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!
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.
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.
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
Two important things to note about using beetroot powder in this natural red velvet cake:
- The beetroot powder will
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 oxidise . Becausewe 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
- ⅛ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 250 g cold cream cheese, cubed
Red Velvet Cake
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and grease, line, and flour a 15 cm (6 inch) round cake tin.
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.
To a large bowl add the egg yolk, vanilla, rapeseed oil, vinegar, and buttermilk. Whisk well to combine and set aside.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Cover and refrigerate the frosting until you’re ready to use it.
Once the cake is completely cool, trim off any excess dome from the top and reserve the scraps for decoration.
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.
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.
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.