Law’s wedding I watched for the most part everyone there eating caustic red cake. It was a bummer. Ah well.
Anyhow with natural red velvet if you go the route I did today the cakes will never be truly red – no matter how much dye you put in. The cocoa powder will always cover it up. It does add some color though so is worth playing with. I tried out India Tree Natural,that I found on Amazon, where as in version 1 I used freeze-dried beet powder. You can also get Seelect liquid natural dyes at Whole foods, though they are quite pricey ($15 a bottle). In version 3 coming up I will go for the tiny cocoa version and a non-cream cheese frosting.
Let me know what you think and hey, at least they contain NO BEETS! Woooo!
All Natural Red Velvet Cupcakes
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 container natural red dye, about 1½ Tbsp (India Tree Natural)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1½ tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350° and line 2 12 cup muffin pans with liners.
In a medium bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder and slat together, set aside.
In a stand mixer bowl beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, then the buttermilk, red coloring and vanilla and beat, then add in the baking soda and vinegar. The mixture may be a bit chunky. With the mixer on low slowly add in the dry ingredients. Evenly divide the batter between the cups (a disher is good).
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently pressed and a toothpick comes out clean. Let rest for a couple minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Frost and decorate when cooled.
Cupcake cut in half:
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8-ounce package lower-fat cream cheese
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
In a stand mixer bowl beat the cream cheese and butter till blended, slowly mix in the vanilla. Beat in the sugar 1 cup at a time on medium until well blended and smooth. Spread on cupcakes.
Note: It is a soft frosting that isn’t the best for piping, though I did pipe a couple. Chilling it first will result in better results for piping.