Red velvet is one of my favorite cakes, especially around the holidays because it’s so festive! This year, I was excited to bake with MRM’s Red Beet Powder to make a healthy and naturally colored version of this cake. Well, let’s just say the recipe didn’t go exactly as I planned, as the cupcakes came out of the oven looking like Devil’s Food. After a mini-sulk session in my kitchen,*sigh* I decided to turn my fail into a new a trend- allow me to introduce you to Black Velvet Cupcakes!
Essentially, red velvet cake is simply a cocoa cake died red. Despite their color, these cupcakes fully deliver on flavor as they have an incredibly rich, chocolate taste and an undeniably fluffy texture.
Anyway, on top of their decadent fudginess, these Black Velvet cakes are packing secret nutrition from the beet powder. Beets are full of betacyanins, a group of antioxidants that neutralize damaging free radicals in the body, while protecting against oxidative stress disorders. This bright vegetable also contains nitrates, which is converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a compound typically found in pre-workout supplements to help dilate the blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the muscles, thus allowing for more strength and endurance. Additional research is currently being done on this topic, but it seems to suggest tossing some of this beet powder in your pre-workout meal could be a natural way to boost your performance!
When it comes to making a velvet cake, most traditional recipes call for buttermilk, a tangy liquid that adds depth of flavor to the cake, in addition to tenderizing the gluten in the flour, resulting in that melt-in-your-mouth texture everyone loves so much. Even before I was vegan, I never had buttermilk on hand when I needed it, so I learned to make my own- simply stir vinegar or lemon juice in to whatever milk you plan to use, then let it sit at least 10 minutes until it starts to thicken. This creates the same buttermilk effect, but adds far less fat than the real stuff. I further cut the fat in these cakes by using applesauce in place of additional oil.
After combining all the dry ingredients, use a flour sifter or a colander (as shown below) to remove any lumps in the mixture. Normally I think sifting the dry ingredients is a pretentious, waste-of-time-step, however I find it necessary here to ensure the beet powder is evenly distributed. The first time I made this recipe, there were tiny chunks of powder that didn’t dissolve while baking, making for some not-so-delicious bites in the finished product.
To make these Black Velvet Cupcakes refined sugar free, they are only sweetened with coconut sugar. Coconut sugar contains a fiber called inulin- a fiber that can not be digested by the small intestines, so it moves to the lower gut where it acts as a prebiotic (food for the good bacteria in the gut). This slower digestion process makes coconut sugar lower on the glycemic index than white, resulting in less of a spike in your blood sugar. Coconut sugar also retains trace nutrients, such as iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium, since they’re not stripped away in a refining process. To make these cupcakes more delicate, you can grind the sugar in a food processor, to give it a finer texture before blending with the oil, but this is an optional step.
The final thing I want to note about this recipe is the frosting- to me, red velvet cake NEEDS to have cream cheese frosting, it’s just not the same without it! I like to avoid packaged vegan cream cheese, since every one I’ve seen has at least 1-2 ingredients I can’t identify, so I’ve been trying to make my own…but have not been successful so far. In the meantime, I’ve found a vegan cream cheese frosting in a can (below) that is definitely NOT the same as homemade, but if you’re in a pinch, it’s nice to know there is a plant based option available that is organic and responsibly sourced. (Or, just make your favorite regular frosting if you’re like me and not strictly vegan 😉)
Black Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/4 cup non dairy milk + 1T +1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 ¾ cup coconut sugar
½ cup +2T coconut oil, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (measure very carefully just to fill the spoon- ensuring you do NOT add any more than a teaspoon)
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup MRM Red Beet Powder (40% off when you use the code ELLEN on MRM’s site)
1T baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup white vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the milk and apple cider vinegar, and allow to sit at least 10 minutes.
- In an electric mixer, cream together the sugar, oil, apple sauce, and extracts until a grainy paste forms.
- Sift together all the dry ingredients. Note: Normally I think sifting the dry ingredients is a pretentious, waste-of-time-step, however I find it necessary here to ensure the beet powder is evenly distributed. The first time I made this recipe, there were tiny chunk of beet powder that didn’t make for very tasty bites in the finished product.
- With the stand mixer going on low, add half the dry mix to the sugar and oil, then half the butter milk. Repeat until evenly combined. Last, stir in the white vinegar. Evenly distribute between 18-20 lined muffin tins. Bake 16-20 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a drying rack.
- Frost with your favorite store bought or homemade icing for a dessert, or for a more healthy, but not vegan, option, combine greek yogurt with low fat cream cheese and a bit of stevia to create a protein topping.