Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes, with beets


Here I am, albeit begrudgingly. For Valentine’s Day.

Or, as my mother and I have always lovingly referred to it: VD. Like venereal disease. Named after Venus, right? Or something like that.

So before we begin, let me opine on my little soapbox in the corner of the Interwebs:

  • Nobody knows who St. Valentine really was
  • Wikipedia doesn’t even bother to mince any words, and dives right in at the second sentence with the tenuousness of the history of the saint(s)
  • To quote Ottonlenghi: you cannot just create a momentous intimate occasion – and especially when millions of other couples are trying to do the same thing (quote in here, excellent recipe here)
  • Thus, the celebration is purely in the minds of Hallmark and florists everywhere

But to-day’s post is kind of a big deal, if only because it involves me posting something sweet here.

Again, albeit begrudgingly. And with an untraditionally sour topping.

Because these cupcakes are topped with vegan crème fraîche.

After all, they’re beet cupcakes, right? In old country, cupcake frost you. With crème fraîche and poppy seeds.

If you’ll bear with me whilst I go all James May on you here—as I reserve the right to be wont—back in the day, red velvet cupcakes were still baked with tonnes of red food colouring, so these have never really been a ‘traditional’ sort of cake.

Before we had cocoa processed with alkali, we had cocoa that, well, wasn’t processed via alkali. This type of cocoa reacted more vibrantly with acid and turned a deep reddish hue in baked goods—hence things like devil’s food cake, and red velvet cake.

These were reddish hued, however—not full on red like we know now.

After alkali, we went all out and just dumped red food dye into our foods because Red No. 40 can’t make anything worse, can it?

And then we had beets.

The basis for this recipe came from playing around with one from Sophistimom’s all natural red velvet cupcakes, so thanks to her (and her commenters!) for the inspiration and the nudge.

So this isn’t so much a throwback to a traditional recipe as a different take on it. It’s earthy and sweet, and perfect for those of us who are a little too bitter for baked goods.

You can top it with whatever buttercream you like, but I really do recommend the crème fraîche.

But beware if you’re planning to frost the night before—the beets will sneak up and turn the frosting pink. You might be into that sort of thing, though.

And, yes,  for the record, mine are sort of ‘rustic’ (a word which here always means ‘lazy’) because I neglected to purée my beats separately. But yours will be better, right? KitchenAid mixers are excellent, but I haven’t gotten the hang of puréeing down yet. The hang of getting beets all over everything, though? Down.

Finally, for what it’s worth, if you’re looking for something special with which to serve it, then go with some Lambrizzle. Fo shizzle.

Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe

By M. M. Cassidy Published: February 12, 2013

  • Yield: 18 Cupcakes (18 Servings)
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Ready In: 1 hr 15 mins

Something sort of sweet!



  1. In a small pot, just cover the beets in water. Boil until knife-tender, 30-40 minutes. Cool, then remove any stems and roots, peel, and puree.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle.
  3. Preheat the oven to 175ºC (350ºF) and line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers (or use silicon wrappers).
  4. In a bowl (stand mixer is ideal), cream the sugar and EB together. Add the beet purée, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and vegan buttermilk (curdled milk), and mix to combine.
  5. Separately, whip the eggs. I use an immersion blender, but beaters or a whisk would do. Whip until frothy/foamy (not stiff/peaking), then fold into the wet ingredients.
  6. In another bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  7. Fill wrappers 3/4 of the way and bake for 18-20 minutes—until springy in the center—then remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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  • Makeda

    Are those reusable cupcake holders you have? Where did you get those?

    • They are! I think that I got these at Crate & Barrel. Fair warning: one disappeared the first time out, and no matter how hard friends searched (trash, recycling, floor, behind things) it was nowhere to be found. Another disappeared similarly wen I brought cupcakes to work. Beware.

      But yes, reusable silicon cupcake liners! They’re not even liners, since you can do away with your muffin tins and bake the cakes on a tray.

      You might have to tell people that they’re not paper when serving, so don’t throw them away, but overall, awesome.

  • Robin

    Hi, Thanks for the recipe! Just to let you know, the steps don’t actually say when to include the buttermilk, so I forgot it when I made this. 🙁 They still turned out okay, but not as good I’m sure, and it would have been a big help to have an actual step in there saying when to add it. (I’m guessing that it was meant to be added in step 6, when you say “add to the rest of the ingredients.” But since there is already a big bowl of other ingredients, it’s easy not to think of adding the buttermilk there. So you might consider adding in a reminder to add it, just in case there are others like me who get a little confused…. Thanks again!

    • Ack! So, so sorry about that Robin! The vegan buttermilk should be added with the rest of the wet ingredients, before folding in the whipped eggs.

      I suspect that the buttermilk got lost during a period where my blog was saving the second-to-last edit instead of the last edit, and I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been about saving it.

      Thanks for pointing this out so that I could fix it!