You may recall in some of my previous posts, I have mentioned we have a Betta fish named Charlie. Up until we got Charlie, we were a no pet family. It's not because we don't like animals. It's more of a time and commitment issue. So when my younger son (who is not so young anymore) brought Charlie home after he won him at a school function, I was not happy. I knew a little bit about what was involved in taking care of an aquarium, and you know what...it is hard! Fish are fragile creatures who need everything just right. I knew I would get stuck with the brunt of the work so I immediately told my son his fish was going to die.
If you know the story already, then you know my attitude took a drastic turn. Within one week of Charlie joining our family, I adored this little guy. We all did! He is one in a million and I promise you this, you have never met a fish like Charlie. My first step was I knew I needed to get him out of his little half-gallon glass fish bowl and into a more suitable environment. So I hurried down to the local aquarium store and told the store manager I needed everything possible to keep this little dude alive. He laughed and said, "You know what we call fish like this?" I said, "What?" He said, "We call them million dollar goldfish." (Only mine was a Betta) He said, "I have parents like you come in all the time and try to keep their children's freebie fish alive and they spend a lot of money trying to do so." Well if that is the case, Charlie hit the jackpot when he joined our family because he has been spoiled and loved like no other!
Charlie entertains us thoroughly. He always seems to put on a show of some kind whenever we walk into the room. He literally acts like a dolphin as he spins around and shows off for us in many ways. Something those of you who have pets can relate to is, one day, you start to notice they slow down a bit. Perhaps your puppy or kitten isn't quite as playful or energetic. It's sad when the reality of their age starts to manifest in their behavior. Well, believe it or not, Betta fish have the same issue. Recently, we noticed Charlie was acting a bit lethargic which was totally unlike him. Of course this concerned us as it was so out of character. Betta fish are also susceptible to various illnesses so that was a concern. But after showing video and pictures of Charlie to our local aquarium store, trying some medication, and doing Epson salt baths (yes, fish get those too), they assured us that Charlie was completely healthy, just slowing down a bit probably due to age. They informed us that one year for a Betta is equivalent to 30 human years. I was shocked by that statistic. And since we really don't know how old Charlie was when we got him, we truly don't know his age. Of course it made us feel better knowing Charlie wasn't sick. But also sadness came upon us because we don't know how much time he has left with us. He could be 60, 90, or 120 years old! We just don't know. So I recalled what my son told me just one year ago when I told him his fish would die. My son said to me, "Mom, let's just celebrate his life." So my friends, that is exactly what we are doing. We are celebrating Charlie and his first birthday!
To celebrate our Charlie, I decided to make red velvet cupcakes. I thought this was the perfect treat for our party because red velvet just so happens to be my younger son's favorite cake. Also, the cupcakes are red like Charlie :) Over the past few years, I have tried to make a good red velvet recipe but have had some trouble. Trying to avoid using dyes, I wanted to use beets to achieve a bold, red color. The red always turned brownish during the baking process. The taste was great though, but clearly brown would not work for a red velvet recipe. So after some research, I learned that the beets are oxidizing during the baking process due to the baking soda and a pigment found in beets known as betanin. The solution, to bump up the acid in the recipe to counteract the baking soda as well as making sure you roast your beets with the skin on. That is why I am using cream of tartar and apple cider vinegar in this recipe. So whatever you do, do not omit those.
I'm happy to report I finally had success with my red velvet cake quest. When my son first tried these cupcakes, he had no clue I had used beets in the mix. He said they tasted just like red velvet and the could taste a bit of chocolate. Speaking of chocolate, I normally use raw cacao powder. But for this recipe, I am using a natural cocoa powder. The reason for this is the raw cacao had a more intense, bittersweet taste which can be overpowering. Since red velvet only needs a hint of chocolate, the cocoa powder is a better fit. My husband, on the other hand, knew I had included beets in the recipe. He said he only slightly detected a beet flavor, but of course he was looking for it. He is not a fan of beets but still thought they were delicious! So if you are concerned about a beet flavor, I honestly think you have nothing to worry about here.
I love that we can enjoy red velvet cupcakes and other variations of red velvet without using a dye. It's a natural and healthy way to get a vibrant red color and some nutrients while you are at it! The texture is phenomenal and frosted with some sweet cashew cream completes the traditional cream cheese frosting topper. Of course you can use the frosting of your choice or no frosting at all. They are that good!
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup arrowroot flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 Tbs natural cocoa powder (I use this brand)
1/2 palm shortening, softened but not melted
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup beet purée
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Frost with Sweet Cashew Cream or frosting of choice
1. Wash beets thoroughly and leave their skin on. Line a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the beets on it. Cover the dish or baking sheet with foil and bake at 400°F for about 1 hour. Baking time greatly depends on the size of your beets.
2. When the beets are soft (but not mushy), remove from oven and allow to cool until you can comfortably handle them. Peel off their skin (it should come off easily) and place the cooked beets in your food processor. Process the beets until they reach a consistent and somewhat smooth texture. It should resemble applesauce in appearance. If you want to roast the beets in advance, throw in a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to prevent possible oxidation. It shouldn't be an issue, but I like to cover my bases.
3. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and palm shortening until creamy and smooth. Add in the coconut milk, beet purée, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Mix until combined.
4. Add the wet and dry ingredients together and stir until combined. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place liners in a muffin pan and pour the batter in at least 3/4 full. If you want larger cupcakes, fill them almost to the top of the liners. Bake the cupcakes for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool. Frost with sweet cashew cream when ready to eat. Makes 10-12 cupcakes depending on how large you want them. Store in refrigerator.