As I mentioned in my last post, Musings, yesterday I intended to make a Red Velvet Cake using beet powder instead of food coloring.
I had planned on doing this for a while, and a friend had given me a pack of beet powder that she happened upon, so I finally had the opportunity, and the occassion, to make the cake yesterday.
AND IT WORKED!
Food dye allergies are quite common, with sensitivity to red food dye being the most common. I know, and pity, some people who are not capable of eating jello, nibs, or red smarties because of their allergies, and I know that carries over for most Red Velvet Cakes. And let's face it, the more natural you get, the better it gets for you.
Enter beet powder.
I've used beets in baking before, much like how you would use grated carrot in a carrot cake. They of course add some color to whatever you're making, and a nice earthy flavor, but they aren't overwhelming by any means. Beet powder has a more mild flavor, essentially being roasted beets that are dried and ground up, but it still has the same coloring properties. The recipe I used was a simple google-and-choose-the-best-picture recipe. I did look at a couple other recipes, and some got pretty 'inventive' about their interpretation of what a red velvet cake really is. For those of you who are unaware, a red velvet cake traditionally is a buttermilk-based devil's food cake (which typically means lots of baking soda to get the red-chocolate color), and half a container of red food dye. Some of the recipes I saw were based off of a cream cheese sponge cake and had no chocolate, just beet powder. Not exactly the same thing...
There are some tricks to making sure beet powder will work. Apparently you need to be careful about the overall acidity of your batter, or the color will turn out purpley-brown instead of red. So baking soda is basically a no-go. Without soda as a leavening agent, the next best way to get a cake to rise is the volume mixing method. Essentially, you beat eggs to high volume and fold everything together to get it to rise. That's the method this recipe used. (Note: this link is to an online document, not a webpage per say)
Well, I set about making the cake and made one mistake right off the bat: I broke a yolk and some fell into my egg whites. That, my friends, is why you should use an egg separator instead of trying to be a hero. The result of that tiny little gaffe was that my eggs never hit the stiff peak stage that the recipe called for, and that affected the overall rise of my cake. Mine by no means looked like the picture on the link, however I can see how it could potentially get close.
If you've never looked into beet root powder before, you can buy some online from wholesalers, or check out this link on amazon for 1 pound for $13.95.
The taste of my finished cake was surprisingly normal! There's a very faint hint of the beet powder, but it goes nicely with the chocolate. The cake is a bit more eggy than a traditional devil's food, but that's not to say it's a bad thing. I only had a bit of cream cheese (silly me), so I help the cake together with the cream cheese frosting, and then I made a chocolate-coffee icing for the top. Yum!
One more note about the recipe: typically when you are making a cake, it's wise to not oil the sides of your pan so the cake rises better, however, because of the high egg content, and the fact that as big as your batter gets is basically as big as your cake will get, I'd recommend a very light layer of oil on the sides. It was a bit of a trick to get it out of the pans at the end.
Give it a try - you won't be disappointed!
Mrs. VanderLeek ;)