Monday, February 13, 2012

Gluten Free, Dye Free Red Velvet Cake Recipe

(Hello, my friends! Valentine's Day is tomorrow and I wanted to re-post one of my favorite recipes from GLG! It deserves a little more attention than it initially received in 2008 (wow, 4 years ago!), especially on Valentine's Day! This is a gluten free and DYE-free red velvet cake... it's just as delicious as the dye filled version and it's been a hit with my co-workers today! I hope you'll enjoy it this February. I've also included new notes in at the end of this recipe to make it a bit simpler, along with now being dairy free. I promise you'll love this easy, classic cake! -- Carrie) 

A few weeks ago my co-worker Jennifer was telling me about a brownie that her husband brought home. He picked up the brownie at a bakery near his work and it was called a "Red Velvet Brownie." The brownie itself was chocolate, but it was laced with red velvet cake squares swirled throughout the batter and topped with cream cheese icing. I was drooling.

Jennifer and I searched and searched for a recipe that might be similar to this brownie. We gave up. I couldn't find one that mimicked the brownie she had.

In 2009 I made mini-red velvet cupcakes for Valentine's Day. I thought these cupcakes were okay, yet I hated using all of the food coloring required for the recipe. SO, I decided to look for different red velvet cake options!

I finally read several recipes that gave a possible alternative to food coloring. These recipes stated that *originally* red wine vinegar or red beet juice was added to the standard buttermilk , cocoa, and baking soda recipe and a chemical reaction occurred during baking which gave the cake a reddish hue. Not food coloring red... just a reddish overtone.

That was good enough for me.

I converted the recipe to be gluten free, lower fat, and lower sugar and gave it a try.

It was worth the try. I LOVE this cake. It's light, yet decadent. Stays moist and fluffy, and has every bit of that delicious red velvet flavor of it's "food-coloring laden" predecessors.

I will post better pictures of this cake this weekend because I'm going to make it again for a dinner we are having.

I've included a halved recipe in the printable PDF in case you would only like to make one layer, as I did originally. It makes a lovely single layer cake. I think this would be perfect for tea parties!

Gluten Free. Food-Coloring Free. Soy Free. Lower fat. Lower sugar. Red Velvet Cake.

I do recommend using a high quality cocoa powder that is NOT dutch processed for this cake.

Gluten Free, Dye Free Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Created by Carrie Forbes of
Free of gluten, soy, and dyes
(Printer-friendly version)

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup melted butter -or- canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder (NOT dutch processed)
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar -OR- 2 tablespoons red beet juice

Dry Ingredients
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour -or- sweet rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans. (I lined my pan with parchment paper and then spritzed it with non-stick cooking spray.) Mix melted butter with applesauce, water, and cocoa powder. Set aside. In a medium sized bowl or your mixer, beat eggs. Add vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda, red wine vinegar -or- beet juice. Add butter/cocoa mixture to egg mixture. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Batter will be thin and a very light brown. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

  • DAIRY FREE/CASEIN FREE: Use coconut oil for the butter called for and in place of the buttermilk use 1 cup full-fat coconut milk + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • STARCH SUBSTITUTES: Since I no longer use tapioca flour/starch OR cornstarch, I simply used 1 cup of arrowroot starch in place of the cornstarch & tapioca flour called for. 
  • WET ING/DRY ING: When I made this cake yesterday instead of adding the cocoa & baking soda to the wet ingredients, I simply added them to the dry ingredients instead... it worked fine! 
  • DAIRY FREE ICING: Pillsbury frostings are gluten free and dairy free. I used plain vanilla Pillsbury frosting for these. For a homemade dairy free icing, try this recipe: (use the dairy-free milk of your choice, you don't have to use soy milk.) 
  • CUPCAKES: I made 24 cupcakes from this full recipe last night. Baked at 350 for about 17 minutes. 

Cream Cheese Icing from, submitted by Janni

Whole Recipe
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 Recipe (I used this to frost a single layer red velvet cake)
4 oz. cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium sized bowl mix together cream cheese and butter, until smooth and creamy. Mix in vanilla and gradually add confectioners' sugar. Frost as desired on cake and store leftovers in fridge.

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  1. just an fyi, a truly classical red velvet cake was made w/ cocoa that is not dutch-processed. the reaction between the cocoa and the buttermilk caused the red tint. most cocoa you find nowadays is dutch-processed because it stabilizes the fat, and doesn't turn rancid nearly as quickly.

    by the way, i'm not anonymous, but i'm having trouble w/my google id. i'm dragonknitter :)

  2. Hi Carrie, I know that all processed foods are not good for us and I try to avoid them as much as possible. I see you emphasize "NOT" dutch processed and anonymous above made a comment about dutch processed cocoa. So I am wondering how bad is dutch processed cocoa. This is something new to me! Gail

  3. Hi Carrie, I know that all processed foods are not good for us and I try to avoid them as much as possible. I see you emphasize "NOT" dutch processed and anonymous above made a comment about dutch processed cocoa. So I am wondering how bad is dutch processed cocoa. This is something new to me! Gail

  4. Hi Gail! IT's not bad for you at all, it's just that the NON dutch processed helps produce the more reddish tone of the cake! :-) This time it's not actually about nutrition but about the right chemistry to make the cake red! :-) Good question though!!

  5. this looks yummy! thanks for sharing!

  6. This cake looks so delicious. I think too many people these days eat out instead of cooking. I don't know why. There are so many options out there. I like that you added plenty of substitutes to the recipe. Red velvet with cream cheese icing is the best, and everyone should enjoy it

  7. Thanks for sharing a GF red velvet cake! Red velevet is one of my top three favorites, and my I was lucky as a child to have a Kentucky grandmother who made this cake better than anyone in the world. I also have my own recipe that I now make and is scrumptious, but unfortunately it's not GF and haven't been able to successfully convert it yet. I was also recently a pastry chef for a local organic health food/vitamin shop, and I used beet juice as my food coloring, too. But it could be a labor-intensive thing to do when having to color three or four different butter creams as I'd have to first juice everything and whip up separate batches of the frosting. (Couldn't just add the liquid to butter cream already made as it would thin it out because of the amount needed for the correct color.) Thankfully there are companies out there now that manufacture and distribute natural food colorings. A bit more expensive and usually have to be purchased online, but great to have on hand. The beet juice is a great idea though if you aren't 'too' concerned with the color being exact. I am printing this recipe off to try out today!