The first several years we were married, Jay and I had a Valentine’s Day tradition of going out to a different burger place each year. It beat fighting the crowds at a nicer restaurant, it fit our seminary budget, and frankly, there’s just not much I love more than a burger! Now that we have kids (and specifically, a three-year-old who LOVES any kind of celebration), it’s fun to start having some more family traditions around the holidays. This year, we’ve been counting down to Valentine’s Day with this free printable from Happy Home Fairy, and I had seen this cute heart-shaped cake on Pinterest and wanted to make one.
We try to avoid eating artificial food dyes, and for the last few cake occasions it hasn’t been a problem because our girl always requests chocolate icing – smart kid. But I wanted a pink cake, so I started poking around for a way to naturally tint the icing. I came across this post on Back to Her Roots and decided to give beets a try for dye-free pink icing!
So: make a cake. You want an 8×8 square pan and an 8″ round pan (not a 9″ pan like me or your heart will be a little wonky, but you can make it work). I made Perfected Yellow Cake from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe because it’s amazing. Buttery, sweet but not too sweet, somehow both light and dense and not at all dry and crumbly like other yellow cake recipes I’ve tried. When Mel first posted her recipe, I was 6 months pregnant with our now-6-month-old and I made a special trip to Target for sour cream. And Jay was all like, what’s the sour cream for? And I was all like, I’m making a cake, because it’s a Thursday and I’m pregnant and I want a cake. And I ate about a fourth of it that night without even bothering with icing. #healthy #restraint
Then you need a couple of beets. I peeled and sliced them (yes, on a paper towel because I didn’t know if it would stain my cutting board!) and covered them with water in a small saucepan and simmered them until most of the water evaporated. The liquid that’s left is a deep, rich purply-red color!
For the icing, I whipped softened butter with powdered sugar, vanilla, and a splash of milk. I used a little over a tablespoon of the beet cooking liquid to get this soft pink color. I promise the icing doesn’t taste anything like beets!
I did a thin coat of icing to keep the crumbs down before I let the professional take over. She’s always a great helper in the kitchen, but spreading out clouds of pink icing was pretty much her jam.
Yum! Happy Valentine’s Day!Print
For the beets:
- 3-4 red beets, peeled and sliced
For the icing:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-3 Tablespoons milk or cream
- 1 Tablespoon liquid from cooking beets (more or less to get your desired shade)
For the beets:
- Place the sliced beets in a small saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated (you should have less than 1/4 cup liquid left). Reserve the liquid to use as dye!
For the icing:
- Whip the butter and about half of the powdered sugar for a couple of minutes. Add the vanilla and two tablespoons of milk. Gradually beat in the rest of the powdered sugar. Add more milk if needed, keeping in mind that the beet liquid will also thin out the icing. Mix in beet liquid to get your desired shade of pink!
Beet dye technique from Back to Her Roots, icing recipe adapted from my mom