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Natural Red Velvet Cake Recipe

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This natural red velvet cake recipe pairs pint-sized naturally dyed beetroot powder cake layers with a light and airy whipped cream cheese frosting. It’s the perfect mini cake to share with a loved one!

a natural red velvet cake decorated with beetroot dyed crumbles on a mini cake stand in front of a vase of white roses.

This post was originally published on 1 February 2019 and updated on 5 February 2021.

A mini red velvet cake naturally coloured with beetroot powder

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This natural red velvet cake recipe almost didn’t happen.

My idea for a naturally-dyed red velvet cake for two, while a brilliant one in theory (who wants to eat a cake with an entire bottle of red food dye in it?), presented a few problems that I hadn’t anticipated:

The beetroot powder I was using to dye the cake layers oxidised to a not-so-pretty brown when baked. When I tried to remedy this by leaving out baking powder and using egg to give the cake some rise, the texture became gummy.

For a week I was stuck with either lovely and fluffy brown cake layers or deformed, dense omelette-cakes. Neither of which I could reasonably hand over to you, call it a natural red velvet cake, and be proud.

I made SEVEN cakes before I finally cracked (literally and mentally) the combination needed to produce the vibrant beauty you see before you.

This natural red velvet cake recipe is perfect. The layers taste exactly like you’d expect a regular red velvet cake to taste – slightly tangy from the buttermilk, moist, and buttery with a hint of both chocolate and vanilla. It’s the classic can’t-describe-it taste that you crave when eating red velvet cake.

Only this natural version doesn’t contain any refined sugars or artificial food dyes – it’s naturally coloured with beetroot! Paired with the (powdered sugar free!) whipped cream cheese frosting, I really can’t imagine a better combination.

two slices of natural red velvet cake on white plates on top of a marble counter with sprinkles of beetroot dyed cake scattered around

Ingredients in this natural red velvet cake recipe

There are some very specific ingredients, amounts, and methods used to make this natural red velvet cake recipe. It’s very important that nothing is left out or substituted or the resulting cake will likely not work. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cake flour: While you can make this cake with plain flour, I find that cake flour gives the sponge a lighter, fluffier texture. I would highly recommend using cake flour for this recipe. You can make your own using this method.
  • Raw cane caster sugar: To keep this cake refined sugar free, we’re using raw cane sugar ground down to its finest form, caster. I usually opt for Billington’s.
  • Cacao powder: Red velvet cake recipes typically contain a small amount of cocoa or cacao to react with the acidic ingredients in the cake. This reaction causes a delicious maroon colour that is further enhanced by food colouring (or beetroot powder, in this case)
  • Baking powder: A dash of baking powder keeps the cake from becoming gummy and dense. Do not be tempted to use more than specified in the recipe otherwise the beetroot will oxidise and turn brown.
  • Beetroot powder: To colour this red velvet cake naturally, I opted for beetroot powder. Discover more about its role in this recipe below.
  • Vanilla extract: Vanilla adds a lovely flavour profile to the cake without being too overpowering.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Vinegar helps keep the beetroot powder from oxidising during the baking process. I use apple cider vinegar because I love the flavour, but regular distilled white vinegar would also work.
  • Buttermilk: For that classic red velvet cake tang (and to add another acidic ingredient to keep the colour bright), buttermilk is a must. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own homemade buttermilk.
  • Egg whites: Whipped egg whites give the cake it’s lovely light and fluffy texture. This part cannot be skipped or the cake will not rise.
a slice of naturally sweet red velvet cake coloured with beetroot powder on a white plate with a silver antique fork

How to make natural red velvet cake with beetroot powder

There are a few ways to naturally colour a red velvet cake, but my preferred method is using beetroot powder.

Beetroot powder is created from dehydrated or dried fresh beets that have been ground into a powder. It’s super versatile and subtly sweet, so it’s perfect for colouring frostings and baked goods.

Two important things to note about using beetroot powder in this natural red velvet cake:

  1. The beetroot powder will oxidise and turn brown if there’s not enough acid in the cake. To combat this, we’ll be using more acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, and only a touch of baking powder for lift.
  2. Because we aren’t using a normal amount of baking powder, we’re also going to use an extra egg white and whip them into stiff peaks. The air in the whipped egg whites will help the cake rise and keep the sponge light.

Watch the recipe video

More of a visual learner? Me too! Check out how I make this Natural Red Velvet Cake here:

Why do you put vinegar in red velvet cake?

There are two main reasons why we use vinegar in red velvet cake recipes: to prevent oxidisation and retain the lovely red colour and to add some tang, which is a classic flavour profile in red velvet cake.

Oxidisation & Colour

In a typical red velvet cake recipe, vinegar is used to oxidise the cacao or cocoa powder in the recipe and turn the cake a lovely natural maroon colour. In this recipe, the extra acid helps neutralise the effect of the oxidisation process on the beetroot powder, ensuring that it keeps its colour throughout the baking process.

