“Red Velvet Cake”

Red Velvet Cake - Pouring batter

So, I’ll come clean from the start. The title is misleading. While it may appear to be a red velvet cake, with the red-tinted cake and the white frosting, it isn’t. It’s a beet cake. Yeah. I know. I but figured that no one would stop and read this if I titled it beet cake. At least not many of my family or friends. Perhaps I underestimate you. But anyway, I can do that, right? That’s not exactly false advertising…I’m not making any money here. (By the way, if anyone is interested in supporting a young passionate social worker living in Latin American about to accept a job that pays nothing and has no health benefits, you can contact me…just kidding!)

The thing is we had lots of beets we bought about a week ago. We like to support our local beet-farmer and personal friend, Dwight. But we got too many I guess. The other day I threw out a entire bunch of un-touched radish because it took a turn for the worse, and because I ruined the freezer when I was chiseling out the ice, our refrigerator functions more like a giant freezer and I lost all my lettuce as well. I didn’t want these babies to go to waste too. But last week…every.single. day… I ate one version or another of my beet and carrot salad. As much as I love beets, I didn’t want to choke another one down. This was a great (maybe…) solution. Plus think about it: beets were once used to make sugar in Europe before they learned to more efficiently exploit the cane, and the people, of Latin America. And its always nice to pack extra nutrients into our favorite dishes. So if you’re trying to sneak veggies into your child’s (or spouse’s) diet, perhaps this is one way.

Red Velvet Cake - ChocolateRed Velvet Cake - BeetsRed Velvet Cake - SliceRed Velvet Cake - Cream Cheese Frosting

I loosely based my recipe from one I found online, but I made many adjustments.

1. I cut the recipe in half because (a) I didn’t want too much cake sitting around, (b) I don’t have a pan that can hold more than 4 cups of batter, and (c) I had very low confidence in this recipe. I mean…a beet cake.

2. I used all the beets I had (three large) which made about 1 cup of puree — 1/4 of a cup more than called for.

3. I don’t like using too much butter or oil in my baked goods, so instead of the hefty half cup it asked for, I used a scant 1/4 cup and put in a 1/4 of a banana we had in the fridge. I didn’t want it to taste like banana, but it’s a good substitute for fats.

4. I almost trippled the amount of chocolate they used. Initially I mixed up a batch with twice the amount called for because the measly 1 oz looked like nothing compared to the amount of beets I was using, and when I tasted the batter it was way way way too beety for me. I’m a batter-taster, and I demand that the batter taste just as good as the cake. So I put in the rest of the chocolate I had, which was about 3 oz in total. I tasted it and it was much better. I did in fact lick the bowl clean, as I would normally do with anything I’m baking.

Red Velvet Cake - Enjoying a biteAnd the verdict? I couldn’t believe it. I had very little faith in this recipe to be honest. But it was honestly delicious. Every so often I found a bite that was slightly reminiscent of beets, however for the most part I could not tell at all. The color was mysteriously chocolaty. That batter was purple, I mean purple. But after baking it was hardly noticeable…however when I frosted it and let it sit for a while, the white turned fuchsia. So if you are trying to trick someone, maybe use a chocolate frosting.

The problem with this recipe is… why would you make it? It’s not much healthier (although I did cut the oil in half). You certainly could use apple sauce instead of any oil but it would sacrifice significantly in the flavor department. Its got loads of sugar (for my taste). I guess just if you have lots of extra beets lying around like me perhaps you’d give it a shot, or if you just wanna try something different. It was really really yummy, but to be honest if I want to make a chocolate cake for someone I think I would use a traditional recipe because its just as healthy as this one I suppose. Anyway, I’m glad I did it. It was new and a joyous surprise!

Mock Red Velvet Cake

3 large beets, cooked and pureed (about 1 cup puree, but you may use as little as 1/2 cup if you like)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (melted and cooled. I actually used a bar of 71% cacao, cuz thats all I had. I bet anything semi-sweet to bitter would work).
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, or coconut oil, or canola oil
1/4 – 1/2 of a banana (optional..instead you can use an additional 1/4 cup butter or oil)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine chocolate, eggs, and beets, and banana with a hand blender or in your food processor until smooth. Mix in butter and vanilla. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda, then mix into the chocolate-beet mixture. I had to use a loaf pan, so my cooking time was much longer. I suggest using an 8×8 baking dish, and baking at 350ºF for 30 minutes, but check at 20 and 25 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. We are probably at different altitudes.

Whip together one 8oz contain of cream cheese with 2 or 3 tablespoons honey, until creamy, about 1 minute.


Homemade Yogurt


I started eating a lot of yogurt as a way to increase my protein intake in the morning. I usually don’t want an egg. I always want my cereal. And then, when watching our nightly episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown told us that the bacteria in yogurt helps eliminate lactose. Héc is lactose intolerant, so this was a miracle! He also started eating more yogurt. And it seemed that we would buy liter after liter of yogurt, were creating more plastic waste than necessary, and it was getting expensive. An added benefit of making yogurt at home is that we cannot find greek style yogurt in Guatemala. This recipe is perfect. I can make tatziki, salad dressings, and all kinds of stuff. Its also perfect for baking.So I decided to give it a try. Because I don’t have a candy thermometer it was hard for me to figure out the temperature of the milk. You don’t want to boil it, but you want to get it warm enough to denature the milk proteins. And then there was the problem of keeping it warm. When I was visiting my parents, I tried to keep it in an oven with the light on. But that apparently wasn’t warm enough. Until I discovered I could use my slow cooker to keep it warm. So here are the steps. Its really simple folks.


Photos: heating the milk to 185º F * (about 30 minutes until steams but doesn’t boil) and remove the skin; pour from pan to your storage vessel of choice and let cool to about 115ºF (about 20 minutes) — yes my storage vessel used to be a pickle jar**; whisk in a heaping tablespoon of live active plain yogurt; keep warm at around 115ºF for 3- 8 hours (the longer the tangier).

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