Raise your hand if you like red velvet. Is that everyone? Yep. Good.
Can you guys believe there are people out there – no one among us, of course, but some people – who don’t like red velvet cake? Shocking, I know. They don’t know what they’re missing.
Red velvet is the most regal of the cake flavors, and one of the most interesting, with that flavor that’s not quite chocolate, not just sweet…it’s complex. Unfortunately, some modern bakeries like to ruin red velvet cakes by making them with just red food coloring, diminishing some of the interesting flavor. That flavor comes from the beets that are traditionally used to give the cake moisture, sweetness, and a special fruity twist you won’t get from red food coloring made out of chemicals. (Blech.) There is some dispute as to when red velvet cake came about, but one idea is that it was invented during the Depression Era when people didn’t have enough sugar, and so used beets to sweeten their chocolate cake. I tried using beets as well, with the great result of this amazing, flavorful cupcake!
I didn’t use any food coloring, and as a result my cupcakes were more brownish than a true red. I didn’t want to use the food coloring at most grocery stores that’s made of chemicals, so I went to Whole Foods to look for organic red food coloring. But they didn’t have it and I resolved that organic food coloring was most likely made out of chemicals as well, just grass-fed, cage-free chemicals. Which is great, but not as good as leaving them out altogether.
My mom is not a fan of red velvet (yes, it’s unbelievable) but she liked these cupcakes and described them as robust and somewhat fruity. I agree that they have a hint of fruity flavor, just enough to add a layer of depth to the taste. They are also dense and earthy, making them more filling.
Red velvet and pumpkin…does that sound like a weird combination? Perhaps, but it turns out to be a match made in heaven. These cupcakes are filled with sweet pumpkin butter, and topped with a delicious pumpkin cream cheese icing. Oh, and did I mention the icing has chocolate in it? I really just added the chocolate because the icing looked gross without it. But the chocolate definitely adds something to the cupcake. I’ve always thought red velvet should be paired with chocolate more often.
These cupcakes really hit the spot, as well as being nice and satisfying. The flour is all whole wheat pastry flour, and they are sweetened mostly by agave with just a touch of brown sugar. I’m not sure it even needs the brown sugar, maybe it could be replaced with agave or muscavado sugar. The beets provide fiber, vitamin C, and folate. Research has also suggested that the betacyanin in beets that gives them their red color may also help prevent the growth of cancer cells and even help guard against heart disease. So hooray for beets! Here’s a way to sneak them into your (or your children’s) diet disguised as dessert. Much better then baking brownies with spinach mixed in – gross!
So go ahead and try this recipe for healthy cupcakes fit for a queen.
Red Velvet Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 12 regular sized cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- dash of cinnamon
- 1/2 cup organic raw agave syrup
- 5 small to medium beets, roasted, peeled, and pureed in blender (I bought some beets that were already roasted and peeled)
- 2 tbls brown sugar
- 2 tbls Peanut Butter & Co. brand White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter
- 2 separated eggs
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
- 2 tbls cherry jam (I used Crofter’s brand Morello Cherry Premium Spread)
- 2 tbls plain coconut milk
- 6 ounces Lucerne brand plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup pumpkin butter ( I used Kozlowski brand)
- 4 ounces low fat neufchatel cream cheese (I used Lucerne brand)
- 2 tbls Libby’s Pure Pumpkin puree
- 1 tbl agave syrup
- dash cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
For cupcakes: To make buttermilk substitute, combine two tablespoons of coconut milk with 6 ounces of Greek yogurt. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a regular muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In another large bowl, combine agave syrup, brown sugar, White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Mix well with a hand mixer.
Pour this mixture into the flour mixture. Add your buttermilk substitute and the beet puree, and mix well.
In a small bowl, use hand mixer to beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites gently into batter. (Honestly, I was too impatient to wait until peaks formed, so I just poured the egg whites into the batter when they got bubbly and it turned out fine.)
Pour a little bit of batter into each paper liner, filling it a little less than halfway. Add about one teaspoon of pumpkin butter to the center of each cupcake on the surface of the batter. Cover this over with more batter.
Bake in prepared oven for 15-20 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
For Frosting: In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1 tablespoon agave syrup, the pumpkin puree, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gently blend with a spoon, trying not to break up the cream cheese into chunks. WARNING: This mixture will look unappetizing.
Place 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips into another small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about a minute to a minute and a half, stopping every 30 seconds or so to stir with a spoon.
When chocolate chips are melted, remove from microwave. Pour gross cream cheese/pumpkin mixture into chocolate and blend until it’s thoroughly combined and doesn’t look so gross. In fact, now it will look kind of good…
When cupcakes are completely cooled, spread frosting evenly on top of each one. Now the cupcakes are finally ready to eat – yum!
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