Red Velvet Cupcakes Going WWII Retro

red velvet cupcakes with an orange cream cheese icing

The history of Red Velvet Cake is a highly debated one which is brilliantly explained by Kim Seversen in the  food section of The New York Times. I have never been a great fan of this red cake though I would never say no to a slice topped with a brilliant white, fluffy cream cheese frosting.

The debate is one that involves not only its origins but also its ingredients. After reading Kim Severson’s article, I decided to stick to my own preferences and create a red velvet cupcake using beets rather than red food dye, as the main colourant. The reactions have been mixed. Most could not distinguish the earthiness of the beets and I feel better using at least one less artificial ingredient in my recipes.

Beetroot from the garden

The red beet is believed to have been introduced during WWII when there were food restrictions and beets were the colourant of choice. I feel as if we are trying to go back to that era, when growing food gardens was acceptable and necessary, so this cupcake is my way of supporting the needed food trend of healthier and local eating.

This red velvet cupcake recipe was an inspiration from the blog called Sophistimom. Thank you Jamie for starting me on my  healthier red velvet journey. If it was not for my excess of beets growing in my garden, I wonder if I would have ever branched out to find more uses for these little red balls of goodness. I did add more cocoa to the recipe in hope to camouflage the beet flavor. It almost worked on everyone but the beet hater in the group!

For the cream cheese frosting, I used my own favorite which uses cream rather than butter and I added some orange flavouring as I love the addition of orange to both chocolate and beets.

Tasty red velvet cake

Let me know what you think.

Red Velvet Cupcakes going WWII retro

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 12 cupcakes


    For the cake:
  • 3/4 cup beet puree
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (not Dutch Process, or dark cocoa powder)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    For the frosting:
  • 250 gm (8ox) cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange


    For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
  2. Line a standard muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine beet purée, lemon juice and vinegar.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat together sugar, butter and vanilla until fluffy then mix in one egg at a time.
  5. Add egg mixture to beetroot mixture.
  6. In a separate bowl, sift together, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
  7. Gently mix in half of flour mixture then add buttermilk.
  8. Finish folding in the other half of the flour mixture.
  9. Once combined, spoon mixture into prepared cups and cook in pre-heated oven for 15 mins or springy to the touch.
  10. Allow muffins to cool before icing them.
    For the icing:
  1. Using a hand held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and whipping cream.
  2. Mix in powdered sugar, orange juice and zest.
  3. Once light and fluffy, spoon into a pipping bag with the nozzle of choice and start creating.
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