Why is red velvet a food trend right now? Please tell me who to blame.
Recently I was asked to do a gluten-free cooking demo for the local chapter of the Celiac Association. There was a special request to make red velvet cupcakes. Not one to turn down a challenge or a request I said sure.
For the last three months I have been complaining about red velvet and I’ll do so one final time while I post this recipe and then you’ll never hear a peep from me about the subject ever again. I promise.
Like any new recipe that I attempt to make gluten-free and vegan I start with a ton of research online. I wanted to confirm what I had thought the story behind red velvet was and how red velvet cake gets red, etc. It was interesting. According to Wikipedia traditional red velvet cake is a light chocolate cake that turned a reddish-brown color due to the reaction between vinegar and buttermilk with the unprocessed cocoa that was used back in the day. Now with our modern day more alkaline “Dutch Processed” cocoa the chemical reaction that causes the cake to turn reddish-brown isn’t as common.
So what about those bright red cakes and cupcakes I see everywhere? Oh those. Yeah, those are red because of copious amounts of red dye #3 (I think that’s the right red).
I’m going to just come out and say it here since I’ve been saying it to everyone else lately. I hate fake food coloring. I think they’re junk, and weird, and probably not healthy. (I have no time to research whether this claim is true or false so that’s why I said “probably”.)
I feel like the commercial baking industry has taken a reddish-brown cupcake and made it so fake red that when you tell people it’s “Red Velvet” and it’s not bright cherry-red they think you’re color blind.
But, I did promise to make them and so I tried my best to use as little food color as possible. I made 5 batches of these over the last few months and I can honestly say that I probably won’t bake red velvet anything for a very, very, very long time. And when I do I’ll try using beets to give a bit more redness to the batter – naturally.
The first three attempts at these cupcakes was with liquid food coloring. What a waste. The color just doesn’t carry through at all. The final attempt I had I ended up using nearly 3 tablespoons of liquid red food color and it just grossed me out – and still didn’t make a vibrant red cupcake like everyone was expecting.
The last two tries a friend convinced me to use the gel food coloring that cake decorators and bakers use. I didn’t quite know how much to use so I started out with her recommendation of just a bit scooped up with a toothpick as it is very potent stuff. In the end I looked up on Martha Stewart’s site (yes, Martha you came to my rescue) and her recipe for red velvet uses 1/2 teaspoon of the gel food coloring. I had already done the toothpick thing a couple times plus 1/2 teaspoon after reading what Martha said to do.
Guess what? The batter did look different. A much deeper red and not so pinky-red. I thought for sure these little cupcakes are going to turn out completely fake-red and satisfy everyone who is expecting that. So naturally when they baked up and looked no more red than a reddish-brown I was pretty frustrated.
At this point I was beyond caring. I had battled red velvet long enough and 5 batches of cupcakes later I said forget it and served them reddish-brown red velvet and hoped nobody would ask why they weren’t bright red. Someone must have mentioned the redness because I do remember having to choke back a rant about red food coloring and the battle I had with it. And so here I am venting about it, getting it out of my system, so that I can move past this hiccup and stop being weird and annoying about it.
Thanks for listening, or at the very least, scrolling down past this rant to read the actual recipe. Not that my rant would even make you want to make these right? I am such a lousy food blogger.
- 1½ cups white sugar
- ½ cup vegan margarine
- ¼ cup applesauce + ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Powdered egg replacer (Ener-G), to make 1 egg
- ½ cup non-dairy milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ cup brown rice flour
- ½ cup tapioca starch
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon red food gel
- 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cream sugar and margarine.
- Mix applesauce with first amount of baking soda. Add to sugar mixture with the prepared egg replacer. Beat until combined.
- Sift brown rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and baking powder together.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup combine milk with lemon juice. Add second amount of baking soda and let sit.
- Alternate adding wet and dry ingredients to the applesauce-sugar mixture. Make sure each addition is completely mixed before adding the next.
- Add vanilla, salt, cocoa powder and food coloring. Mix well.
- Add boiling water and fold in until the batter is nice and smooth.
- For mini-cupcakes: Makes 48 mini-cupcakes. Scoop batter into mini-cupcake pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until tested done.
- For regular cupcakes: Makes 24 regular cupcakes. Scoop batter into cupcake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until tested done.
- For jumbo cupcakes: Makes 12 jumbo cupcakes. Scoop batter into cupcake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until tested done.
- For all sizes, let cool at least 5 minutes in the cupcake pans before removing to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
- Once cooled, frost with vegan buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting.
Use this great recipe for Vegan Buttercream Frosting.