Recipe: Beetroot Red Velvet Cake

Recipe: Beetroot Red Velvet Cake

Treat them to something special this Valentines Day; bake them this heavenly cake!


I love a classic red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, but it’s not exactly a healthy option! This recipe re-creates the same vanilla-cocoa flavour, but in a vegan version that includes all the goodness of beetroot, extra fibre from the wholegrain flours and flaxseeds, plus a lower sugar content. The frosting is a little more work than a standard recipe, but avoids having to turn to margarine or ‘fake’ cream cheese.


Makes a 20cm (8in) cake to serve 10–12


For the cake:

  • 2 medium beetroots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 90g (3fl oz/6 tbsp) rapeseed (canola) oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 300g (10fl oz/1¼ cups) vegan yoghurt, such as soya or coconut
  • 400g (14oz/2 cups) rapadura or light muscovado (soft brown) sugar
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp vanilla paste, or seeds from 2 vanilla pods (beans)
  • 30g (1oz/¹⁄³ cup) cocoa powder
  • 260g (9¼oz/2 cups) wholemeal (wholewheat) spelt flour
  • 80g (3oz/²⁄³ cup) buckwheat flour
  • 60g (2¼oz/²⁄³ cup) ground almonds
  • 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • Candied Beetroot Hearts (see page bottom of page), to decorate

For the vanilla coconut frosting:

  • 300g (10½oz/1¼ cups) creamed coconut
  • 180g (6½oz/1 cup) coconut oil
  • 300g (10½oz/1¼ cup) coconut cream
  • 30g (1fl oz/2 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste or seeds of
  • 1 vanilla pod (bean)
  • 480g (17oz/3½ cups) golden icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted


For the cake

  1. Either steam the beetroot or microwave with 2 tablespoons of water for 10 minutes, or until just tender. Cool, then purée it all (including the water, if using) until smooth.
  2. Weigh out 200g/7oz purée.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160°C/350°F.
  4. Grease the base and sides of two 5 x 20-cm (2 x 8-in) cake tins with a little rapeseed (canola) oil and line the bases with a circle of baking parchment.
  5. Mix the flaxseed with 6 tablespoons of warm water and leave for 10 minutes.
  6. Using a balloon whisk, blend the flaxseed with the beetroot purée, the rapeseed oil, yoghurt, rapadura, salt, vanilla and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl until completely smooth.
  7. Sift together the flours and ground almonds, then mix into the liquid ingredients with the balloon whisk until smooth.
  8. In a small bowl, add the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to the vinegar and stir with a teaspoon.
  9. Add the foaming mix straight into the cake batter and gently fold together with the whisk. Take care not to overmix, or the batter will become tough.
  10. Scrape the cake batter evenly between the tins and bake for 35–45 minutes, or until the tops spring back when gently pressed and an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.
  11. Cool the cakes, still in their tins, until just warm, then de-mould and cool on a wire rack until cold.
  12. Chill until ready to trim and frost.

For the frosting:

  1. Soften the creamed coconut either for a minute or two in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, until it is a thick but stirrable consistency, then process in a blender until smooth.
  2. Add the coconut oil and process again.
  3. Scrape into a bowl and stir with a balloon whisk every few minutes until the mixture has cooled slightly and thickened, but not hardened.
  4. Add the coconut cream, lemon juice and vanilla and stir until smooth.
  5. Add the icing (confectioners’) sugar and beat with a hand-held electric whisk for 2–3 minutes until smooth.
  6. If the mixture feels too soft to spread onto the cake, chill for 30 minutes and re-beat.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Trim the tops of the sponges level, then slice each sponge in half, so you have 4 layers in total.
  2. Place one of the sponges, crust side down, on a serving plate and spread with a layer of the frosting.
  3. Top with the next layer of sponge and spread with more frosting.
  4. Repeat until you reach the final layer, placing it crust side up, and spread with a thin layer of frosting on the top and on the sides.
  5. Chill for 30 minutes or longer to set.
  6. Spread some clean, crumb-free frosting on top of the cake and spread out, then spread more frosting around the sides, scraping off the excess to give a clean finish.
  7. Chill again for about 30 minutes to firm, then decorate the sides with Candied Beetroot Hearts, wiping off any excess syrup and sticking directly onto the frosting.
  8. The top can also be decorated with piped swirls of leftover frosting and dried beetroot hearts.

Candied Beetroot Slices or Hearts


  • 2 small beetroots
  • 120g (4¼oz/²⁄³ cup minus 2 tsp) unrefined (golden) cane sugar


  1. Use a sharp knife to cut very thin rounds, about 1mm (¹⁄³²in) horizontally through the beetroots.
  2. Heat together the sugar and 75g (2½oz/5 tbsp) water in a small pan until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to the boil.
  3. Place the beetroot directly into the hot syrup, cover and cook gently for 5 minutes until the beetroot is just tender and translucent.
  4. Remove from the heat and steep in the syrup overnight at room temperature.
  5. Chill the candied slices in the syrup for up to a week and drain from the syrup before decorating the cakes.
  6. For heart shapes, use a small heart cutter to cut shapes from the centre of the beetroot rounds.
  7. For crisp beetroot hearts, used on the top of the Beetroot Red Velvet Cake, drain the pieces from the syrup and lay on top of baking parchment over a wire rack.
  8. Dry for 1½ hours in a low oven (100°C/fan 80°C/210°F), turning halfway, until dried through.

Nourish Cakes by Marianne Stewart (Quadrille, £15) Photography © Catherine Frawley


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