Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Red Velvet Story....To Beet or Not to Beet.



I'll admit, I was a little arrogant in thinking that I could easily whip up a gluten free, dairy free and vegan red velvet cake that would be anything close to the real thing, but my friend Stephanie's birthday was coming up and I was going to wow her!

The real challenge was to somehow find a way to get that beautiful red color without using nasty artificial food coloring. What's all natural and could make a nice deep red?  Beets, of course.  I used the whole beet. Not just one beet either, but a bunch of beets.  I cooked them first, then pureed them and mixed them into the batter.  It was beautiful. I even made sure to use the right leaveners so as not to destroy the color while baking (there's some kind of chemical reaction that happens which can turn it brown).

The cake came out a nice red.  It was a bit on the dense side but as one of my good friends likes to say when my baked goods don't come out so well, "That's gluten free for ya!"  I was too excited about the color to worry about denseness, or even taste for that matter, so I covered it in frosting, put it in a box and froze it until the day of the party.

It was a long drive to Stephanie's house in the middle of winter in addition to a quick pit-stop to see the in-laws first. The poor cake had to sit in a cooler for two days until we made it to Stephanie's. Finally, we arrived and upon first looking at the cake everything looked fine. It was still all in one piece and nicely decorated.  The plan was to go out to dinner and then come back and eat the cake at the house.  Dinner was fabulous (Stephanie has excellent taste in restaurants) and I made sure that no one ordered  anything for dessert because, "don't forget about the cake back at the house". I'm sure the desserts at the restaurant were just as fabulous as the main course, but that was not in the cards for us.  Our fate turned out to be a complete disappointing mess.

Once we returned to Stephanie's house I excitedly headed for the cake. It was like an unveiling of my magnificent artwork.  I opened the box and looked inside.  It looked like a murder scene.  The cake, having been kept relatively cool for 48 hours and then moved into room temperature caused it to rapidly defrost.  Because I used so many beets, the juice from the beets literally oozed out of every pore it could find.  A once pristine white cake was weeping what looked like blood. The deep dark red liquid was a puddle under the cake.  My heart sank.  I even tried cutting it hoping it would at least taste good but when I pushed the knife into the cake it felt like I was cutting into mud.  And guess what it tasted like?  A lot like mud. 

So we didn't eat any cake that night and I'm sure my friend Stephanie shivers every time someone mentions the words, "red velvet". After that night I didn't even consider trying to make another red velvet cake again.  I figured I had reached too high and it was just not possible to make a gluten free, dairy free vegan cake without using artificial food coloring.  But luckily time heals all wounds and I started to crave another challenge to add to my recipe repertoire which is what brought me to my current recipe today.  I still use beets but just the juice and a whole lot less. If you would like the improved version of my red velvet cake recipe click here.



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