The Allure of Red Velvet Cup Cakes

I sent my close friends in Berkeley, California,  a mixed dozen of cupcakes, and included was a variety called ‘Red Velvet’, and since then I have been dying to try them and find out if they are delicious as they sound!

I have read quite a few recipes for these heavenly, sweet and vibrant cakes, I have noticed that some used red food colouring, chocolate and to finish, a dollop of cream cheese frosting.  Of course I will be making the allergy free version; one day we will have the full on version, but for now, here is a wonderful allergy free recipe from Janelle Holden (of Gluten-Free Life Coach), who has been kind enough to allow me to re-blog her post, complete with her mouth-watering image!  Janelle is based in Montana U.S.A.

By Janelle Holden, The Gluten-Free Life Coach

A week ago I was stumped. Traditionally, the color in red velvet cakes comes from the chemical reaction of two ingredients: buttermilk and cocoa. Since buttermilk is a food sensitivity for me, I substituted vinegar, but my cake ended up looking and tasting more like chocolate cake than red velvet cake.

And then, I thought of beets. I remembered the first time I noticed the red richness of beets. I had whipped up a savory borscht stew, and as I was pouring the soup into my cup, liquid splattered onto my white shirt.

I never was able to fully remove the stain, which is why I thought that beets (note: beetroot in Australia) might create a rich dye of their own to replace the half a bottle of Red Dye #40 that nearly every recipe for red velvet cake includes.

I must admit, the result was more pink than red, but it makes a unique, organic sweet hue. If you want to increase the redness of your cake without chemicals, I found an organic, natural source of red color to add to the cake batter. But, I promise, no matter what depth of red you choose, this cake will taste great. Especially in miniature, which is the beauty of a cupcake.

Makes 33 cupcakes

Velvet Cupcake Recipe


  • 3 small to medium size beets, with tops removed
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  •  4 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups garbanzo bean flour (note: chickpea flour in Australia)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups maple syrup


Special Note: If you wish to use red food coloring, you can skip steps 1-3 and add 2 oz of food coloring to the batter. You can also add the coloring in addition to the beets. I recommend Natural Red Food Coloring or ordering the gluten-free version from Seelect Tea.

  • Wash, scrub, and peel the beets. Fill a medium-size pot with the water, and add the beets. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • While the beets are cooking, combine the brown rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, combine the canola oil, vanilla, and maple syrup.
  • When the beets are tender, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon, and add the reserved water to the liquid mixture (this should give the batter a nice pink hue). Cool the beets with cold water and grate them into a separate bowl.
  • Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the liquid mixture until thoroughly combined. Add optional food coloring if so desired. Divide the batter evenly among 33 lined cupcake tin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Vegan Velvet Frosting Recipe


  • 3 cups palm oil or coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups agave syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  • In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine all the ingredients. Mix on low-speed, gradually increasing the speed to high as the ingredients become incorporated. Beat until the frosting is fluffy.
  • Frost cupcakes as soon as they are cooled, and reserve extra frosting in the refrigerator for up to one week. When you are ready to use it again, let it soften at room temperature for several hours, and re-whip to make it fluffy again.

Janelle Holden is president and founder of the Gluten Free Life Coach, a company dedicated to helping people with food sensitivities love life and discover their new favorite foods. To get your questions answered, schedule a Get Acquainted Call with Janelle today.

2 comments on “The Allure of Red Velvet Cup Cakes

    March 2, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Thanks Charmaine! Yes, traditional red velvet uses chocolate and cream cheese. Someday I’ll truly replicate it. 🙂 Appreciate you sharing the recipe.

    • intrepidallergymum
      March 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

      Thank you Janelle! Really appreciated the recipe and I am going to try it on the weekend! By the way it was my first reblog so thank you!!

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