Natural Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

C’mon,…if you have ever made a red velvet cake from scratch and seen how much red dye is in there, you know it’s a little frightening. But it tastes oh so good! I have done a little research¬†about Red Velvet Cake’s history,¬†why it’s red and to see if all the red dye is necessary; sadly, it is (due to our modern baking products).

But a few times I have come across recipes¬†that use beets as a substitute for all that red dye. I¬†was so curious about this method that I really couldn’t wait for an opportunity to try it out. Wouldn’t you know, my friend JUST had a baby and her favorite cake is red velvet. She eats a mostly plant-based diet, so I knew she wouldn’t mind being my guinea pig in an effort to rid her of Red Dye #40. Thanks Ashley!

Just beet it

Just beet it


So here you go; my science experiment for an all-natural Red Velvet Cake! (And several notes about this recipe are at the bottom.)

Ingredients:
1 can fancy beets in juices, pureed
1 Cup coconut cream
1/3 Cup coconut oil (melted)
1 & 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 & 1/4 Cup AP flour (unbleached)
1/4 tsp salt
2 & 1/2 Tbsp Natural Cocoa Powder (NOT Dutch Processed)
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

1)Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; grease 2, 9″-round cake pans. **I use Baker’s Joy. It is a non-stick spray with flour in it and it seems to do an even better job than greasing and flouring the pans separately.

2) Puree beets IN their juices and combine with coconut oil (melted), sugar, vanilla and coconut milk until well incorporated. Set aside.

3) In a bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.

4) Alternately whisk wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well incorporated.

5) Pour batter evenly into pans. I like to tap mine on the counter one time before I place them in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes (test for doneness). Allow to cool and frost!

While the traditional frosting for a Red Velvet cake is a roux-based, cooked variety called “Ermine Frosting”, my friend prefers Cream Cheese Frosting. So here is the Cream Cheese Frosting and a link to the Ermine.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 brick of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 & 1/2 Cups confectioners sugar

1) Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth

2) Stir in confectioners sugar, then beat on high for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and stir again until well incorporated.

3) Frost and enjoy!

 

 

Notes on this cake:

  • Q: Does the cake taste like beets?
  • A: There is definitely a beet taste in this cake. It is NOT overpowering and some will completely miss it, never taking notice. Some will swear they can really taste it. I personally think that the earthy-ness of the beets combined with the cocoa make the cake simply lovely and balanced. The coconut milk and the coconut oil do help to curb that beetiness as well. I would say think of the exchange much like you would if you utilized applesauce in place of eggs in another recipe. The flavor is there but not overpoweringly so. Also, the original recipe had a tartness to it due to the buttermilk. I personally felt that I could taste a tang and I like that. Again, not overpowering, but just right.
  • Q: Is this cake really red?
  • A: No, it is not going to be that big bottle of fake red dye crimson red. You can see from my pictures what the coloring is like-sort of a rusty, iron-oxide color. That should be what your cake looks like. A lovely pinkish-brown. If you mess with the ingredients or their amounts, you may very likely get different coloring.
  • Q:There are no eggs in this cake?
  • A: Correct, there are no eggs in this cake. The coconut oil and the baking powder give the cake a lovely amount of lift. See photos.
  • Q: Does the cake taste like coconut?
  • A: No

Chocolate “Pudding”

I found this post on Pinterest for a Chocolate Pudding made with only avocado, bananas and cocoa. What??? I realized pretty quickly that I already had everything I needed on hand to make this. So, why not try it out? I whipped it up in less than 5 minutes, added a drizzle of honey just to help it out a little, and then whipped it in the mixer just to fluff it up and really get all the chunks out.

I handed the chilled cups to my 3 kids (9, 5, & 2) after dinner a few hours later. Only one of my three took a bite and looked at me suspiciously. The others devoured it. And the one who asked me what was in it still ate it when I divulged my secret to¬†him. I was really sold when the child of mine who is the least likely to try¬†new things asked me the next night if there was any more “pudding” to eat.

