This really started out as a nefarious plot to use up some of the zucchini in my freezer. I've heard, in polite conversation, about beets being used to make red velvet cake. These conversations were pure conjecture seeing as how not one person in any of these discussions had actually used beets in this manner. I also learned during these chats that not everyone can taste the vile nastiness of red coloring. Although obviously there are enough of us that we sit around chatting about alternative ways to dye foods.
Always ready to take one for the team, I thought I'd give beet coloring a try. Lemon Blueberry Zucchini cake was one of the most popular things I made this summer and I envisioned adding beets to the recipe would result in a lovely bloody hue, with the blueberries nestled in all that red like round little blood clots. That's not quite how things worked out. For those who have always wondered, but never tried, I offer you my experience on using beets in cake.
For those of you interested in making Lemon Blueberry Zucchini cake, I recommend zesting the lemon before juicing. Only make half the frosting, trust me it's plenty and add a half teaspoon of the zest to it. Toss the rest of the zest into the cake batter.
I added a half cup of finely grated raw beet to the batter and it looked quite lovely. Not so much after baking, but still a reddish hue and I do like the way the beets on the surface look like the beginnings of a zombie infection. Oh, but inside it was filled with disappointment. Where did all the lovely color go? Also the cake tasted different. Not bad exactly, not like beets, just different. The kids didn't seem to care. I wrote this off as a failure and didn't even bother to frost it and they still ate it. They are teenagers though, so there's that.
On a positive note, a peeled beet is a vision of beauty.
And I have this baggie in my freezer, which hopefully
will catch someone by surprise one of these days.
In an effort to find out where I went wrong I did actual research on coloring cakes with beets. I read cooking them first helps to set the color, as does adding some acidity. This recipe at wellnessandequality.com has all the right ingredients vinegar, buttermilk, natural cocoa, pureed cooked beets and lemon juice which should all produce as much color as possible. You can see the tops are reddish, but the inside is still disappointing. I don't know if I did something wrong, if it's the recipe or everyone just photoshops their cake pictures and it's all lies.
As far as the recipe goes it produced a moist tasty cupcake with a mild cocoa flavor that married well with the cream cheese frosting. The only thing I would do differently is to either use less batter or larger cupcake liners. I knew when I was filling them it was too much batter and you can see how my cupcake tops flattened out. I found a way to cheat is to use Texas or Jumbo sized cupcake liner. They'll fit in regular pan, and the sides are taller so it doesn't matter if you have a little too much batter.
On to making the Krampus horns, which lets be honest, could transform any cupcake into a Krampus cake. I used the Sculptable Frosting recipe from sewcando.com. It is overwhelmingly sweet, being mostly powdered sugar, but it doesn't taste nasty like fondant.
Of course if you like the taste of fondant you can use that. In fact if you use fondant which is a bit sturdier you can follow my unicorn horn tutorial for a slightly different look. Which is what I did when I made a fondant unicorn.
I used half the sculptable frosting recipe and it was still way more than I needed for a dozen cupcakes. It probably would have been perfect for 24 cupcakes. I started with about a tablespoon and divided that into two cones. I laid them side by side and curled the tips.
Trim the bottoms off so they are even and make little indents on top. I used the dull side of a paring knife. Brush with a dark colored edible dust. I used a mix of copper and black. The dust will stick everywhere it touches the frosting, so use sparingly otherwise it will coat instead of highlight. Let them dry before moving. I think these were stiff in under an hour.
In hindsight substituting some of the powdered sugar with cocoa probably would have made a nice horn shade. Visually there wasn't much of a contrast between the frosting and horns. As I said before I really like the cream cheese frosting with this cupcake, but maybe a different cupcake with chocolate frosting and the white horns would look nice too.