Every Christmas Eve, my entire family gathers at my great grandmother (who, by the way, is a ripe and healthy 97 years old this year). Aunts, uncles, cousins, children of all ages...we all gather, Santa (yes, the real Santa!) comes to hand out gifts, and we indulge in a huge dinner and dessert spread.
Christmas happens to be my grandmother's birthday, and every year, either she or my great grandmother brings a red velvet cake as a birthday cake. My eldest cousin happens to love red velvet cake, but she is allergic to red food dye, which happens to be perhaps the #1 ingredient in red velvet cake. Despite all of us telling her not to, my cousin generally eats a piece of cake despite her allergies and promptly gets a stomach ache for the rest of the evening.
Not this year!
This year, I called the whole family and told them that I would be bringing the red velvet cake...and that it would be completely free of red food dye. That is a pretty hefty promise to make, but I've become sort of the "birthday cake connoisseur" in my family; I have been baking all the birthday cakes recently. I had been reading up on dye-free red velvet cakes for a couple of months, actually. The absolute best recipe I've found (based on all the pH level research) is a recipe on a blog called Sophistimom. Her All-Natural Red Velvet Cake recipe and pictures were perhaps the most convincing I'd seen! (Seriously, gorgeous cake in her pictures...mine won't be that beautiful, I'm afraid.) In any case, while her recipe looks amazing, it is a bit heavier than I was going for (she freely admits that she was going for a very heavy cake). So, I set out to modify the recipe to create a lower-calorie, lower-point, lighter red velvet cake. I decided to create cupcakes on this dry run, though the cake I'll be bringing to Christmas Eve will be a two-layer cake (you can do the same using the same measurements from this recipe).
So, I dedicate this recipe to my great grandmother (pictured below), who has been such a huge inspiration to me...especially when it comes to cooking, crocheting, and being a genuine person ;) I love you, Nana!
My Nana - 97 years old. NEVER too old for Santa Clause!
Dye-Free Red Velvet Cupcakes
Yields: 24 servings
Serving Size: 1 cupcake + 1 TBS of frosting
PointsPlus per serving: 4P+ (1 cupcake with 1 TBS frosting) 3P+ (1 cupcake NO frosting)
2 beets (enough for 3/4 cups puree)
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fat free buttermilk
1 1/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup white all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup white all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
4 TBS natural cocoa powder
1 container Betty Crocker Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Note: while I used whipped cream cheese frosting from a can for this recipe, you can, of course, make your own frosting using a different recipe. The cupcakes without frosting are 3 PointsPlus; you will need to calculate the PointsPlus of your own homemade frosting if you choose not to use the pre-made stuff!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel beets. Place in a small baking dish with enough water on the bottom to cover the entire bottom of the baking dish.
Cover with parchment paper and tin foil. Bake at 350 for 90 minutes (until beets are very tender).
When beets are fully cooked, slice into small pieces and put into food processor or blender. Blend with lemon juice until a smooth puree forms. Measure out 3/4 cups of the puree and put in small dish.
In a large mixing bowl, mix oil, buttermilk, and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add chocolate extract (you can use vanilla extract if you can't find chocolate extract). Mix until well-blended.
In a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.
Slowly add dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix until smooth.
Fold beet puree into the batter.
Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
Spoon batter into cupcake liners.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting them.