Monday, February 11, 2013

Gluten-Free Natural Red Velvet Cake

Non-Traditional Color and Flour

I've never had an experience with Red Velvet Cake, only hearing about it as an adult. And what did I hear?

It is just chocolate cake with red food coloring.

That's what I heard. That's what stuck with me.

I don't know what exactly inspired me to try to make it gluten-free for Valentine's Day, but inspired I was.

I looked up The Pioneer Woman's version and found that she uses a full bottle and a half of food coloring to get that color. A bottle and a half?! Looks artificial enough, but you want me to eat that much food coloring? More importantly, you want me to feed that to my family?

I was having a hard time swallowing that.

Luckily for me, I stumbled upon a video for making a natural red velvet cake. Natural, as in natural food coloring. Natural, as in beets.

Beets. They really do have the most beautiful color.

Now, I was on a mission. A mission to find a recipe for a gluten-free red velvet cake that didn't use artificial food coloring.

So, I went looking for a recipe. Look, I did. Search, I did. Scan, I did. Read, I did.

In the end, I found recipes with natural coloring but little chocolate and wheat flour or artificial coloring with little chocolate and gluten-free flours, but nothing with natural color, lots of chocolate and gluten-free flours. I would just have to make my own recipe.

But all indications were pointing to either lots of color or lots of chocolate, but not both. Gluten-free it would be. I was sure about that.

Gluten-Free Natural Red Velvet Cake

I pulled this recipe out of thin air, based on inspiration from five or six different recipes, including a gluten one from The Pioneer Woman, a gluten-free one from Jules Gluten Free, a glutenated one from an unidentified natural baker who produced a video, and a few others I stumbled upon in my internet searching.  Here's the result of all that inspiration.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup peeled and shredded beets
1 cup raspberries
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 18" x 20" cookie sheet by heavily spraying oil over entire surface, including the corners, edges, and up the sides. Don't miss a spot!

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add cocoa and vanilla. Mix well.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk again, just for good measure.

I peeled the raw beets with a vegetable peeler and then cut them into chunks that would fit into my food processor. You don't want to do this too soon, since the beets darken as they sit exposed to the air. Peel, shred and then be ready to use them immediately. 

Warning! There is nothing clean about working with beets!

But oh, look at that beautiful color!

Purée the shredded beets and raspberries together. Then add buttermilk and vinegar. Purée again. I used my food processor for this and let it run a long time (many minutes), so that I was sure not to have any chunks of beets or raspberries left.

Oh, yes! Color, in living color!

Back at the electric mixer, gradually add small parts of the flour mixture to butter-egg-cocoa mixture, alternating with small parts of the beets mixture, a bit of each at a time. Mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently.

Pour the batter into cookie sheet, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 minutes.

Look at that color change! Before baking is on the left and after baking is on the right. Baking turned my beets brown!

Remove the cake from oven and let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Invert a large cutting board over the top of the cookie sheet, grab both together and flip them both over together. Let the cake come out of the pan.

Even if it isn't very red anymore, let the cake cool completely. Now is a great time to start making the icing.

The Pioneer Woman's Best Frosting Ever, but Gluten-Free

Following the initial inspiration of The Pioneer Woman's, I decided to try her recommendation for icing. Actually, I've since learned that this icing goes by several names, including boiled milk icing, butter roux icing, and ermine icing.

Well, frosting, as she calls it.

Except I needed to make it gluten-free, of course. This frosting as flour in it. No joke. Flour. In frosting.

Good thing I know just how to make it gluten-free. Just substitute

5 Tbsp sweet rice flour

for the regular flour and proceed according to her directions.

Now, it is time to put it all together. I had made a sheet cake not because The Pioneer Woman suggested it. I made a sheet cake because I knew my heart cookie cutters would be able to cut me some bee-you-tea-full hearts!

It's Valentine's Day and I needed to have hearts somewhere in my baking! This was just the thing. Slap a bit of this smooth and creamy frosting across that not-so-red velvet and top with a fresh raspberry!


The cake came out very moist and chocolatey and delicious! It was not very red. It was not sweet enough without the frosting, but just perfectly sweet with the frosting. And the frosting. Light and fluffy and nice. Very reminiscent of sweetened whipped cream.

Everyone here really liked it!

In spite of it having beets in it. Boy, did I hear about that during the baking! I told Complainer Boy that if he didn't like beets, he wouldn't be eating any dessert. He didn't like the sound of that and promptly shut his trap. (When was the last time you heard someone use the term trap like that? Okay, don't answer that. Thanks.)

He shut his mouth until a plate with this was put in front of him. Then he gobbled it down faster than anyone else!

Heh. I guess he now knows beets aren't really so bad.

Based on the experience described above, I conclude that you can either have a naturally-colored chocolate cake or a naturally red not-so-chocolate cake or an artificially-red moderately chocolate cake, but you can't have knock-your-socks-off red and knock-your-socks-off chocolate at the same time in the same cake. And certainly not natural red beet color and significant chocolate at the same time.

You are just going to have to choose.

The version above is a keeper for those of us who want the natural, chocolatey version!

Happy Naturally Red Velvet Day (aka Valentine's Day)!

(Oh, and just in case you need to make this ahead of time, both the cake and the frosting tasted better after spending the night in the refrigerator!)

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