Growing up gluten-free in the Pacific Northwest, I’d never had a red velvet cake or cupcake in my life. This chocolate cake, often appearing in cupcake form, is often made with buttermilk and beets or red food coloring. It is most popular in the Southern United States, which may explain why I didn’t encountered it much. I’d seen recipes around online and was intrigued, but finally seeing Pinch my Salt’s beautiful red velvet cupcake decided it. I had to make a recipe for this Valentine’s Day. First I wanted to find out more about the history of the red velvet cake, and my friend Wikipedia helped me with this.
James Beard’s 1972 reference American Cookery describes three kinds of red velvet cake varying in the amounts of shortening and butter used. All of them use red food coloring for the color, but it is mentioned that the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to turn the cocoa a reddish brown color. Furthermore, before more alkaline “Dutch Processed” cocoa was widely available, the red color would have been more pronounced. This natural tinting may have been the source for the name “Red Velvet” as well as “Devil’s Food” and a long list of similar names for chocolate cakes.
Dye And Other Color Sources
The use of red dye to make “Red Velvet” cake was probably started after the introduction of the darker cocoa in order to reproduce the earlier color. It is also notable that while foods were rationed during World War II, some bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes. Boiled grated beets or beet baby food are still found in some red velvet cake recipes. Red velvet cakes seemed to find a home in the U.S. South and reached peak popularity in the 1950s â€“ just before a controversy arose about health effects of common food colorings. (Source: Wikipedia)
To make my version of red velvet cupcakes, I was determined to avoid using expensive red food coloring when I could use natural ingredients. The traditional dye besides red food coloring was beets, but I’d heard a lot of criticism that beets imparted a heavy, earthy flavor to the dessert. So, I went to Whole Foods with an open mind, looking for other bright red ingredients that could be used instead of beets. I had recently received a sample of Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice, which inspired me to think of red juices like pomegranate. (I probably would have used this juice, but there was a mix-up and it ended up sitting in our apartment complex office for two weeks when it needed refrigeration- oops.) Whole Foods didn’t have that specific brand of pomegranate, so I ended up bringing home an acai juice instead. However, I was also inspired by a can of cranberry jelly that seemed ideal for decreasing the oil in the recipe as well as bringing color and additional flavor. Maybe it was unconventional, but I had read complaints that Red Velvet Cupcakes often didn’t have much flavor and since I didn’t want a strong chocolate flavor, fruit-infused vanilla sounded really good to me.
I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The cupcakes might have turned out more of a light brown than a red, but the flavor was wonderful, with crystallized sugar sparkling on the top and a light, fluffy texture. I had feared the batter might be too thin, but it rose to a perfect height and texture in the oven. To be honest, it didn’t even need frosting, but to make it more festive we whipped up a batch of the DH’s special cream cheese frosting. DH’s response? He asked me why I don’t bake more often… and ate about four of them in a row, before I could even get them frosted.
Looking for other gluten-free takes on the red velvet cupcake? Try these recipes!
Going Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe with Chocolate Pudding
Ginger lemon Girl’s Lowfat Whole-Grain Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe
Naomi of Better Batter’s Starbucks-Style Ganache-filled Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe
I hope you have a delicious and gluten-free Valentine’s Day! What are you enjoying for Valentine’s Day dinner and Dessert? Please share in the comments!
Enjoy more of my Valentine’s Day Recipes!
Lemon Vanilla Heart Tuiles with Vanilla Custard
Homemade Easy GF Macademia or Pistachio nut Fudge
No refined sugar Babycake Brownie Recipe
Gluten-Free No food coloring Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups your favorite gluten-free flour blend (I used Bette Hagman’s gourmet blend*)
1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar **
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cocoa powder
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cranberry jelly (not the whole berry kind)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk [dairy-free: try soy milk with 1 tbsp. lemon juice]
2 large eggs, at room temperature [egg-free: try 2 Ener-g Foods Egg Replacer "eggs"]
2 or 3 tbsp. acai juice, cranberry juice, or pomegranate juice (i used acai)
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Prepare two muffin tin either by greasing or using muffin tin liners.
Sift together your flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
Whisk together or use your mixer to combine the cranberry jelly, canola oil, eggs, juice, vinegar and vanilla. You may want to start with just the cranberry jelly and oil or eggs. Mix until all wet ingredients are combined and smooth. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients.
Next, pour smooth batter into your muffin tin or liner until each cup is 2/3 full. (Batter may seem liquid, but it will rise beautifully. If you’re worried you can add a little more flour blend, especially if you used 3 tbsp. of the juice.)
Bake for 25 minutes or so, turning the pans around at around the 12 minute mark.
Let cupcakes cook and then frost.
Sprinkle with colored sprinkles if desired. Whole Foods has a natural fruit colored sprinkle.
*Bette Hagman’s Gourmet Blend, available through Ener-g Foods or mixed in bulk: 3 cups white rice flour 1 cup potato starch 1/2 cup tapioca starch flour.
**To make vanilla sugar, simply store a vanilla bean with your sugar overnight.