Miss Rubie-Lee’s Dangerous Red Velvet Cake Recipe with Baby Beets, Strawberries and Honey

Red Velvet Beet Berry Cake side upper shot Bake This CakeDid someone say party cake? I thought so!  How ’bout a dangerously delicious vintage red velvet cake made with cocoa, red baby beets and strawberries? Yes, way! And did I mention that we’re going to drizzle it with heirloom custard meringue frosting and serve it up with strawberries and cream? We’ve got a wow-berry celebration going on here and you’re invited to come along and bake this cake!

amazing red velvet cake made with beets and strawberries bake this cake

Hanging Glitter Heart photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Malibu Hills Patio Greeting

Love That Danger Red! The color RED feels like high energy, am I right? It means love right off the bat, even passion. It can also mean danger. In cake terms, in my family circles, this type of awesome and rich cake might even get the friendly nickname we call a Danger Cake. :) It means: “Hey, go easy on the slices partner — or you’ll be runnin’ a few extra laps tomorrow”. And I think that’s an appropriate name for a super decadent red velvet cake loaded with rich flavors. I mean, you can only have so much fun at one sitting, right? :)

Bufano Cat Silkcreen photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Bufano’s Press Club Cat

The Loverly Beet!  Since, oh, about the first Century, the Romans considered beetroot juice to be an aphrodisiac (maybe because its rich in B vitamins, iron, and nitrates that make your blood flow).  It was used by the Romans to cure a variety of ailments; it was used as a wound binding agent and was also used in soups. A very well-rounded ancient root veggie, I’d say. I never had a fondness for beets, I have to admit, until our former Brazilian nanny (actually, Agnaldo was a manny) sautéed some fresh baby beets in butter for the children (for breakfast, I might add)…and I was hooked. Amazingly, so were my mac n’ cheese kids.  But, still… In a cake?  I had my doubts. But along came strawberries and honey…

Strawberries at Farmer's Market Bake This Cake

Farmer’s Market Strawberries

I think you’ll find the strawberries, ricotta and honey temper the lovely baby red beets to perfection. When all these sweet and slightly tart flavors bake together with the flour selections…they just marry and blossom and its cake money in the bank!  Thank you to Nancy Eisman (Adventures With Nancy Rose blog) of the incredible Melissa’s World Variety Produce (the largest distributor of specialty produce in the U.S.) for the specialty beets we used.

Red Kate Spade Purse photo by Leslie Macchiarella

My girlfriend’s red bag, wow!

The Vintage Recipe Prowl: Yes, I’ve been on the prowl for quite some time (Am I right,  Facebook friends?) for the best red velvet cake that’s way moist and way flavorful. I wanted to: 1) use a vintage cake recipe 2) that makes a super moist red velvet cake 3) with the cake as the front-runner to the frosting 4) that has kicked-up flavor notes and 5) has a cheery bright red color. After so many tests using scads of recipes from cookbooks of various decades, I landed on an old cherished Recipe Card Cake dating back to about 1950 (maybe 1940’s). It’s tinged with age, spotted with splashes  and so scribbled with change-out notes that you can barely decipher it. It was Rubie-Lee’s “Cake” card. And it doesn’t have a lot of details, just ingredients actually, so there are lots of holes to fill when it comes to interpreting it. But Auntie wrote, “Prize Winner” in the corner of the card.

My Kitchen Bake This Cake

Inherited Recipe Card Box and Grandma’s Hobart

We’re not sure where Rubie-Lee was from but she spoke with a Southern twang, was sweet as pie, never married, and cooked a right-fine Sunday sit-down for friends and for the church folks. Before she passed away, she gave Auntie Eve a few of her best recipes. And now I’m lucky enough to have them tucked away in the recipe card box that I inherited from Auntie Eve.  Thank you, Auntie Eve and Miss Rubie-Lee!

Tulips by pool photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Cake Specifics: We twisted-up Rubie-Lee’s cake just a tad. This cake batter differs from the standard red velvet by using whole wheat flour (though we cut it to half whole wheat with half all-purpose flour, sorry Rubie-Lee), powdered cultured buttermilk (instead of the real deal for viscosity purposes, word of the day), pureed baby red beets and strawberries, ricotta cheese and a bit of honey. Remember, it’s vintage style so it’s shortening, my dears (but it works like magic over butter for this recipe). It also gets an extra oompf from that dynamic bubbling concoction of baking soda & cider vinegar (that seems to add shine to the cake and works magic with the buttermilk), so don’t skip on that bubbling baker’s trick.

