There are few desserts as popular for Valentine’s Day as red velvet cake, a perfect match with its palette of burgundy and creamy white. For the cake to be made in a way authentic to the original from New York’s culinary darling the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, a red velvet cake “must” include:
1. A hint of cocoaNo problem here - natural cocoa powder contains anthocyanins, the same antioxidant found in pomegranates and cranberries. Note: traditionally the cocoa was the natural stuff, not Dutch-processed.
2. Vegetable oilWell, we do not really DO vegetable oil around here, since most fall into the category of Fats That Kill instead of the category of Fats That Heal. But fear not, healthy Flora Olive Oiland Sacha Inchi Oil (CA/US) will work just as well, and will not weigh down the cake like butter or coconut oil could.
3. ButtermilkIf you want to include some organic buttermilk from pastured grass fed cows, the probiotics in cultured buttermilk predigest the milk sugar, which makes it sour and safe for the lactose intolerant. However, you can also mimic buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to dairy-free milk and allowing it to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
4. PecansDelicious, if a little precious. If you are allergic and you leave them out, we won’t tell.
5. VinegarFun Fact: The acidic vinegar and buttermilk combine with the alkaline baking soda and the anthocyanins in the (natural only) cocoa to give off a reddish tint!
6. Cream Cheese Frosting
Not really healthy, but so good. If you have a favorite substitute, again, we won’t tell the red velvet police. Any white topping will make the red POP for Valentine’s Day! Natural cocoa may be difficult to locate, but you can still get a nice red hue without artificial coloring. Boost the color naturally with Red Beet Crystals (CA/US)! This turns the cupcakes into unique conversation pieces and ups their nutrition. And since you are clearly sweet enough already, these are low in sugar.
*Pro Tip; if you have not yet tried baking by weight instead of volume, give it a try! Get a scale and weigh your flour and other ingredients – you’ll get much nicer, lighter, and more consistent results.
- 1 cup (250g) plain or GF flour, or 1 cup drained pureed beans**
- 2 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder, natural if available
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon of sea salt
- 4 free range eggs
- ¼ cup (50 g) of sugar - granulated, caster, or coconut
- ½ cup of light olive oil or half Flora Olive Oil half Flora Sacha Inchi Oil
- ¼ cup (84 g) of honey, preferably local and raw
- 1/2 cup (175 mL) of cultured buttermilk (see note above)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar
- 3-5 tablespoons Red Beet Crystals (use 4 or 5 if your cocoa is Dutch-processed)
- ½ cup of chopped pecans
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 oz. of softened grass-fed butter or favorite substitute
- ⅓ cup or more honey
- Up to ⅓ cup of arrowroot flour/starch
- Optional; more beet crystals for color, vanilla or lemon oil for flavor
- **For a lighter, fluffier cake, use flour or a proper gluten-free flour blend. For a grain-free version, use the beans, which make a cake with a very dense crumb. We used adzuki beans which are slightly sweet, slightly diuretic, and rich in folate, dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and vitamin K. Black beans are another popular, nutritious choice.
- Preheat oven to 325 °F. Grease 2 muffin tins or a 12 spot cupcake pan with paper or silicone liners.
- Sift together the flour (or flour and starch), cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the pecans now.
- Separate the egg yolks from whites.
- Whip the egg whites on high speed until peaks form.
- Sprinkle in the sugar and whip. The meringue may fall, that’s ok.
- Whip to combine the egg yolks, oil, honey, buttermilk, vanilla, vinegar, and beet powder.
- Mix in the dry ingredients a bit at a time until combined.
- Gently fold in the egg whites.
- Pour the batter ¾ of the way up each tin.
- Bake at 325 °F, center rack, for 24-26 min, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cool for 5 minutes then flip out of the pan and cool completely before frosting.
- Whip the cream cheese and butter together on high speed for about 2 minutes.
- While whipping on low, add the honey until sweetness is perfect.
- You can make half the frosting pink or burgundy for roses or hearts if you want. You’ll need about 1-2 tsp. of beet crystals for pink and another 2 tsp. of beet crystals to make burgundy, when added to half the frosting. Whip the frosting until every crystal has completely dissolved into the frosting.
- Add starch until you reach the consistency you want—roses may require a fair amount.
- Spread a thin layer of frosting over the cupcake top, making the "crumb layer".
- Let cool for 30 minutes in the fridge.
- Frost the cupcake generously, covering the crumb layer.
- To make optional roses, use a Wilton 1M tip.