Chocolate Birthday Cake with Beet Powder Frosting

I’m always surprised how hard it is to find food coloring that doesn’t have strange dyes in them that t I’ve never heard before in my life. You know, like “erythrosine dye” for pink or 5,5′-indigodisulfonic acid sodium salt, also known as indigotine or D&C Blue #2 used for that pretty blue color on wedding cakes. Or how about, erythrosine for candied fruit cherries (that’s right, even candied fruits have artificial dye in them!). When I started becoming interested in skin products and did not want to use anything artificial in the lip products, then, it occurred to me, that the same ingredients I used for natural colors in lip stains, could probably be used in frosting.  This recipe is my first attempt: Rose Butter Cream Frosting, colored with beet powder. Since beet powder contains high levels iron, potassium, magnesium…you don’t have to feel so guilty about eating this delicious frosting!

I also thought it was time to include a basic chocolate cake recipe. During the summertime kids birthday celebrations tend to be a bit more mellow then during the school year, but what a great way to make them feel special by baking them a cake from scratch. This recipe comes from one of my new favorite books Vintage Cakes. You can check it out under my links in Good Reads.


  • Three 8 by 2-inch round cake pans, greased and bottoms lined with greased parchment paper circles


  • I didn’t have 3 of these cake pans handy, so I decided to use two 9-inch pans and cooked them a little longer. Also, I don’t do the parchment thing (sometimes I do) – but here I just used my favorite spray and it turned out great.

Special considerations (something you may not have thought about for a cake):

  • Sour cream
  • 3 Eggs and 3 egg yolks – remember, it’s easiest to seperate eggs when they are at room temperature

Oven: 350-degrees

Ingredients: Cake

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) lightly packed premium unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup (6 3/4 ounces) full-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature

Ingredients: Frosting

  • 10-tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-cup confectioners sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1/2-teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-tablespoons dry beet powder

Directions: Cake

  • Place the 4- ounces chopped chocolate and 1/4-cup cocoa in a bowl and pour the 3/4-cup boiling water over the top. Allow it to just sit for a minute or so, and then whisk it together to make sure the chocolate is melted and all is combined.


  • Then whisk in both the 3/4-cup sour cream and the 1-tablespoon vanilla and set the bowl aside.

I use farm fresh sour cream, so it doesn’t look as “white”


I use hand-held egg beaters to whisk, and I love them!


Make certain sour cream is well mixed into the chocolate mixture and set aside. 

  • Next, we’ll prepare the dry ingredients. Sift together the 2-cups flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1-teaspoon fine sea salt.  I do this onto a parchment paper and then place into a bowel and whisk again (I use a regular whisk).  This will make sure they are all combined. Then, set this bowl aside.

I love sifting onto parchment paper fist, since you can then easily pour it into the mixing bowel

  • Using the paddle attachment onto your mixer. With the mixer on medium high speed, cream 1/2-cup unsalted butter, 1-cup light brown sugar, and 3/4-cup granulated sugar until they are light in texture, about 3-4 minutes. Be sure to stop the mixer from time to time to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Remember to use the paddle attachement


Scrape down the bowl as you go, this will prevent butter from accumulating on the bottom

  • Turn your mixer down to a low speed and add the 1/2 cup canola oil. Then increase the speed to medium high and beat again until the mixture is fluffy; about another 3 minutes.

See how light and fluffy this is – it is the oil and mixing it for about 3-minutes

  • Blend in the 3-eggs and the 3-egg yolks one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next.

Don’t forget, this recipe calls for 3 eggs AND 3 egg yolks, and YES, you do have to add them one at a time.

  • Okay, we are in the final stretch here. It is now time to add all of these ingredients together.  We are going to  add the flour in 3 additions and the chocolate in 2, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix on low, so there is no risk of making your cake to “tough” (that’s right, that is what over mixing does) and don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Now divide the batter evenly between the 3 pans. I only had 2-pans. I don’t measure the batter, but one way to make sure the batter is even is to measure for each pan.  Tap each pan on the counter a couple of times to be sure there are no air bubbles trapped before you bake them.

I “eyeball” it to make sure the batter is poured evenly – remember to “tap” to get the air bubbles out

  • Bake them for about 22-24 minutes (for 2 pans a little longer), or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool the cakes IN IN THE PAN on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.
  • Flip the cakes out of the pan but leave the wire rack until you are ready to frost.

Look at these beauties! Remember, the best way to tell if a cake is done is if the center “springs” back when you touch it

  • Ingredients: Frosting
    • 10-tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    • 1-cup confectioners sugar
    • Pinch of Salt
    • 1/2-teaspoon vanilla
    • 2-tablespoons dry beet powder

For the frosting, change to your whisk attachment…whisk  the butter, salt and vanilla and then slowly add the powdered sugar.  Now, I like to turn it on high and mix for about 5-minutes. This will give you a nice fluffy mixture. Then, add the beet powder and mix on high for another minutes


I used 2-tablespoons of beet powder (you can find it at your local health food store). You can add more or less for the color you desire!

Frosting the cake:

First, once the cakes have cooled, do a “crumb coat” layer. This is a light layer of frosting and holds in all of the crumbs. Then place in the refrigerator for about 30-minutes.


Do a Crumb Coat! Right from Wilton Bakers: “A Crumb Coating is a very thin layer of icing that will “glue” any crumbs down. The key is thinning your buttercream icing to a consistency that will not tear your cake as you spread it on”


Start with middle, and then nice even layer



Look how nice the layered frosting is in the cake


The color of the frosting can be made lighter or darker by adding more beet powder – and no artificial coloring!

Original Cake Recipe: Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today’s Sweet Tooth Hardcover – July 31, 2012


  1. Proper cake! 🙂 Sick of going on blogs that advocate using ‘packet cake mix’ to me that isn’t a recipe! I’ve become allergic to certain food dyes so am interested in alternatives for things like buttercream. The beet powder seems to work really well and looks really pretty with this cake.

    I like your blog, pies are my thing too 🙂


    1. Thank you, so glad you you enjoyed it! We loved this cake!


  2. Becky, Cuddle Fairy

    What a stunning cake! Your instructions and photos are so clear and easy to follow! Thanks so much for linking up with #foodpornthursdays x


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