Be Mine!

February 14th is a special day for me and my honey, since it is the day we married (way back in 1976). Here's my annual Valentine's Day recipe, in time for you to try it: Red Velvet Cake, made using beets. Don't stop reading here - it's delicious!

Beets are one of my new favorite veggies, and I had read recipes which used red beets to make Red Velvet Cake (instead of a whole bottle of toxic red food coloring). This could be the perfect opportunity to use my heart-shaped springform pan and heart-shaped serving dish! I found a red velvet cake recipe using beets online and followed the recipe the first time, except substituting GF flour. The second time I made it, I made many changes, creating my own recipe to make a more healthy end product. I also created some beet-juice tinted decorations!

Commonly, recipes for this cake use buttermilk, so I'm certain that the milk + lemon juice + yogurt + vinegar works as a substitute here, and I wouldn't eliminate them. I up'd the spices however, since I could hardly taste them in the original recipe, and added the vanilla extract… all nice complements to the mild cocoa flavor.

I also wanted to stick with a simple topping, rather than the customary cream cheese or 7-minute frostings, which are heavy on refined sugar. Whipped cream with raspberries or strawberries would be nice, but I didn't have those ingredients on hand. If it were springtime, I'd use some lovely pansies (edible and pretty) from the garden. If you baked mulitple layers, raspberry jam in between would taste heavenly! This time I tried a combination of decorations, as shown in the photo collage and described below, just to give you some ideas.

Red Velvet Cake Made with Beets
(yields one 9″ round layer)

3/4 c pureed red beets  (I roasted 2 large fresh beets wrapped in foil at 350 for 45-60 min, but next time I will try cooking in my pressure cooker; drained canned beets would probably work fine too)
1/2 c coconut oil, softened
1/4 c milk
1/4 c lemon juice
1 t plain yogurt
1/2 t balsamic vinegar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c honey
1 t vanilla extract

1 c flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour plus 3/4 t xanthan gum)
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Allow the wet ingredients to get to room temperatures. Puree the beets in a food processor, measuring out 3/4 cup to use. (I used the leftover beets in my smoothies). CAUTION: red beets will stain, so I recommend doing your mixing in stainless steel or glass bowls, avoiding plastic and rubber utensils.

Add all the other wet ingredients to the pureed beets and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined. Grease a 9" cake pan and line with parchment. Dump the batter into the pan (it's slightly thick) and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center comes out clean, then turn off the oven and leave it in for another 10 minutes. Cool briefly in the pan, and remove to a wire rack to cool completely before icing or decorating.


Rather than slather on thick sugary frosting, I opted for 3 types of decorations, and had fun with them, using some red beet juice for coloring, which I had saved from the roasting beets process:

I took the idea for meringue letters and hearts from Martha Stewart Living. I had never made meringue before, and I discovered it's quite easy. I resorted to using refined white sugar (I keep some on hand just for the hummingbirds' food), which I ground fine in my coffee grinder. Next time I'll experiment using honey instead. The recipe:  whisk 2 egg whites with 1/2 c fine sugar over warm water for 2-3 minutes. My small glass mix-master bowl fit in a 3-qt saucepan nicely. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar. I also added a small amount of red beet juice. Remove from the heated water and whip with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled - this took only about 3 minutes for me. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and squeeze out hearts and letters onto a parchment lined pan. As you can see, I'm lacking in piping experience, especially when compared with Martha! Bake for 1 hour at 200 degrees, then leave them in the "off" oven to cool.
I whirled some unsweetened dry organic coconut in my coffee grinder to make it fine. Then I mixed in some red beet juice, enough to make a strong magenta color. Sprinkled on the cake top, it looks like colored sugar.
I had thought I might drizzle white chocolate along the edges of the heart-shaped cake, so I melted a couple of squares of Ghiradelli premium white chocolate baking bar in a glass cut set in a pan of hot water. Even when melted, it was still thick. I added beet juice to color it, then added a little coconut oil to soften it. Coconut oil is liquid when heated, solid when cooled. This gave the chocolate enough consistency so I could spoon it into a piping bag with a star tip and make some little frilled stars around the cake top.
Get creative and let me know how you decorate your Red Velvet Beet Cake!

Happy Valentine's Day to you and your sweetie!