Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Food Desert Project: Beet-Red Velvet Cupcakes (Vegan)

I've always been fascinated with Red Velvet cake, ever since I lived in Atlanta for a few months, and found it at nearly every place we went to eat.  I always assumed that the flavor had something to do with its color, but no: it is just cake, lightly-scented with cocoa...with a whole bottle of red food dye poured into the batter.

I'm not anti-food dye per say (not even red food dye; after all, how different are shrimp and lobster) but I do like to have my food's color indicate something about the food itself.  I'd read about beet-colored red velvet cake before, but had never tried it - and then I found this recipe for cupcakes, and realized they would fit within the parameters of this project.  They are vegan as well, so we could share them with Sparky's classmates.  I first planned to top them with a vegan cream-cheese frosting, but found that to be unacceptable in quality - please feel free to use real cream cheese frosting if you're serving them to omnivores.  For the vegan cupcakes, I made a simple chocolate glaze using melted vegan chocolate chips and Earth Balance.

Unfortunately, the cupcakes I made following the recipe to the letter were very beet-flavored as well as deep and rich in color.  Not enough to totally turn you off, but enough that I knew Sparky wouldn't be happy with them in place of boxed Red Velvet Cake mix.*  Being me, I decided to tinker with the recipe, and made raspberry puree from frozen raspberries (I'm not sure if this is available in the food desert or not!)  These added a lightly fruity flavor that was delicious and took away the earthy flavor of the beets completely.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar (check that your sugar is vegan, I used Raw sugar)
3 tbsp cocoa (NOT Dutch-process)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 8.25 oz can Sliced Beets (NOT pickled)
1/3 cup Oil
2 tsp lemon juice (canned is fine)
1/2 cup raspberry puree (blend frozen raspberries to mush in your blender, strain out the seeds.  If you want to sell each cupcake for $8, call this raspberry coulis)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Line your cupcake molds with liners (this will make 12 regular-size cupcakes, or 24 mini-cupcakes)  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

024Put the beets, water included into the blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Place 3/4 cup beet puree in a mixing bowl (discard the rest, or make a mini-serving of borscht.)  Add the oil, lemon juice, raspberry puree and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.

Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

027Add the wet ingredients and blend lightly until combined.  Pour into your cupcake molds and bake at 350 degrees until a skewer or toothpick comes out bright red but without crumbs sticking to it (about 18 minutes for regular-size cupcakes, about 12 minutes for mini-cupcakes.)  Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly before removing them from the pan.

Take a deep breath, your kitchen will smell like a raspberry field.  Enjoy!


*Keep in mind, Sparky guessed what was in these (knowing his Mom) before he even tasted one - and then  insisted he tasted beets.  Then he ate another.  Then another.  Pretty soon, he'd eaten so many that I was grateful they were mini-cupcakes because no matter how much beet there is in these, they're still an indulgence.  However, if you are making these for someone who is strongly anti-beet and has supercharged tastebuds, be aware that there is a very slight beet aftertaste.
(And apologies for the late post, folks - I set the timer wrong...)

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