All I’m saying is, what have you got to lose?¬†

Not. A. Thing.

It’s seriously good.

Sneaky Chocolate Pudding:

  • 2 bananas (I used some “just right” bright yellow/no spot fruit because I didn’t want the banana flavor to overpower the taste)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 Tablespoons Hersheys special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional-try it both ways!)

Ugly Muffins (Spiced Banana Muffins)

Banana bread can be so tricky (in my opinion). There are a million recipes out there and it seldom fails that I forget what recipe I liked best (or least) the last time I made it.

spiced banana muffins (with pumpkin and coriander)

Spiced Banana Muffins with Pumpkin and Coriander (and a cinnamon sugar topping!)

But this recipe….oh my lanta is it a winner! I know these “look” ugly but, they taste out of this world! I made these muffins and they were gone in 3 days flat. I had very little guilt about them too as the ingredients are healthy and the sugar fairly low. (Though I’m going to experiment and lower it even more!)

The recipe is from the thriftyhippie blog by the way! Here is the basic recipe.

  • 1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Dark¬†Brown Sugar*¬†
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (or butter)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 3 Bananas, Mashed well
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

*denotes my change in the recipe

Heat oven to 350.  

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, sugar, allspice and nutmeg.  

In a separate bowl, beat together the bananas, vanilla, milk, egg and coconut oil until well incorporated.  

Add the dry to the wet and mix until it just comes together, try not to over mix the batter.  

Fill your lined muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter (1/4 cup).  Top with a cinnamon sugar mixture before baking to add a delicious crunch to the top of the muffins.  Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Remove from the tin and cool on a rack.

My family ate these warm out of the oven with some fresh salted butter (which immediately melted) and we all swooned over how delicious all the flavors were together! Enjoy these tasty babies!

I wanted to try a little switch up on these muffins just for fun, so here is the “Less Sugar Pumpkin and Coriander” version!

  • 1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup honey
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (or butter)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 2 Bananas, Mashed well
  • 1/2 Cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Coriander
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Same gig as above and remember to top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (No flour, no butter)

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies without butter or flour!

This is not my recipe, but I highly recommend you check it out. ¬†It’s from a blog called, Ambitious Kitchen I found on Pinterest. These cookies are a great lighter version of a traditional Chocolate Chip cookie. While they are not exactly the same thing as a traditional chocolate chip cookie, they are the perfect portion and treat for someone watching what they eat.

Notice, I did not say they are healthy. But in moderation, they are a great substitute. I use a 1″ melon baller to portion these cookies out and I usually get around 30 cookies (as opposed to her 16-20). I’m guessing that puts them a little less than 100 calories a piece (according to MyFitnessPal). I do use natural peanut butter and don’t have any problems with it. I’m wondering if it is because the PB is already cold? ¬†She also says you can try other butters, but I haven’t yet!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats (gluten-free if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In small bowl mix together the oats and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl beat peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, then gently fold in chocolate chips.

Roll cookies into 2 inch dough balls and place onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart, then BARELY flatten the top of the cookie with your hand. The dough should be pretty sticky so if you find this method annoying, simply use a cookie scoop to drop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet. The cookies may not be as round in shape and perhaps a bit thicker, but that’s okay, they will still be delicious.

Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes and remove when edges barely begin to turn a golden brown. The cookies may look a little underdone, but they will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven. Cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough. Makes 16-20 cookies.

 Notes
You can use less sugar or less chocolate chips to save calories ‚ÄĒ I have tried using 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and they turned out great!
Feel free to substitute almond butter or another nut butter in replace of peanut butter.

Crepes!

My friend Danielle and I both love to cook. She was mentioning to me one day when we were chatting that she loves to make crepes for her and her husband . I always thought that was a challenging endeavor, but she assured me it was way easy. So, I tried it out! She was totally right! This was a fun and easy recipe. I especially love that you can go savory or sweet with crepes. Try them this Saturday (hint, make them Friday night and let them refrigerate overnight to be ready the next morning) for a fun breakfast treat.

