Red Velvet Cupcakes with NO Red Food Colouring

deorated red velvet cupcakes


Red Velvet Cupcakes with NO Red Food Colouring

Do you remember when red food colouring was considered spawn of the devil? And then then next thing we knew it, Red Velvet Cake became the hottest coffee shop item! Now we’re all into healthy foods and wanting to eat what we like but with better ingredients.

When I first saw red velvet cake I was a bit put off by the intense colour to be honest, and also didn’t get why a cake that was coloured red with a chocolate flavour was any more special than a regular chocolate cake. It’s hard to beat chocolate cake anyway isn’t it?

Then one day I actually tried it, I mean up until that point I had formed my judgement on looks alone – that’s not the most recommended way to base your opinions on food – and I loved it.

deorated red velvet cupcakes

The texture of the cake is different to normal sponge, it’s a bit denser and richer as it contains buttermilk and vinegar and the obligatory cream cheese frosting that goes on top is simply scrummy.

I’m just not mad about the food colouring aspect so when I was sent some products from Buy Whole Foods Online to try out I came up with the idea to use their beetroot powder as a sustitute and I’m happy to say the result was brilliant (-ly red!).

I also substituted some of the cocoa powder with carob powder. Carob is used as a healthy chocolate substitute as it contains calcium and no caffeine. As it’s sweet you can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe too.

carob powder and beetroot powder

Although I came up with the recipe idea, I can’t take any credit though for actually making and decorating these cupcakes as my 12 year old, who loves to bake, was delighted to grab the opportunity. All the credit for these gorgeous beauties goes to her.

The flavour is very slightly earthy but of the 12 people who ate the results, (8 of whom were children) all of them thought they were delicious and from now on I’ll be using beetroot powder to colour things red.

red beetroot powder
How red is this red??

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes (or one large round cake)


For the cup cakes:

  • 250 grams plain flour minus four table spoons
  • 1 tablespoons cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 2 tablespoons carob powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 100 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 180 grams caster sugar
  • 4 tablespoons beetroot powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 175 millilitres buttermilk or milk soured with a teaspoon of vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

For the buttercream icing (double quantities for the cake)

  • 250 grams icing sugar
  • 75 grams cream cheese
  • 75 grams soft unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • sifted cocoa for decoration
multicoloured dry ingredients in a bowl
I love the array of colours in the bowl


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan/gas mark 3/325°F, and line 2 muffin tins with paper cases.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, carob, beetroot powder baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar, beating well, and when you have a soft, pale mixture beat in the vanilla.
  4. Still beating, add 1 spoonful of the dried ingredients, then 1 egg, followed by some more dried ingredients, then the other egg, followed by the rest of the dried ingredients.
  5. Finally beat in the buttermilk and the vinegar or milk/vinegar ix and divide between the 24 cases. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
  6. Leave them to cool on a wire rack and do not ice with the frosting till absolutely cold.

To ice

  1. Put the icing sugar into a processor and blitz to remove lumps.
  2. Add the cream cheese and butter and process to mix. Pour in the cider vinegar (or lemon juice) and process again to make a smooth icing.
  3. Ice each cupcake, using an icing bag.
  4. Decorate with a dusting of cocoa or as desired.
half a cup cake
And then EAT!

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