These electric magenta cupcakes get their color not from the usual food coloring but from puréed roasted beets, which also add a subtle flavor. Don't use canned or packaged steamed beets--the cupcakes' color will be drab.
1 pound red beets (3 medium), scrubbed
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2/3 cup canola oil
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure orange oil*, such as Boyajian brand, or zest of 1 large orange
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
How to Make It
Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Wrap each beet in foil, put on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until tender when pierced, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Let cool. Peel, cut into chunks, and purée in a food processor. Measure 1 1/4 cups purée.
Line a 12-cup muffin pan (1/2-cup size) with paper liners. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Whisk together beet purée, granulated sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. With a plastic spatula, stir in flour mixture one-third at a time just until smooth.
Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each almost to the top of the liner. Bake until cupcakes spring back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted in center of one comes out with a couple of moist crumbs clinging, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.
Make buttercream: Beat butter with a mixer on high speed until very smooth. Add powdered sugar, orange oil, and vanilla; beat on low speed to blend, then on medium until fluffy and smooth.
Spread a thick layer of buttercream on cupcakes, swirling it decoratively. Or pipe frosting from a pastry bag, using a star tip.
Make ahead: Up to 1 day, chilled.
*Find pure orange oil, an essential oil pressed from orange rind (and different from orange extract), at surlatable.com
Recipe adapted from Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan, due out September 26, 2012, from Chronicle Books.
I'd be interested to know what cake ratios the author was using, as given the weight of the beet puree (as the main liquid), I had to double the amount of flour and sugar to get everything in the correct proportions. I did use whole-grain soft wheat flour, but it measured at 4oz. per cup which should have been about right. I also increased the baking powder and vanilla in proportion with the flour, and added 1/4 cup of cacao powder. I ended up with more batter of course so I had 18 cupcakes that baked in just over 20 minutes. They were rather dense but still moist and tender, with maybe just a hint of beet flavor. As for roasting the beets, being able to puree them is nice but I think I'll go back to shredding them raw to preserve the red color better as even roasting them amounts to cooking them twice. And buttercream frosting?? It's red velvet! - cream cheese, please! I made a basic cream cheese frosting instead, with extra to pipe into the cupcakes as well as slather over the top. Cake is all about the frosting, after all...I'll hang onto the recipe but I may try something different next time.
I tested these in the Sunset test kitchen and initially was skeptical about how they would taste. Since then, I have made them often as they always turn out moist and delicious and everyone else loves them too!
I was a little intimidated to try this recipe, as I have not roasted my own beets before, nor made cupcakes from scratch! They turned out perfectly though, I didn't change anything. They were a huge hit at a baby shower, and although some knew they contained beets no one thought the flavor was off. Very moist and delicious!
Great cupcake, the beets give this dessert a very interesting twist on the standard red velvet cake. The frosting was too sweet for our liking and would recommend cutting the powdered sugar by half. We may try a mascarpone spread, instead of the buttercream.
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