Red velvet is a delicious, moist treat known for its vibrant red color. While most recipes call for red food coloring, there are ways to get that traditional red color without red dye. Additionally, since you’ll be using a natural color, you won’t have to worry about the food coloring altering the taste of your finished product.
Beets have a natural red color that can be used in place of red food coloring. However, when beets are introduced to chemical leaveners -- like baking soda or baking powder -- the color turns from red to brown, so you’ll have to omit your chemical leavener, which means a denser cake. Steep cut beets -- without stems, greens and roots -- in water until the flesh is tender and the water has reduced by half. Add this liquid to your cake batter in place of food coloring, using 1 teaspoon for every 1 teaspoon of red food coloring called for in the recipe. Beets do have a strong flavor, so they might alter the taste of your cake too.
Raspberries reduced in water create a vibrant red syrup that works in place of traditional red food coloring. Use frozen berries, because these break down and give a brighter red than fresh berries. Place raspberries in a saucepan and cover with water, using a ratio of 1 cup of water to 1 cup of berries. Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the liquid has reduced down to just a few tablespoons. Strain out the flesh and seeds and use the liquid in the ratio of 1 teaspoon per 1 teaspoon of food coloring required in your recipe. Your cake will have a slight fruity taste to it, but the leaveners won’t have any effect on the color.
Cranberries are a suitable red food-coloring substitute. Boil cranberries in the same method as raspberries, using frozen or canned cranberries. Use 1 teaspoon of boiled cranberries per 1 teaspoon of red food coloring. Since cranberries have a distinct tart flavor, add a small amount of sugar to the cranberries and water to help tone down the tartness. Your cake might taste like cranberries.
Hibiscus flowers are edible and have a tangy, sweet flavor similar to a mango. Buy a food-grade, dried hibiscus flower -- these are safe to eat and found in specialty stores and grocery stores. Look for flowers that are dark red. Steep the hibiscus flowers in a small amount of hot water and allow the mixture to cool. Strain out the dried flower and you’ll be left with a red liquid. Pour the liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow the liquid to boil until it is reduced by half and you’re left with a thick, syrup-like liquid. Use 1 teaspoon of syrup per 1 teaspoon of food coloring called for in the recipe. You’ll get a light red color using hibiscus and the flavor from the flower will be minimal.
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