Flavour

Classically, red velvet cakes have a slight tang to them to balance out the richness of the fat and sweet frosting. This is usually achieved through the use of buttermilk or sour cream as well as a bit of vinegar.

a red velvet cake decorated with beetroot dyed crumbles on a mini cake stand in front of a vase of white roses.

Tips for making this recipe perfectly

  • Do not substitute ingredients in this recipe. While I’m all for experimentation, I guarantee that this particular red velvet cake recipe will not turn out if you start substituting ingredients.
  • Grease and flour your tin. Since egg whites are the main rising agent in this cake, they require a little bit of help to climb the sides of the cake tin. The flour provides extra surface for the cake to grab on to and prevents it from sticking when you turn it out.
  • Whip your egg whites. It might seem a bit of a faff to whip the egg whites before adding them to the cake batter, but trust me (and test cake number 4) when I say that this step is crucial to achieving a fluffy crumb. The extra air in the whites replaces the baking soda normally used to lift the cake.
This natural red velvet cake recipe pairs pint-sized naturally dyed beetroot powder cake layers with a light and airy whipped cream cheese frosting. It’s the perfect mini cake to share with a loved one! Get the recipe on naturallysweetkitchen.com

Looking for more natural cake recipes?

Black Forest Cake
Coffee Layer Cake
Chocolate Sheet Cake
Mandarin Orange Cake
Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cake
Apricot Upside Down Cake
Carrot Cake
Mini Lemon Lavender Cakes
Apple Chai Cake
White Chocolate Raspberry Ripple Cake

If you make this recipe, let me know by snapping a picture and tagging me on Instagram @naturallysweet_kitchen. I love seeing your creations and sharing them in my Stories. Or let me know you love this Natural Red Velvet Cake recipe by leaving a comment and rating below!

Natural Red Velvet Cake Recipe

This natural red velvet cake recipe pairs mini naturally dyed beetroot powder cake layers with a light and airy whipped cream cheese frosting.

Category Cake, Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword mini red velvet cake, Natural Red Velvet Cake, red velvet cake, red velvet cake with beetroot powder
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves 4 slices
Author Amanda | Naturally Sweet Kitchen

Ingredients

Red Velvet Cake

  • 100 g cake flour
  • 100 g raw cane caster sugar
  • ½ tbsp cacao powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp beetroot powder, divided
  • 1 large egg yolk room temperature
  • 90 ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • 60 ml buttermilk room temperature
  • ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites room temperature

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 150 ml cold double cream
  • 80 ml agave syrup
  • tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 250 g cold cream cheese, cubed

Method

Red Velvet Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and grease, line, and flour a 15 cm (6 inch) round cake tin.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, cane sugar, cacao powder, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the beetroot powder until well combined. Set aside.

  3. To a large bowl add the egg yolk, vanilla, rapeseed oil, vinegar, and buttermilk. Whisk well to combine and set aside.

  4. Pour the egg whites into a very clean bowl and whip them on high speed using a hand mixer until they reach soft peaks. Dust over the remaining teaspoon of beetroot powder and then continue whipping the whites until they reach stiff peaks. Set aside.

  5. Add one half of the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Then add the remaining half of the dry ingredients and whisk until all the flour disappears and you have a smooth, thick batter.

  6. Take a small spoonful of the whipped egg whites (about 2 tablespoons) and add it to the batter. Mix the two together to loosen the batter slightly. You do not need to be super gentle at this point.

  7. Add the remaining egg whites to the batter and very gently fold them into the batter until all the egg whites are incorporated and the batter is smooth, light, and voluminous. This will take some time so be patient and go slowly.

  8. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and jiggle the tin gently to smooth the top. Bake the cake for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.

  9. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 5-7 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Prepare a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Pour the cream, agave, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of the mixer and set it whipping on a medium-high speed. Bring the mixture to medium peaks and then reduce the speed to medium-low.

  2. Start adding the cream cheese, one cube at a time, to the frosting while the mixer is running. After all the cheese has been added, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer up to a high speed and whip the frosting until it’s smooth and fluffy.

  3. Cover and refrigerate the frosting until you’re ready to use it.

Assembly

  1. Once the cake is completely cool, trim off any excess dome from the top and reserve the scraps for decoration.

  2. Slice the cake horizontally into two equal layers. Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with 1/2 cup of frosting and spread evenly. Repeat with the remaining layer and apply a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. Chill for 20 minutes.

  3. Use the remaining frosting to frost the cake and do a rustic swirl on the sides and top with a small offset spatula if desired.

  4. Serve immediately.

Recipe Video

Notes

This cake is best eaten the day it is served. It will keep in the refrigerator, but note that the beetroot may dye the frosting pink if left over 8 hours.

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23 Comments

  1. I tried this cake twice, measured everything correctly, but the color still comes out brown. The cake is light and delicious, just not red.

