Red Velvet Cupcakes – with beets!

A couple weeks ago I took a day trip to Port Townsend with family. We had a great time enjoying the perfect weather, shopping, and wandering the neighborhoods filled with old houses and hotels. On our way through the town we stopped by the local farmer’s market. Naturally, we headed directly to the bakery stand, and I picked up this beautiful Red Velvet Cupcake.

This cupcake was exceptionally moist and delicious. We also noticed some mysterious little flecks inside and couldn’t figure out what they were, so I went up and asked. The woman working the bakery stand looked a little suspicious at my question but ultimately admitted that the secret ingredient was – beets!

I was determined to try this out. Personally, I think beets taste a little like dirt. But within a cupcake, they can contribute moisture as well as color.

I combined a Paula Deen recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with some elements from another recipe that included beets.

My sister stopped by while I was mid-experimentation and snapped this shot!

One advantage of the beets is that you can cut down on the copious amounts of red food dye usually included in Red Velvet Cupcakes. I reduced the dye by half – it’s possible they would still be red without including it at all.

This was one of my first times messing around with a recipe and changing the elements, and I was actually having heart palpitations during the baking process.

Thankfully, the cupcakes turned out moist and tasty. They were a little less sweet/chocolaty than a typical Red Velvet Cupcake, but Paula’s cream cheese frosting is super decadent and the two elements balance each other really well. I couldn’t taste the beets at all. Here’s to taking risks!!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen and Ladles and JellySpoons

Makes 24 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 large or 3 small beets, enough to make 1/3 cup once boiled, peeled and pureed (Trader Joe’s pre-steamed and peeled beets work well)
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

If you use fresh beets remove the beetroot tops and boil for 15 minutes. Take out of the water and cool. Use a potato peeler to remove the skins. If you have access to a Trader Joe’s you can pick up a package of pre-steamed and peeled beets instead.

Place beets in the blender and purée. Set aside 1/3 cup and let it cool if needed.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, beets and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. In a separate mixing bowl mix together the sour cream and buttermilk. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream/buttermilk to the batter until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.


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