Red Concertinas photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Red Concertinas

The Color Search! I gave up on trying to make the cake naturally bright red with fruits and veggies (the beets seem to bring it to a purple-grey color at best) so I added organic natural red food coloring for that bright boom red bang. If you would like to test out more natural food dye options, check out this great blog about how to use beet powder to color your foods and let me know how it goes. I’m sure I’ll be giving that a test too using red beet powder for additional coloring options.

Butter Shined Red Cowboy Boots photo by Leslie Macchiarella

My doggie licking my butter-shined boots!

Big Party Cake! This is a 4-tiered party-sized cake, so divide the recipe in half for two 9″ cakes if your cake party is smaller. I used a fun silicone crown-shaped cake pan for the top crowning layer (my very first silicone baking pan adventure and it worked like a charm!). I loaded up the “inside” of the crown with whole strawberries and, for the grand serving finale, I made a white meringue drizzle frosting to, yeah, DRIZZLE over top. Num. (Or as my Instagram friends put it so perfectly… #nomnomnom!)

Red Velvet Cake slice by the buffet Bake This Cake

Tools Needed for Rubie-Lee’s Dangerous Red Velvet Cake:

Four cake pans as follows: two 9″ cake pans, one 8″ cake pan and an 8.7″ Lekue Imperial Crown Cake Pan for the top layer (plus a 9″ cake pan to hold the silicone pan, optional)
Cooking spray or butter (for coating the pans)
Parchment paper
Food processor (or knife and mashing tool, for puree of the beets and berries)
2 Large mixing bowls (for dry ingredients and main batter)
1 small bowl or cup (for pre-mixing eggs)
Measuring cups and spoons, spatula
Cooling racks

Ingredients for Rubie-Lee’s Dangerous Red Velvet Cake:
6 baby beets (8 ounces) peeled and steamed, room temp (I used Melissa’s Produce Peeled & Steamed Baby Red Beets. Please don’t substitute “regular” canned beets because this flavor quotient is important in this cake)
1 cup ricotta cheese, good quality
1/3 cup or 5 Tablespoons honey (I used a clover honey)
about 8 large strawberries (about 1/2 cup diced)
2 cups whole wheat flour, fine quality (I used King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, good quality (I used Ghiardelli brand)
2 Tablespoons dried cultured buttermilk powder (If you don’t have dried cultured buttermilk, you may use liquid buttermilk by substituting it for the milk ingredient below and adding 1/3 cup water, but you should use some form of buttermilk for this cake)
1 cup vegetable shortening (I used butter-flavored just ’cause it was in my cupboard somehow) :)
3 cups sugar
4 large eggs, fork beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, fine quality (I used King Arthur’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract) 
2/3 cup milk (I used 2% fat milk)
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
a few drops of natural red food coloring

Okay, let’s get this cake party started!

Posters 1900 photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Turn of the Century Poster

Directions for Rubie-Lee’s Dangerous Red Velvet Cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees (rack at center position if you have a double oven, or adjust the racks for even distribution if you have one oven).

Prep 4 cake pans with cooking spray or butter, line them with parchment and spray again.

I used two 9″ cake pans, one 8″ cake pan and an 8.7″ Lekue Imperial Crown Cake Pan for the top layer. I sprayed the silicone pan for a cautious first use but I don’t think it needs a spray normally. The molded pan does not need a parchment lining. :)  I placed the silicone pan inside a larger 9″ cake pan for stability.

preparing special red velvet cake pans bakethiscake

In a food processor (or by hand using fine chops & fork mashing), purée until smooth (about 2 minutes) and set aside:
6 baby beets (8 ounces) peeled, steamed, room temp
1 cup ricotta cheese, good quality
5 Tablespoons honey (I used a clover honey)

Beets ricotta and honey for Red Velvet Cake Collage Bake This Cake

Add to the beets mixture & puree in food processor (or by hand using fine chops & fork mashing) for 1 minute:
about 8 large strawberries (about 1/2 cup diced)

Strawberries pureed with beets for redvelvet collage Bake This Cake

In a large bowl, whisk until thoroughly blended and set aside:
2 cups whole wheat flour, fine quality (I used King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghiardelli brand)
2 Tablespoons dried cultured buttermilk powder*

*substitute liquid buttermilk for the milk ingredient below and use it when you would normally add the milk, plus add 1/3 cup water if you don’t have powdered cultured buttermilk

dry ingredients for red velvet cake collage bake this cake

Using an electric mixer, blend for about 2 minutes:
1 cup vegetable shortening (I used butter-flavored but regular vegetable shortening might be better)
3 cups sugar

Beat in on high-speed (about 3 minutes):
4 large eggs, fork beaten

Main batter for old fashioned beet red velvet cake recipe bake this cake

Beat into the creamed sugar-shortening-egg mixture for about 1 minute:
the prepared beet-berry mixture
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, fine quality (I used King Arthur’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract) 

