Part of the fun of experimenting with new recipes–and tweaking old recipes–is that the end result often surprises you.
The Thanksgiving holiday long-weekend was a busy one for us–not filling baking orders, but still playing around in the kitchen as we prepare for upcoming events (two–yes TWO–vegan holiday cookie exchanges and the Virtually Sisters Pop-Up shops).
We had a major success with our Vegan Deluxe Brownies. Taste, texture, and appearance were all top notch, and they were even better in being a gift!
Alas, not everything is an instant winner, and such was the case with our first attempt at vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes. Now, I grew up nomming on the best Red Velvet Cake in recorded history. My grandmother’s RVC was famous, almost mythical, especially since no one else seemed to be able to make it quite as well. Every year for my birthday, that was the cake I requested. (Yes, she made it for me other days, too.) She even put up with my silly (and failed) attempts to convince her to make a BLUE velvet cake. I say all this to explain why any Red Velvet concoction will have a high standard to meet.
Veganizing Red Velvet Cake seems pretty straightforward, but there are a few key challenges. First, buttermilk is a key component, for flavor and texture. You can curdle non-dairy milk with apple cider vinegar pretty easily, but that may not produce an exact substitute. Second, the brilliant red of the cake is pretty easy if you do not mind dumping four ounces of FD&C Reds 40 and 3 into your food. Replicating that using all-natural ingredients, and definitively vegan ingredients at that, is a little trickier.
Okay, a lot trickier.
Since natural red food coloring is made with beet juice, we tried buying some beet juice and using that instead of bottled food coloring (which, being all natural and concentrated, is expensive). The result was not red but a brownish-purplish color. And the taste was just not up to snuff–they were not bad at all, but Grandma would have turned up her nose with (justifiable) scorn.
But we are keeping at it. I called Grandma and got her magic recipe, and we will be veganizing it in our next attempt(s) at the RVCs. As for the RED, the beet juice is still our best option, though we will need to play with the concentration. Brownish-Purple Velvet Cupcakes are just not going to cut it.
Of course, we get to eat even the “failures,” so I guess we can still look at the measuring cup as half full rather than half empty…