Beetroot red velvet cake

During World War II, food rationing led bakers to use boiled beetroot flesh and juice to add moisture and enhance the colour of their cakes, creating wonderfully vibrant red cakes – like this beetroot red velvet cake.

Red velvet cake and its original recipe are well known in the United States. The name is believed to come from the sugar of the time, combined with the unprocessed cocoa powder, that created a lovely red hue. Traditionally, the cake was iced with a very light and fluffy French-style butter roux icing (also called ermine icing). Over time, this has been replaced by increasingly popular cream cheese and buttercream frosting variations.

Shannon Robinson/SLR Photography

SERVES 6-8

250g beetroot (fresh)
75ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
2 tsp lemon juice
1½ tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 large free-range eggs
250g self-raising flour
150g caster sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder

FOR THE FROSTING
200g cream cheese
300g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line 2 x 15cm round loose-bottomed sandwich tins with baking parchment.

2. Begin by placing the milk and 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice into a small jug, then set aside. Next comes the finger-colouring peeling and fine chopping of the raw beetroot. Place into a bowl and add the milk and lemon, plus the white wine vinegar and vanilla. Pop the whole lot into a food processor, or use a hand blender, and blitz until you have a fine, silky-smooth puree.

3. Add the butter to the puree and give it another good blitz. Then add the eggs and, you’ve got it, blitz again until everything’s nicely combined and smooth.

4. Lastly, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder onto your puree and mix well until everything is combined. Now divide the mixture evenly between the two lined tins and pop into the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean. Once cooked, place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before gently removing the tins and allowing the cakes to cool completely.

5. For the frosting, place the cream cheese into a bowl with a small amount of icing sugar and blend together, gradually adding more icing sugar until it’s all combined. Now add the vanilla extract and mix well together.

6. To assemble the cake, begin by slicing the two cakes across the middle to create four rounds. Spread some of your frosting evenly across the top of three rounds. Stack the frosted rounds, placing the un-iced round on top, and spread the rest of the frosting over the whole cake. Now step back and admire your masterpiece.

Recipe extracted from Blackberry Cottage: Cakes with Secret Ingredients From Aubergine to Zucchini by Kate Saunders, RRP £24.99.