Beat into the batter on medium-low speed in portions until just fully blended:
the prepared dry ingredients
2/3 cup milk (I used 2% fat milk)**

**If you’re using liquid buttermilk, use it instead of the milk plus add 1/3 cup water

Mixing beet puree into red velvet cake batter bakethiscake

In a cup or small bowl, mix until it bubbles up:
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

Beat into the batter on medium-low speed just until blended:
the baking soda-cider mixture

special potion for red velvet cake bake this cake

Fold in:
a few drops of natural red food coloring until you see a nice lightly red-chocolate color (it will brighten as it bakes)

Stirring natural red food coloring into red velvet cake Bake This Cake

Swirling red color into the batter

Bake in prepared pans at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking the smaller-sized pans first to ensure a toothpick comes out clean, the cake springs back lightly when touched at top center (internal temperature about 200 degrees). I  placed my silicone molded pan in a slightly larger cake pan for stability.

Red Velvet Cake Batter in the pans for baking bake this cake

The top center will seem somewhat firm, the edges slightly separate from pan and aroma fills the kitchen. :)

hot from the oven red velvet cake bake this ake

Cool on wire racks. With so many cakes, I decided to cool all 4 layers in vertical fashion with stack-able wire racks to save counter space. :)

Stacked cooling cake racks bake this cake

Vertical Cake Cooling

Strawberries for Cake and Plate Toppers:

I soaked some fancy large strawberries in a bit of simple syrup (boil for a few minutes 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar plus a little fresh lemon zest).  Not sure this was necessary and they were a little dribbly with juice but they were yummy. You could also just thaw large fancy grade A frozen strawberries or use large fancy fresh strawberries with or without sugar.

vintage Red Velvet Cake recipe

Tools needed for Heirloom Custard Meringue Frosting:
Large sauce pot
Medium bowl (for holding 4 cubes of butter)
Electric mixer and bowl
Whisk
Spatula
Measuring cups and spoons

Ingredients for Heirloom Custard Meringue Frosting:
2 cups (4 cubes) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract, fine quality (I used King Arthur’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract) 
2 cups low-fat milk (2% is fine)
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) cornstarch
3 Tablespoons of cream of tartar
3 cups  powdered sugar
2-1/3 cup meringue powder

Heirloom Custard Frosting Bake This Cake

Directions for Heirloom Custard Meringue Frosting:

Rough-chop into chunks and bring to room temperature in the microwave for a few seconds:
2 cups (4 cubes) unsalted butter

Beat on high for about 7 minutes until light and fluffy:
the room temperature butter
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Tip: A long beating time is required to dissolve the sugar and create a light and fluffy consistency.

Whipped butter and sugar Bake This Cake

In a large sauce pot over medium-low heat and using a whisk to stir regularly, bring to a low simmering boil:
2 cups milk (2% is fine)
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) cornstarch
Tip: Whisk the cornstarch in thoroughly before the heat takes hold in the pan to be sure there are no lumps in your sauce.

Immediately upon boiling, reduce heat to “barely bubbling” and stir continuously for about 2 minutes to achieve a glossy smooth custard.

Remove custard from heat and stir it with a whisk for a couple of minutes to reduce the temperature.
Tip: Adding hot custard into the butter-sugar mixture will melt the butter so be sure to cool this custard to about room temperature before using it in the mixing bowl.

Using a spatula, drop bits of the room temperature custard into the butter-sugar mixture with the mixer on low until all is fully incorporated.

Blend in:
3 Tablespoons of cream of tartar
3 cups  powdered sugar
2-1/3 cup meringue powder (I used Ateco brand)

Meringue Powder Bake This Cake

Turn up the mixer to high-speed and beat for 3 minutes until glossy.

Here’s a photo collage of the process.

Meringue Frosting recipe Bake This Cake

Now its time to pack up the cakes and frosting and berries to head over to Granny Vi’s house for a family party! I’m a cake traveler!

cake packed for travel bake this cake

Frost each layer and then drizzle with meringue, leaving some red cake showing and fill the crown with berries. It looks a little wild but it draws a crowd. :)

Red Velvet Cake recipe crown filled with beets Bake This Cake

Serve each slice with a strawberry or two and some sweetened whipped cream and you’ve got a red velvet cake party on your hands!

Red Velvet Cake slice with strawberries and cream Bake This Cake

Thank you so much for joining me for this colorful vintage dessert adventure. I do hope you’ll join us on Facebook or on Pinterest or Instagram where we’re having lots of fun in the after-work hours. And you might want to check up on our new BakeThisBread site that will have more homemade bread recipes soon.

Leslie

Leslie in red tshirt

Lady in Red :D

Red Celebration Collage for Bake This Cake

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