    1. Hi Alexis! Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you like the flavour and texture of the cake! I’m so sorry the colour didn’t turn out twice for you – I can understand how that would be frustrating! I tested this recipe several times before I settled on the version you see here, which has worked multiple times for me. It’s very important that the method and measures, especially of the acidic ingredients like buttermilk and vinegar, are followed exactly for it to work. If you followed everything to a T, my suggestion would be to try adding 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar when you whisk the dry ingredients – this can help with the oxidisation. Good luck! Let me know if you try again!

    1. Hi AB! The cake tin size is listed in the first step of the recipe method – for this cake, I use one 6-inch (15 cm) cake tin. Hope you love the cake!

    1. Hi Astha! Unfortunately, I don’t think this cake will work without the eggs. They’re an integral part to creating the texture and structure of the cake, so I really can’t imagine any substitutes would work here. You could try searching for “vegan red velvet cake” recipes on Google. I’m sure there are loads of egg-free versions! 🙂

  2. I’m so glad to come across your post!

    My kid with a Halloween birthday wants a blood red velvet cake for her birthday. But my kid with a Christmas birthday can’t eat red food dye. My first RVC experiment with beetroot powder was super tasty — and super brown. Thank you for all of your cake testing; I’m excited to try your recipe!

    What is the reason for the apple cider vinegar? Would regular distilled vinegar be okay?

    Also, I’m not sure I can get rapeseed oil and hope that Canola Oil is an okay substitute.

    For whatever it’s worth, I used the NY Times recipe. I put 4 tsp of beetroot powder in it, still brown. If you have ideas on why that happened please let me know. (I made 2/3 of this recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016333-beet-red-velvet-cake, with a beetroot powder substitution). It seems like 4 tsp should have been PLENTY to make the cake red, so I’m thinking that the acid was off in some way? I noticed your comment to adding cream of tartar to the dry ingredients. I have some that I can add to my next RVC experiment. Of course I’ll try your recipe “as is” before tinkering with it — I just want to have ideas on hand because her birthday is just around the corner. 🙂

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Nicole! Thanks for your comment. The apple cider vinegar is there to keep the beetroot powder from oxidising (that’s why it can turn brown when baked). I like the mild taste of apple cider vinegar and I haven’t tried it with regular vinegar, but it should work fine. Canola oil will also work as a sub for the rapeseed. And yes! Some people have had more success using cream of tartar in the dry ingredients, so it can’t hurt! 🙂 Do let me know how it goes for you and happy birthday to your little one! x

    1. Hi Justy! Any neutral tasting oil will work here. So vegetable will be fine! I wouldn’t use olive as it has a very strong flavour. Hope you enjoy the cake!

    1. Hi Sem! So I haven’t tried making this recipe oil-free, and to be honest, I’m not sure how good it would taste without the oil. The fat is there to keep the cake moist, tender, and fluffy. Without it, you’ll get a completely different texture (possibly quite gummy). I really wouldn’t recommend it. 🙂

  3. Your RVC looks absolutely delicious. I’m going to make it but I’m unsure as to what “cake flour” is. Can I use all-purpose flour? Thanks a lot.

    1. Hi Fatima! Cake flour is flour that’s been more finely milled than all-purpose flour. It’s softer, lighter, has a lower protein count, and produces a fluffier crumb than regular AP flour. You can get it in any regular grocery store. I recommend using cake flour for this recipe because I found that AP flour made the cake a bit denser. If you can’t find cake flour, you can make your own using this tutorial here. Hope that helps and I hope you love the cake!

  4. I’ve been hunting for a recipe like this, where the red velvet cake actually stays red without dye! My only issue is I need to make…well, a lot more cake at once. I need to make enough batter to fill two 9 inch round pans. I can find the math to convert a recipe from a 6 inch to a 9 inch pan easily enough, and then I suppose I would simply double that amount to make it fit into two, right…? But I’m not a very experienced baker and I worry about the effects of multiplying all of the ingredients by so much! Is there anything I should be watching out for? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Melete! I’m so happy you’re going to try this red velvet cake. I haven’t tried converting this recipe to suit larger baking tins, unfortunately, so I can’t be 100% sure it will work. However, if you were going to attempt, I would 4x the recipe to fit two 9-inch pans. I don’t think you’d need to change anything about the methodology. Just keep an eye on them when they’re baking as they might need a little longer in the oven. And I would recommend using cake strips if you have them! Hope that helps. Let me know how you get on! 🙂

      1. Thank you for your response! I went ahead and made it with the increased ingredients, and unfortunately the cake turned out more of an orangey-brown color with a pinkish tint to it than red. Darn! Well, it was worth a shot. At least the cake still tasted great. Might try it again in the future but without changing the size of the recipe, just to see if I have better luck.

        1. Ah no! I’m sorry the colour didn’t turn out as expected. Some folks have had luck adding a bit of cream of tartar in with the dry ingredients. Perhaps that might be something to try next time! I’m glad you loved the flavour!

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