Top | Cakes and Muffins

Red Velvet Cupcakes

(recipe, Carrie Floyd)

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When I saw Diane Morgan's recipe for red velvet cupcakes in her fabulous book Roots, I knew I had to try them. Instead of using obscene amounts of red food dye to color the cake, Diane substitutes a purée of roasted beets. You can cook the beets ahead of time — perhaps while making dinner and the oven is already on — and then refrigerate them until ready to use (but no more than a couple of days). This variation pairs Diane's cupcake recipe (slightly adapted) with a cream-cheese frosting (instead of an orange buttercream), for a delicious updated version of the classic. If you still want a hint of citrus, add the minced zest of 1 large orange to the frosting, or decorate the top of each cupcake with a bit of candied citrus.


    1. 1¼ lb. beets (about 3 to 5 medium or 6 to 8 small); you will need 1½ cups cooked beet purée
    2. 2 cups cake flour
    3. 1 tsp. baking powder
    4. ¼ tsp. sea salt
    5. ¼ tsp. cinnamon
    6. 3 large eggs
    7. 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
    8. ⅔ cup canola or other neutral oil
    9. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1. 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
    2. ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
    3. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    4. 2 cups powdered sugar


    1. Prepare the beets: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Tear off sheets of aluminum foil, each large enough to wrap an individual beet. Scrub the beets under water, then pat dry. Wrap each beet tightly in a square of foil, then place on a rimmed baking sheet. (The sheet catches any juices that bubble out.) Bake until tender, 1 to 1½ hours. Check for tenderness by sticking a paring knife into the middle of a beet. When the beets are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool. When cool, trim off the beet ends and remove the peels. Chop them into small pieces, then purée those in a food processor until completely smooth.
    2. Make the cupcakes: Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners or set out silicone liners on a baking sheet.
    3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
    4. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the sugar, oil, vanilla, and beet purée; stir to blend. Add one-third of the flour mixture, stirring just until mixed in. Add the remaining flour in two additions, each time stirring just until the flour is mixed in; do not beat or over-mix.
    5. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly and filling each cup almost to the top. Bake 24 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
    6. Cool the cupcakes on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the tins and place them on the rack to cool completely.
    7. Prepare the frosting: While the cakes are cooling, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with a stand mixer or an electric handheld mixer until blended. Gradually add the powdered sugar, sifting it over the butter mixture, beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cupcakes.

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