How can I make red velvet cake without artificial dye?

I like red velvet cake but I don’t like the artificial dye that goes into it. Any ideas let me know.

NOTE: There’s a misspelling on the thread title. I meant to type “cake” not “casket”.

OK, that’s what I hoped you were talking about. Fixed.

And, beets. Or, of course, you could just make white velvet cake-- It’s not like you’re tasting the dye.

Moved to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

As said above, beets or just buy natural food coloring.

Red velvet cake is basically devil’s food cake, so it will be brown, not white.

The red used to come from a chemical reaction between the cocoa and another ingredient (baking soda, I think, but I’m too lazy to Google). Then the method for processing cocoa changed and the reaction no longer occurred, so people started using coloring to get the same effect.

Offhand I don’t know if it is possible to get cocoa processed the old-fashioned way, but if it is, just use an old recipe and the right kind of cocoa and you’ll be all set.

Yeah, looking it up, it appears to be non-Dutch process cocoa that you need. More info here with someone making it, as well. The writer shows images of a regular chocolate cake vs a red velvet cake made with natural cocoa powder, and it certainly looks red in comparison, but the author also states that it may not be noticeable without that frame of reference.

I don’t really understand the question. Red velvet cake just tastes like red dye. If you leave the dye out, it won’t be red velvet cake, it’ll be some kind of weak chocolate flavour.

Not true, but that’s ok.

Totally true. It tastes like Red 40, if you use Red 40.

Never use Red 40. For the best Red Velvet Cake use Allura Red AC. That or E129.

Hey! Maybe I won’t be allergic to those two. :rolleyes:

I used to think cherry Lifesavers and cough drops tasted salty. No, that was just the snot.

Red velvet cake is nothing without the cream cheese icing. You could put that stuff on a cardboard hat box and I would be happy:).

Oh, if it’s allergies that are behind your question, you can always use Cochineal red coloring. (Here’s a link). It’s made with insect juice, which is gross if you think about it, but I’ve used it a lot, and just not thought about it. I never found that it imparted any taste to anything, and if memory serves I did make red velvet cake with it once. But it was years ago so I may not recall correctly.


The obvious and dumb but truthful answer is “Use natural coloring”; You don’t have to mess around with beets, you can just buy the stuff or you can make your own, Google has you covered in both instances.

The opinionated and slightly jerky answer is “Who cares, why not make an actual chocolate cake instead? You can even put cream cheese frosting on it if you want.”

The blurb about natural cocoa vs dutch process was interesting, though I’m not sure it makes modern red velvet cake any less freaky to me.

I came in to talk about beets (you can get a nice range of color, and it doesn’t make the food taste weird!), and ended up learning about why red velvet cake is red. That’s why I like this board. :slight_smile:

My Grandmother would have said that the answer was simply “use beet sugar instead of cane sugar.” She used to buy beet sugar that was deeply red and used it for various special Christmas concoctions.

I always assumed that this was the sugar used for red velvet cake, and that’s what colored it. But googling now, I find that beet sugar is usually just an off-white or amber color. I don’t see any red beet sugar at all.

So either what she bought was less refined, or it had red coloring added to it. Given that this was the '70s, I’m betting on the latter.

I think most sucrose in the US is beet sugar. But it’s produced from a variety of beet that’s been bred not to have the red color. Red beets are still plenty sweet, though, and you could probably use the same process to produce sugar from them, which would probably give you red sugar unless you did something extra to remove the color.

These are sugar beets. They don’t look like the beets you’re used to.

I didn’t get to see the original post before the typo was corrected, but now I think I’d like to be buried in a red velvet casket. Mmmm!

Just put some crushed up beetles in it or whatever it is the big food corps use for natural red dye (or die, if you really meant casket afterall;))