Recipe: All-Natural Red Velvet Cake (Made With Beets!)

This holiday season, in addition to our regular Julep contributors, we’re also sharing stories from our Minted artists and designers about how they celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.

All-Natural Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Name: Elizabeth Hatchett of Betty Hatchett Design
Where you’re based: Cincinnati, Ohio
How long you’ve been with Minted: Three years
Favorite thing about the holidays: I love the challenge of finding/making the right gift for folks…one that helps them feel known and loved.
On my wish list this year: After sniffing a friend’s collection of essential oils this fall, I’d love to have some cedar and eucalyptus oils.
This never fails to get me in the holiday spirit: Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” duet (along with Will Ferrell’s spoof, or course).
Favorite holiday tradition: In the days leading up to New Year’s, my husband Sam and I go through the year’s pictures and make a book. It’s such a fun way to remember moments in the past year together.

My mom has been making red velvet cake for as long as I can remember for the holidays. It’s our fancy dessert that sits atop her 1950s crystal cake platter, and we savor its light-as-a-cloud fluffy goodness after our main meal. To me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without red velvet cake. This year, though, I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to achieve the brilliant-red color without all of the artificial food coloring. Keep reading to find out if I was able to pull it off…  —Elizabeth

Click through to read more about Elizabeth’s red-velvet adventures

I scoured the web and learned about red velvet cake’s interesting history. Apparently, the term “red velvet” has been used to describe cake since the Victorian era, but the red hue was super subtle and was a chemical reaction to natural cocoa and vinegar mixing (which, to modern eyes, would look more like a rich brown). In the 1930s, a savvy entrepreneur figured out how to sell food dye, something previously considered extraneous (during the Great Depression, no less!) by creating a recipe for a cake that required a whole bottle of it and voilà! Red velvet cake as we know it was born. When food was rationed during World War II, after being charmed by that luxurious red velvet cake, necessity bred creativity, and chefs across America looked to beet root to dye their beloved cake.

Now knowing it was indeed possible to make a red cake with beets—and since a handful of baking bloggers had tried it themselves—I asked my husband Sam if he thought we could make our own beet-root version. Like Rosie the Riveter, he said, “Yes, we can!” (Full disclosure, Sam is a much better baker than I am, so this was certainly a team effort!)

Three cakes later, this is what we know: Beets, raspberries, and goat cheese can combine to make a truly delicious, unique cake, but I wouldn’t call it “red velvet.” We created a delightfully rich, dense, brownie-like, tart and sweet, deep-hued red-ish cake that I’m pretty sure my mom will enjoy as a Christmas addition next to her classic red velvet.

The first cake we baked didn’t turn out quite as red, and upon further reading, we realized that when we used milk instead of buttermilk, we took a wrong turn because the acidic nature of buttermilk helps retain the color of the beets. In our final recipe below, we’ve broken down the ingredients list into four sections: (1) red ingredients, (2) acidic ingredients (which help retain the red color), (3) basic cake ingredients (wet and dry), and (4) frosting ingredients.

Al-Natural Red Velvet Cake recipe

Red Ingredients:
• 1½ cups raw beets, chopped
• ½ cup raspberry liqueur (like Chambord)

Acidic Ingredients (which help retain the red hue):
• 1½ tsp. cream of tartar
• 1½ cups  buttermilk
• 3 tbsp. white vinegar
• 3 tbsp. lemon juice

Basic Cake Ingredients:
Wet Ingredients
• 1½ cups butter
• 3¾ cups white sugar
• 1–2 vanilla beans
• 6 eggs

Dry Ingredients:
• 3¾ cups cake flour
• 1½ tsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. baking powder
• 4½ tbsp. natural cocoa powder

Frosting Ingredients:
• 1.5 lbs. cream cheese
• 16 oz. goat cheese
• 4 cups confectioner’s sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Sift together dry ingredients; reserve ½ tsp. tartar and set aside.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Scrape the vanilla beans and add the vanilla-bean pulp to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Separate the egg yolks (reserving the whites for later); add the yolks to the mixture and continue to mix until the batter has a uniform consistency.

3. In a blender, purée the chopped beets, slowly pouring in the raspberry liqueur (alternatively, you could use lemon juice instead of liqueur); add the purée to the wet-ingredient mixture. Next, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet-ingredient mixture until the batter is fully incorporated.

4. With a clean mixer, beat egg whites and remaining ½ tsp. tartar until stiff peaks form.

5. Slowly mix one-third of the egg-white mixture into batter, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter.

6. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and gently shake pans on the counter to get rid of bubbles and smooth out the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

7. Combine the frosting ingredients in a mixer and mix until smooth. Place one cake layer on a platter and spread frosting on top; place second cake layer and spread frosting on top; place remaining cake layer and spread frosting on top and sides of cake.

And the most fun part (to me!): I love how jewel-like pomegranate seeds are, so for a simple and elegant look, I placed pomegranate seeds into the icing in a scalloped pattern along the bottom of the tier. Enjoy!

All-Natural Red Velvet Cake recipe All-Natural Red Velvet Cake recipe

• Ashleen Montgomery of The Big Bake Theory delves into the science behind a naturally red cake and turned us on to using raw beets instead of cooked, as well as the addition of raspberries.
• Pamela Moxley, pastry chef at Miller Union in Atlanta, inspired us to use goat cheese in the frosting.

More Holiday DIYs:
Glowing Holiday Luminarias
• Snowman Place Cards
• Gold Holiday Wreath
• Printable Family-Trivia Game
• Printable Holiday Gift Tags

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