This is a no dye red frosting using beet powder with a red velvet flavor of vanilla, cocoa and tangy buttermilk. There is no beet flavor in the finished frosting because I extract a beet juice containing the color pigment and very little flavor and this is then boiled to make a sweet and tangy syrup. If you don't prefer the red velvet flavor, I'll give you the option to make a vanilla red frosting in the recipe card below.
As for the color, it's definitely a magenta or raspberry red instead of a pure red, and that's because of the color pigment in beets.
Heads up, this is probably one of the most challenging frosting recipes I have on my site.
It is based on the Sugarologie method for frostings, which is similar to the black no dye frosting. This is just a tad more finicky, but as always, I will explain as much as possible.
It requires an instant-read thermometer, scale, stand mixer, and immersion blender for a deeper red. Because of this, I am also posting smaller quantities that you can try and I suggest trying the 1 frosting recipes first below to get the method down before trying the larger quantities. Those are a little harder to get right, and I wouldn't want you wasting ingredients.
Unsalted butter that is cut into ½ tablespoon chunks and frozen for at least 30 minutes prior to using is required for stability and thickening of the buttercream. Butter contains emulsifiers, which are components that hold oil and water together in a stable way. I always use unsalted because salted butter may end up making the finished frosting too salty.
Beetroot powder is dehydrated and ground up beets. The color pigment within beets is called betacyanins or betanins, and gives vegetables a purple-ish red hue. I use beet powder because it’s a precise way to get a concentrated amount of the pigment. If you try to use fresh beet juice, you’ll probably still get this recipe to work, but the final frosting will likely not be as vibrant.
Different brands of beet powder (and even different lots within the same brand) have slightly different colors and granule sizes. This is probably due to specific brand manufacturing. It should not matter which brand you choose with my method. Here are three different brands of beet powder I've tested. You can see the difference just from the powder alone:
Boiling hot water hydrates the beetroot powder and dissolves the water soluble betacyanins and sugars contained within the beet solids. It also dissolves the sugar, cocoa powder, and buttermilk during the syrup stage of this process.
Buttermilk powder is the dried component of cultured buttermilk. This helps add a bit of body to the finished buttercream and a slightly tangy flavor, which is common in red velvet cakes. If you don’t have access to or prefer not to use buttermilk, you can use dried milk powder in its place.
Cocoa powder helps with the red velvet flavor, as there is always a hint of cocoa in a good red velvet cake recipe. In this frosting, you’ll need to use either natural or Dutch-processed cocoa to keep the acidity up, which helps the beet powder stay vibrant and red. If you prefer, you can leave this ingredient out.
White granulated sugar contributes to the sweet flavor (along with the natural sugars in the beetroot powder) and is the base of the syrup, which we emulsify into the butter.
Cream of tartar is a fine white powder that is acidic and derived from winemaking. You can find it in the spice aisle. I love cream of tartar because it’s a solid form of acidity we can add to recipes, which in this one is to prevent crystallization of the sugars during the cooking and cooling process. If you don’t have cream of tartar, you can substtitue double the amount of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
Vanilla extract and salt enhances the flavors of this buttercream.
FOR 1 CUP OF FROSTING: (Great for testing out this recipe)
FOR 3 CUPS OF FROSTING:
To make a red vanilla flavored frosting, substitute mik powder for buttermilk powder and don’t use any cocoa powder. All the other ingredients should remain the same.
*There are different brands of beet powder and they all have slightly different colors and granule sizes (probably due to specific brand manufacturing.) It doesn’t matter which one you choose since I’ve created this recipe to use the juice rather than the powder. Once you hydrate the powder, the beet powder should swell and turn a deep dark red. I use beet powder because it’s a very precise way for use to get a concentrated amount of the pigment. If you try to use fresh beet juice, you’ll probably still get this recipe to work, but the final frosting will likely not be nearly as vibrant.
**Use milk powder instead of buttermilk powder if you don’t want a slight tanginess (and it is very slight) or if you’re making the plain vanilla red frosting. Any fat content of these milk powders will work.
***Cream of tartar is an acidic ingredient used here to prevent crystallization and also give the frosting a bit of acidity. If you don’t have it, you can substitute with lemon juice, but double the amount listed.