Making a Chocolate Beet Cake

frosted chocolate cake with a slice being served

Yesterday, I made a cake. This was quite a big deal, as I don’t normally bake cakes.

This is actually the second cake I can remember making within maybe 5, maybe even 10 years.

I’m calling it an Authentic Red Velvet Cake.

Which could be completely inaccurate. Because red velvet cakes are slightly confusing.

looking down onto a chocolate cake with a slice cut out

The deal with Red Velvet Cakes

Red velvet cake is a chocolate cake that usually has a red tint to it. If you’ve ever watched a baking show, seen any social media, or ever visited a trendy cupcake shop, I’m sure you’ve seen this cake- usually white frosting with a deep and vibrant red cake.

According to Wikipedia, it’s thought that red velvet cakes originated during the Victorian era, and was enjoyed as a fancy dessert. The term velvet indicated it was a “soft and velvety crumb cake”. Devil’s Food cakes are similar, but made with chocolate, while the red velvet cakes were made with cocoa.

I can only assume that proper Victorian woman, who enjoyed a good cake, couldn’t support eating something with connotations to the dark side, so they embraced the red velvet cake name.

woman mixing a red cake batter in a yellow bowl

But were the red velvet cakes actually red in Victorian times?

Red velvet cakes became popular in America during the Great Depression when an extract company introduced the concept of red extract with promotional recipe cards. Cocoa powder already lent to a slightly red tint of the batter and added color made them more vibrant. During the food rations of the World Wars, bakers increased the color of their cakes with boiled beet juice.

Today, however, all modern red velvet cakes contain food coloring.

Never a fan of Red Food Dye 40, I’ve always avoided red velvet cakes. I’ve also avoided baking with beets, despite seeing many recipes that use them. I have nothing against a nice beet and goat cheese salad, but overall, beets aren’t my favorite. They always have a slight, well, dirt flavor.

Not something I ever thought would be great in a cake.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

This holiday doesn’t mean much in my house. Despite being in a loving relationship, I honestly hate the holiday. I don’t like out-of-season roses, I don’t like cheap chocolate, I don’t like Hallmark greeting cards. I don’t do romance and I don’t do mushy. I don’t like overly priced “special menus” or the forced feeling of today-you-should-feel-happy-and-in-love! The only Valentine’s Day Card I’ve ever really enjoyed getting was a few years ago from my friend: “If there were a zombie apocalypse, I’d eat you last.”

Am I a Valentine’s Grinch? 100%.

It’s usually always best if we just ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.

But, my dear online friend Heidi, of the vegan food blog, The Simple Green, posted a Double Chocolate Beetroot Cake for Valentine’s Day.

I was intrigued.

baked cake in springform pan

Me, being me, had done no romantic gestures for my husband or made special dinner plans. I planned on having frozen tortellini. Special, I know. And, despite my feelings towards the holiday, I don’t honestly know much about how he feels about it. It’s possible he loves it, or, he might not even remember (obviously, a conversation we should have had one of these past 1o years). So I thought, I could do a cake, just in case he cared.

While Heidi didn’t mention her cake recipe as a red velvet cake- it has cocoa and beets, so it sounds like my vision of a totally authentic Victorian style. And I love all things Victorian.

So what could be more Valentine-y?

Plus, it has beets in it, so even if it turned out that my husband also hated the holiday, I could pretent it’s healthy and I could get my veggie serving of dinner out of the way. You know, multitasking.

closeup of arm stirring red cake batter in a yellow bowl

Notes about this Chocolate Beet/ Authentic Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Heidi’s recipe is vegan, and called for almond milk, but not being vegan, I used normal milk. I did, however, use the flax seeds in place of the egg that she uses, and I used coconut milk for the frosting.

I also steamed the beets, as suggested, but next time I’d roast them. I think a lot of the juice and the sugars were lost in the steaming process (as the water in the pan turned a brilliant shade of scarlet and had a syrup like consistency). Roasting would keep all that goodness in the beets. I used local whole wheat flour that I had left from my Local Thirty experiment.

I didn’t have a cake pan- despite my husband once being a professional baker, we have surprisingly little baking equipment. I did find a slightly rusty springform pan at the back of the cabinet, so cobbled together a parchment liner of both the sides and bottom.

frosted chocolate cake with a slice being served

The frosting is brilliant and so easy. You heat coconut milk, melt in chocolate. Delicious. I must find more ways to use this. But, it does take a long time to firm up to a spreadable consistency. I was impatient, wanting to get a picture before it got too late in the day and dark in my house. So I tried to spoon it on while it was still warm. It just slipped off, creating a beautiful mirror glaze that is so sought after on the British Baking Show, but not the thick, fudging frosting I was hoping for.

So I took my photos, then tried to re-frost once it cooled. Visually, that turned into a disaster and would recommend following Heidi’s advice of being patient.

And my husband said he agrees on the dislike commercialization of the holiday. But he did like the cake.

You can find the recipe here.



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  • Reply
    Heidi | The Simple Green
    February 15, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    I tend to get nervous when people make my recipes; I’m afraid they wont like them. But this made my day, really. Thanks for sharing this…and for all that deliciously geeky information about Victorian red velvet cakes. Also…I wholly agree with you…beets taste like dirt (lol).

    • Reply
      Melissa Keyser
      February 18, 2019 at 11:56 am

      Thank you for pushing me out of my baking comfort zone! We thoroughly enjoyed it.:)

  • Reply
    February 16, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Your photos are so good, you could be a professional photographer.

    • Reply
      Melissa Keyser
      February 18, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Thank you so much!

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