red-as-a-beet cupcakes

If you risk nothing, you gain nothing. Bear Grylls.

red beet cakes

Bear Grylls is indeed a man of influence, oozing motivation and adventurous spirit, full of powerful philosophies and reflections on life, adventure and faith. Jesse and I used to just watch Man vs Wild for a chuckle, and to be grossed out. Now we are in awe of the guy, having just finished reading his autobiography; Mud, Sweat & Tears.

super red beet cupcakes

We took three lessons from it:

1. Feed our spirit of adventure. We grew up as adventurous kids, and sometimes we wonder how we got so boring. Feed the spirit with little adventures frequently – hikes after work, cycling up a steep hill as fast as possible, jump into the freezing Arctic lake.

2. Reflect more. Bear teaches others through his shows, his live presentations and his books. He can do this because he learns from his experiences. In general, we forget them. Instead, start recording things. Spend a quiet Sunday afternoon writing a list of things to experience while we are in Northern Canada, and a list of past experiences we most want to remember when we have moved from Northern Canada onto our next adventure.

3. Take risks. “If you risk nothing, you gain nothing”. It’s so true but so hard. Sometimes it seems like everyday at the cafe is a risk.. Every grocery order risks being left on the tarmac to spoil, every new recipe risks unexpected results – I don’t particularly feel like welcoming more risk! I have been at both extremes emotionally – total bliss spending mornings baking in the kitchen alone, huge satisfaction having customers squeal with glee over the days creations, a humble pride to hear myself interviewed on Australian ABC Radio and read about this venture in the Northern newspaper… and at the other end total, overwhelming stress. I have been exposed to my own weaknesses, on the edge of a breakdown after a kitchen disaster. But then I think of Bear Grylls. He uses such experiences to learn what his limits are, and stretch them. My challenges are minute in comparison to his great expeditions. In fact they are a joke. But the point is that he embraces every challenge, “giving that little bit extra, when everyone else gives up”.

red beet cupcakes with red grapes

We recently celebrated our second Canada Day which, being a day off work, offered an opportunity to reflect and adventure. And so I thought about and posed the challenge of All Natural Red Velvet Cupcakes, this time not with red wine but with roasted red beets.

The all-natural red velvet beet cake is quite a science. There’s a lot more to it than just adding some beet puree to a cupcake mix. Beets require acidity to remain red. Adding a base, like baking soda will cause the pH levels to change, turning the beets brown on cooking. As will alkalised Dutch cocoa (which is our only option up here, so I left it out of my recipe) and metal (so use paper liners). Big Bake Theory will tell the all the facts, but follow this recipe to a tee and you will have the reddest red velvet cake ever. Bonus: this recipe can all be whipped up in a blender. When you do four (plus) loads of dishes a day (and that’s before my own ones at home) you appreciate things like that.

This is the first time I decorated cupcakes with anything other than a blob of icing. I found a frosting kit in the cafe kitchen and gave the ‘rose’ a go, using this blog as a guide.

red beet cupcakes

Red Beet Cupcakes
Recipe from Sophistimom
Makes 11

3/4 cup beet puree (directions follow)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons), at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (not bleached flour)
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon natural cocoa powder (not Dutch Process, or dark cocoa powder), optional

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a standard muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. Empty the food processor of the beet puree (see below). Measure out 3/4 cup of beets and add it back to the food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment. Save any extra beet puree for another use. Add in vinegar and lemon juice (if you didn’t already add it when you were pureeing the beets), followed by the rest of the ingredients. Pulse the mixture a few times until the batter is smooth. Scoop mixture evenly into cupcake liners.

2. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the cupcakes in the center spring back up when touched. Remove cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting (I used a large pastry bag and a large star tip—Wilton 1M).

Roasted Beets

2 medium beets, or 1 large beet, scrubbed and rinsed

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Fill a small roasting dish with 1/2 inch of water. Place beets in the water, and cover with a piece of parchment paper and a large piece of aluminum foil. Roast for 60-90 minutes, or until the beets are very tender to the point of a knife.

2. When beets have cooled, peel, and cut into large chunks. Place in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process for 2 minutes, or until extremely smooth. If the beets need a little moisture to help them along, you can add the lemon juice and the vinegar from the recipe above, and then just don’t add it later.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes more than enough for 12 cupcakes

2 x (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add softened cream cheese and beat until smooth. Do not overmix as it will begin to thin. Refrigerate until ready to use.

6 thoughts

  1. Don’t you love Bear?? So glad my cupcakes turned out for you. What are you doing in Northern Canada? I used to live in Jonquière for awhile, which is in the Saguenay up in Québec. It was sure cold! And I know what you mean about your life getting boring. Sometimes I need to take stock of my life, just to remind myself that yes, at one point or another, I did something interesting.

    • Fantastic recipe – thank you! I look forward to making it as a cake. I didn’t realise the paper liners were mandatory until I tried baking without! How do you stop the edges turning yellowy-brown when baking it as a whole cake? Ah I guess we are on our overseas experience from New Zealand – my husband flying aircraft and me taking a detour in my career to run a small, real-food cafe in this remote community for a bit of fun. Saguenay looks awesome – we love Quebec and have looked into taking up a flying job there on our next adventure. Maybe!

    • Of course – that is where I first found the link to the recipe, on your blog! I wish we could get non-alkalised cocoa. What brand sells it? There is only Fry’s at Extra Foods up here, oh and Camino Fair Trade which is also Dutch. I wonder if the cocoa is just for depth of flavour? They were quite beet-y to be honest – which I loved!

      • I couldn’t find non-Dutched cocoa powder in any grocery store – at least, none were labelled as such – so I ended up using raw cocoa from a bulk health food store. Fry’s and Camino are pretty much the only two brands available here too. I think red velvet cake is supposed to be a buttermilk cake with a chocolate hint, so the cocoa powder is just for that slight chocolate taste. My cake was only a little bit beet-y – it tasted more like buttermilk with a bit of chocolate.

  2. Loved hearing your interview on ABC radio; hilarious that you put rain sounds on your ipod to cool down in the heat! I’m not sure how you could ever think your life is boring… from our perspective (living in the city in Melbourne) your adventure / extreme lifestyle is akin to Bear Grylls. Well done to you and Jesse!

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