Julia Child’s Crepes (we think)

3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
3 egg yokes
1tbsp sugar
3tbsp liquer (opt-or a yummy extract like coconut, orange, almond, rum is yummy too!)
1 1/2 C Flour
5 TBSP melted butter

Blend in blender for 30 seconds. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Use a regular non-stick skillet starting with 1/4 measuring cup.  Use one hand to pour in the batter while making circular motions with the other hand. You basically just want to pour it in the middle and then swirl it around so that the the batter goes around in the pan and is very thin. Personally, I love to use my Pampered Chef large frosting spreader for the job. It works perfectly!

 This is the spreader I use to flip my crepes!

I’m whipping these up for tomorrow; can’t wait to dive in!

Chocolate Greek Yogurt Cupcakes!

I went poking around on Pinterest today for a chocolate cupcake recipe that used greek yogurt. This is the recipe I stumbled upon! I altered 3 things about it: 1) I used plain greek yogurt 2) I added one packet of Starbucks Via instant coffee and 3) I added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I already have a chocolate buttercream frosting that I threw in the freezer after making waaaaay too much for a cake (the recipe is below and I posted it as 1/2 of the original). So it is defrosting now. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

In the mean time…eat cake!

  • 6 oz plain greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 packet instant coffee (I used Starbucks Via)
  • 1 cup whole wheat white flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (see how I make mine¬†here¬†using 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar + 1/2 cup skim milk)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

** UPDATE! Pardon the grainy picture…but Oh.My.Lanta were these great cupcakes! I already have mentioned the recipe and my tweaks. But what really added to these sweet little loves was the chocolate buttercream frosting. MMmmmmm!

Chocolate goodness

Chocolate goodness

Chocolate Buttercream¬†(original recipe is for vanilla buttercream and is linked) This recipe below is half of the original. Cause that’s a TON of frosting…

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup room temp salted butter (1.5 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa (hershey’s special dark)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar (1 lb)
  • 1/4 cup milk

How to Make

  1. Cream butter and shortening together until smooth, approx 3 minutes using a paddle attachment.
  2. Slowly add sugar and cocoa, once all added crank up speed on mixer to med- high and whip it up for approx 1 min.
  3. Add milk, depending on your liking: stiffer~ less milk, creamier ~ more. If you add too much, no worries, just sift in a little more sugar.

Lindt Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Corn

2 bags popped, microwave popcorn (I did Newman’s Own Organic)
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I used peanuts, almonds, walnuts and pecans)
1/2 bar of Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Crystals chocolate bar
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup grade B maple syrup (Trader Joe’s)
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pop popcorn. Break chocolate bar into pieces. In a very large bowl (with a nice lid) place cooled popcorn, nuts and chocolate.

2. In a medium saucepan melt butter. Stir in maple syrup and brown sugar. Cook until sugar dissolves, stirring a few times. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil (don’t stir it). Boil about 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (watch out, it’ll rise!).

3. Pour caramel over popcorn mixture. Place lid on bowl and then shake, shake, shake you’re bowl to get the popcorn nicely covered with the caramel. ¬†Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets (I lined mine with foil for easy clean up) spreading in a single layer. Bake about 35-45 minutes stirring twice. Test doneness by removing a few pieces from the oven. If they crisp up within one minute, it’s done.

4. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with a little salt. Allow to cool COMPLETELY and totally. Zero heat can remain before you pack this baby up! (It’ll get soggy if it is still warm when you store it)

5. Once it’s nice and cool transfer to an airtight storage container. Depending on the humidity, it should last a couple of days.

Mmm….salty, sweet, goodness!

Oh and PS! Try to pick out the un-popped kernels before you toss everything together! They can hurt your teeth!