A friend told me that red velvet cakes were red because during WW2, there wasn't enough chocolate to go around so people started putting beets into their cakes to make them dark. Buuuuuut, other people have told me red velvet cakes are red because of the vinegar's reaction with the buttermilk. Either way, almost all red velvet recipes call for a whole bottle of liquid red food coloring. I wanted to make red velvet cupcakes without red food coloring, so I decided to try the beet route.
Not really red, eh? I did a lot of things wrong!
I found a recipe that sounded promising. (The owner of that website asks that her recipes not reproduced online, but that we just link to her blog. So I am obliging!) I decided to double the recipe because it seemed small.
I went out and bought beets from the farmer's market. Candy cane beets! They sound so sweet and delicious! But then I get home and after boiling and removing their red skin, I realize they are red and white striped. Like candy canes. I didn't take a picture, but this is pretty much what they look like:
So much white under the deceptively red skin! Oops. I decided to use them anyway because I had no backup plan.
I bought 2 bunches of beets, which in total were 8 fairly large beets. After boiling them, I realized I had no real way to "puree" them--no food processor or masher! We do have a muddling rod for making mojitos though! So I smashed them in a glass measuring cup with that. It totaled just over 1.5 cups which was perfect since I was doubling the recipe. I did a pretty good job smashing them together. Only one person told me he got a bit of beet stuck in his teeth while eating a cupcake!
I followed the recipe pretty much exactly except: I used 1 stick of butter and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil instead of 1 cup; and I didn't have yogurt, so I added a little more milk. I think the yogurt was probably important in developing the red color, since most recipes call for either buttermilk or yogurt. Also, I used some pretty good quality chocolate which made the batter dark. I was still hoping for red, so I added 1/2 bottle of liquid red food coloring.
For frosting, I winged it... 2 sticks of butter, some vanilla and enough powdered sugar to make it taste good. I added some flour and potato starch to make it thicker without making it sweeter and a pinch of cream of tartar to make it fluffy.
I was a little worried, but these taste really good! But they do taste beet-y, while the recipe said they would not. One person pointed out that if I used store bought beets instead of farmer's market beets the beet flavor would probably have been milder. I kind of liked the beet flavor, myself. Some people did, some didn't. You have to be prepared for it though, otherwise it would be a confusing flavor! With the exception of the one person who got a beet chunk, the texture of these was great! Definitely "velvet"!
--On a side note, I used some silicone heart shaped cupcake liners (it was for Valentine's Day aferall!) that my roommate bought for me. I love the idea of reusable liners, especially since I bake so much. But the cupcakes didn't come out super smoothly, just like in regular paper liners. I didn't grease the liners, maybe that is where I went wrong, but they didn't have any instructions! And cleaning them is a bitch because of the ribbed sides, so I have to soak them forever and then scrape the cake out. Just mentioning it!