Secret Ingredient Red Velvet Cake

Recipe and photo contributed by Stephanie Deihl Yield:  8 servings
Prep Time:  45 minutes Cook Time:  40 minutes

Secret Ingredient Red Velvet Cake

This recipe is adapted from Nigel Slater’s cookbook Tender, and also takes into consideration David Lebovitz’s rendition. The ingredients are too perfect to mess with, but I roasted the beets instead of boiling them, and simplified a few of the steps so the cake comes together fairly quickly. For a topping, Slater and Lebovitz suggest using crème fraîche for a subtle tang. Instead, I spread on a sour cream and brown sugar mixture that my mom used to serve us kids as a dip, alongside fresh seasonal fruit. It’s creamy, slightly sweet, still subtle, but far more appealing to my kiddos than plain crème fraîche. The cake is chocolatey, moist, with a beautiful raspberry red hue reminiscent of red velvet cake. You will need roasted beets for this recipe; to save time, roast a few extra when you are making a beet salad or other beet dish.



8 ounces beets, roasted and peeled (about 1 large or 2 small beets; see Kitchen Tip)

7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, at least 60% cacao content

¼ cup hot, strong brewed coffee

1¾ sticks (14 tablespoons/199 grams/7 ounces) unsalted butter, sliced into ½-inch pieces, at room temperature

1 scant cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) baking powder

3 tablespoons (15 grams) cocoa powder, Dutch process preferred

1 cup (204 grams) granulated sugar


¾ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Chop the roasted, peeled beets coarsely, transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds, until the mixture resembles a coarse purée.
  3. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals at 50 percent power until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately add the hot coffee and sink the butter into the mixture, stirring just until the butter is melted and fully incorporated. Beat the egg yolks gently with a fork, and quickly mix them into the chocolate with a spatula or metal spoon. Fold the puréed beets into the mixture with a spatula. Set aside.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder into a small bowl and set aside.
  5. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, whip the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl for about 5 minutes, until they are just past the soft peak stage (see Kitchen Tip). While mixing, pour the sugar into the bowl in a slow and steady stream (this should take about 20 seconds) and continue to mix at medium speed for about 3 more minutes, until the peaks are stiff (see Kitchen Tip).
  6. Using a spatula, fold the whites into the chocolate mixture until fully combined. Fold in the flour mixture. Pour the mixture into the buttered springform pan and bake on the oven’s center rack for 40 minutes, or until until the cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely in the springform pan. This will take about 2 hours (don’t try to remove from the pan or ice it until it’s completely cooled).
  8. While the cake is in cooling, make the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and brown sugar, stirring with a spoon or whisk until combined.
  9. When the cooled cake is ready, spread the sour cream mixture liberally on top and serve.

Kitchen Tips

  1. To roast beets, preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the beets individually in foil. Place on a sheet pan and roast for 60 to 80 minutes depending on size, checking occasionally after 45 minutes by inserting a fork or metal skewer in the top of the beet, near the stem end. If it meets slight resistance, the beet is done. Transfer to a plate until cool enough to handle and proceed with your recipe.
  2. When separating multiple eggs, crack each one into a small bowl before adding it to the big bowl, that way if the yolk separates and falls into the white, you only ruined one egg, not the entire batch. Also, separating is easier when the eggs are cold, so do this before bringing the eggs up to room temperature.
  3. When beating egg whites an impeccably clean bowl is a must; even a bit of grease can keep them from firming up to form soft or stiff peaks.
  4. Egg whites at the soft peak stage will be glossy and foamy, retain their basic shape but will droop a bit, and won’t entirely cling to the bowl. Egg whites at the stiff peak stage will be glossy and very firm, will retain their shape and cling to the bowl. They will stand straight up from the overturned beater. Yet they will still be creamy and flexible enough to fold in with other ingredients.

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