This post featuring gluten-free red velvet cupcakes is sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill and contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see my disclosures.
Today is my birthday. Yep. It’s today and it has been a very special day for me so I decided to reflect on the day and share a special recipe with you, too!
This beautiful Sunday started with a long walk with my husband and dog. Then I baked some gluten-free red velvet cupcakes, chatted with friends, opened presents and enjoyed a yummy dinner at my parent’s house. All in all, a GREAT day!
I decided to make gluten-free red velvet cupcakes today (of all days) for several reasons. For starters, Passover is finally over (it ended last night), so this was my first chance in the kitchen to bake up something good for my birthday. Second, I have never posted anything red velvet anything before – so I was ready for the challenge of coming up with a winning recipe to share. And finally, I love the color red. It’s my favorite color (and some would say the color red suits my fiery, trail”blazing” personality!).
I did a little bit of research on the history of red velvet cake and learned that the cake got its red hue from non-Dutched, anthocyanin-rich cocoa. Today, most store-bought cocoa is Dutch processed, which means the chocolate is treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color that not only gives the cocoa a milder taste, but also it changes the color from a reddish hue to more brown, the color we are used to seeing in cocoa.
Because most cocoa is Dutch processed, today’s modern red velvet cakes get their color from food dye. I personally couldn’t fathom eating a mouthful of food dye, so I decided to make my red velvet red naturally using beets. I actually, at first, tried using natural food dye to get the red color, but it didn’t work no matter how much I used. But with beets, the red hue shined through (although it’s probably not as red as it would be if I used synthetic dyes, which I won’t touch!).
So this morning, you could find me peeling, chopping, boiling and pulverizing beets. But such effort was more than worth it. By 8:00 am, my gluten-free red velvet cupcakes were well on their way to taking shape. Just check out this gorgeous batter!
I put the batter into 18 cupcake liners and baked them up for about 20 minutes. Once they cooled, I frosted them, and by 9:30 am, my cupcakes were ready for the fun day ahead! (It also helped that my husband cleaned up my huge mess – I seriously have the best husband!).
Voila – just take a moment to look at these gorgeous gluten-free red velvet cupcakes!! I cannot wait to eat these for dessert tonight – lucky me!
The Gluten-Free Flour Test
I need to back up a bit. I skipped an ESSENTIAL part of the red velvet cupcake-making process! I missed telling you about the AMAZING miracle gluten-free flour by Bob’s Red Mill (Bob’s Red Mill sponsored my special birthday recipe post – thank you Bob’s Red Mill!).
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour Blend is my go-to gluten-free flour blend. I probably have a tiny obsession with the flour as I use it in EVERYTHING!
Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour Blend is actually perfect for red velvet cake too because red velvet cake cooks up nicely when you use cake flour instead of wheat flour. Cake flour is known as a lower protein flour (so it’s basically a low-gluten flour). Wheat flour can be made into cake flour by adding some starch (like corn or tapioca starch) in order to reduce the protein level. (Cake flour is NOT gluten-free!!) Because gluten-free flours are typically a blend of gluten-free flours and starches, they work like a charm in recipes that specifically call for cake flour.
On top of it all, Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour Blend just works for me. It’s easy to find at the grocery store, it’s reasonably priced, and it’s from a company I know and trust to do gluten-free right. So it was NO SURPRISE to me that this gluten-free flour blend worked remarkably well in my recipe for gluten-free red velvet cupcakes!
The Taste Test
…. and now for the best part of this post – the taste test! (Well, the best part for me, you only get to look.)
These gluten-free red velvet cupcakes are as delicious as they are gorgeous. By adding beet to the batter, these cupcakes came out moist, fluffy, light and tasty. I’ve heard some people say beets add an earthy flavor to the finished product, but in all honestly, I think they added just a bit of sweetness (beets are a sweet vegetable, after all), a beautiful, natural reddish hue, and moisture (like when you add pumpkin or applesauce to a recipe – it makes the cake a bit more moist).
Beets also add a punch of nutrition. You get extra fiber, Vitamin C, tons of antioxidants to gobble up those free radicals, and beets do wonders for detoxifying your body by purifying your blood and liver. The health benefits are endless!
But more importantly, I love using beets to naturally color my gluten-free red velvet cupcakes as the alternative (synthetic food dye) isn’t an option for me – no way, no how!
I brought the cupcakes to my parents house tonight for dessert. My dad is finicky when it comes to my gluten-free desserts but he agreed to try them. So did my mom (she doesn’t usually eat desserts but because it had beets, she was excited to try it). My dad raved about these cupcakes. He loved them and even asked if he could keep the extra one to eat tomorrow for dessert. Wow, what a compliment!
How to Make Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cupcakes
It’s actually quite simple to make the cupcakes and I spell out all the steps below. There is a bit of effort involved in making them, so read all the directions ahead of time, have all your ingredients ready to go, and then go forth with confidence.
While I used fresh beets, you can skip this step by using canned beets. I haven’t tried it, but I suspect the result is just as good.
Also, you can use the traditional cream cheese frosting topping, which I have used in the past and include the recipe below… but for my birthday batch, I used plain buttercream frosting (my preference as I don’t like the tang taste that cream cheese offers). It’s my birthday, I can do what I want to do, right?
If you do choose to use food dye (and remember, the natural food dyes don’t work so well), the cupcakes won’t be as moist or fluffy, but they will still be rather delicious. I’ve made this recipe before with no dye and no beets and it’s still yummy (only it’s brown velvet cupcakes, not red)!
Good luck, and don’t forget to use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour Blend – it really works and makes this recipe sparkle red, which made my trip around the sun a little brighter this year. Cheers to another great year ahead!
Get the Recipe
- 2-3 large beets (1+ cup until desired color is reached)
- 2 large eggs, separated (room temperature)
- 1 2/3 cups Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Flour Blend (250 grams)
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (5 grams)
- 1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (60 grams)
- 1 cup sugar (200 grams)
- 1/2 cup oil (I used avocado oil)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
- 8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 3 cups powdered or confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Pinch Kosher salt (omit if using salted butter)
Wash, peel and cut beets into about 6-8 wedges each. Add beets to medium pot and cover with water.
Bring water to boil, then simmer beets for about 15-30 minutes until soft (use a fork to piece beet for doneness).
Drain and allow beets to cool for 10 minutes, then use your food processor to process the beets into a smooth mixture. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin pan with 18 cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, add flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
Using your standing mixer and the whisk attachment, add egg whites and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until stiff white peaks form. Add egg whites to a small bowl and set aside.
Return the standing mixer bowl to the mixer, and change to the paddle attachment. Add butter and sugar and beat on high speed for about 2 minutes, then add oil, egg yolks and vanilla and continue to mix until well combined, then add vinegar and 1 cup of beet mixture (more until desired color is reached) and continue to mix for another minute. (The beets will add moisture and sweetness and are relatively tasteless in the finished product).
Next, add half of the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix on medium speed, then add buttermilk and continue to mix. Add the remaining dry mixture and mix until well combined.
Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in egg whites using a rubber spatula until well combined.
Pour batter into cupcake liners, filling about 3/4 of the way full.
Bake for 19-21 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Beat cream cheese and butter together in your mixer. Add vanilla and salt and then slowly add powdered sugar until mixture is well combined.
Frost cupcakes as desired.