Recipe for Red Velvet Cake with Beets


There are different theories about where the American Red Velvet Cake is originally from, ranging from the South (perhaps the time of the Civil War?) to a creation of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. No one seems to really know for sure! 

What’s certain is that this cake feels special, and in fact, it’s served for a variety of important occasions in the US… Christmas, weddings, Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July.

I recently heard that this cake was traditionally made with beets in the South instead of food coloring.  This idea appealed to me since I try not to feed my family man-made food dye.  Red Velvet Cake made with beets is all natural. 

What gives this cake its red coloring is the beets, the chocolate, an acidic ingredient like lemon juice, and baking powder (not baking soda).  This cake is like a science experiment where you need to use just the right combination of ingredients to naturally create its vivid red color.

My recipe here will produce a cake that’s very moist and rich in flavor… you’ll want to serve thinner slices than normal because it’s very filling – like a carrot cake.

Just look at that color… created naturally I’m proud to say!



2 cups cooked Pureed Beets (about 4 beets)
1/4 cup + 2 T. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice 
1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
2 sticks Butter (softened)
1 eight ounce block of Cream Cheese
3 Eggs
2 cups Flour
2 1/2 cups of Sugar
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 t. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Salt

Icing Ingredients

2 eight ounce blocks of Cream Cheese
8 oz. Mascarpone
2 sticks Butter (softened)
2 t. Vanilla Extract
4 1/2 cups Confectioners Sugar (sifted)
Dash or two of Salt
2 t. Milk
1 3/4 cups chopped Walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

1. Butter and then flour two round 8 inch cake pans.

2. Mixed the cooked pureed beets with the lemon juice and vanilla.

3. Add in the butter and cream cheese.  Blend well.


4.  Blend in the eggs and 1/2 cup of the sugar.

5.  Put aside 1 cup of the beet mixture.

6.  In a separate bowl mix flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

7.  Mix in the main portion of the beet mixture with the flour.


8.  Fold the last cup of beet mixture into the batter.


9.  Pour batter evenly into the 2 cake pans.

10.  Cook for about 35 minutes.  Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.


11.  Remove cake from oven. Take out of pans when warm and place on separate plates.  Let cool.


1.  Blend together all ingredients (except for the walnuts) until smooth.


2. Put icing on 1 layer of cake.Then put the 2nd layer of cake on top of the 1st layer.


3.  Ice the whole cake. 


4. Then sprinkle the walnuts all over the cake if desired.


Even my 10 year old daughter liked this cake, and she doesn’t like beets! 


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 at 1:20 pm and is filed under Christmas, Desserts, Food & Nutrition, Food Coloring, Fourth of July, Holiday Recipes, Holidays Around the World, Making Natural Food Coloring, Recipes of the World, Red Velvet Cake, Valentine's Day, Weddings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Responses to “Recipe for Red Velvet Cake with Beets”

  1. Ani Bravo Says:

    I can’t understand… you are so careful about preparing healthy food for your familly ” I try not to feed my family man-made food dye.” But you use in your recipe a lot of fatness wich is dangerous to your family health. Instead use some kind of corn oil. It is much better.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for writing! Yes… cake is fattening… only to be eaten occasionally and preferably with large groups so you can serve small slices and not have a lot of left-overs!

    (I don’t think corn oil is particularly good for you.)

    Cake is definitely a special occasion food!

  3. Fili Says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I have tried a couple red velvet recipe with beets, but still have not yet found the perfect one. There are some recipe that came out with a red colour cake, but the taste is a bit tangy due to the lemon juice called in the recipe.
    In your recipe you use 1/4 cup + 2 TBSP lemon juice, can you taste the lemon in the cake? Also what cocoa powder that you use (dutch processed or natural)? I am quite surprise that your cake is still red with 1/4 cup of cocoa.

  4. Lisa Says:

    Hi Fili,

    I used freshly squeezed lemon juice. The cake had a slight tang… but was very flavorful. My 10 year old daughter and her friends (8 to 11 years old) all loved it… which says to me it wasn’t too tangy.

    I used Ghirardelli’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa. I believe that natural cocoa enhances the red color when combined with an acidic ingredient like lemon juice. According to Wikipedia, “The reddish-brown color of the cake was originally from a reaction of the cocoa powder with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk…”

    This cake I made was very flavorful as opposed to a red velvet cupcake someone recently bought me from a bakery. That one was more like a sweet, light layer-cake flavor (still good but totally different)… not really tasting like beets or chocolate or having any specific flavor aside from a sweet layer cake. So I guess there are two breeds of Red Velvet Cake.

    Feel free to share your experiences and/or recipes with us if you’d like in the future.

    Happy Baking!

    Mama Lisa

  5. Chocolate Cake Blog Says:

    Lisa, this cake looks amazing – I love the color from the beets. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lisa Says:


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