Naturally Colored Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

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Natural Red Velvet Cake Without Food Coloring

Looking for a way to woo your Valentine? Nothing says L-O-V-E like Red Velvet! (Well, at least in my house.)

One of Matt’s favorite desserts has always been Red Velvet cake. Red Velvet just looks so beautiful, and it’s the kind of cake in which I just leave a fork in the pan so I can sneak a bite every time I’m in the kitchen. (Yes, I do this.) But since discovering the benefits of eating real foods and eliminating toxins from our systems, I was less than thrilled to make it for him.

I knew there had to be alternatives to the fake red food coloring in the cake and the massive amounts of refined powdered sugar that went into the cream cheese frosting. Desserts are my passion, so I was determined to make this cake worthy of our real food lifestyle. After a few failed batches of cake and frosting, I can now make Matt his favorite dessert without feeling like I’m poisoning him.

The answer was natural red food coloring and unrefined sugars for the cake part, then a natural sweetener like maple syrup for the delicious cream cheese frosting. I opted for cupcakes instead of one big giant cake because they’re easier to share, no cutting is involved, and they’re just plain cute. This is a perfect red dessert for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or any other occasion.

Natural Red Velvet Cake Without Food Coloring 1

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Naturally Sweetened Cream Cheese Frosting

(Makes 10-12 cupcakes)


Naturally Sweetened Cream Cheese Frosting


  1. Line a muffin tin with 10-12 cupcake liners.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended.
  3. Combine sugar, butter/coconut oil, and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add buttermilk, vanilla, lemon juice, and natural food coloring. Whisk lightly until combined.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just until mixture comes together. Avoid over-mixing.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake 15 minutes at 350°. Test with a toothpick. If toothpick does not come out clean, turn pans and bake another 3-5 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool cupcakes completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to frost and serve.
  7. For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter (set out to soften) in a large bowl until smooth. Add vanilla and maple syrup and beat until combined. Sift 1-2 tablespoons of arrowroot or tapioca flour over the mixture at a time, beating until smooth. Continue adding thickener in this manner until desired consistency is reached. (I also refrigerate it to stiffen it up before frosting.)
  8. Frost cupcakes just before serving.

Enjoy these delicious, naturally colored and sweetened treats!


About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebookand Twitter.

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  1. Sarah says

    I absolutely LOVE India Tree dyes and sprinkles. Such beautiful colors! I found some naturally dyed sprinkles at Williams Sonoma as well.

  2. Brycee says

    For the first time I am not very impressed with this post. The best way to “naturally” color red velvet cupcakes is red beet juice. Those ‘natural’ food coloring that you buy in the health food stores can be extremely expensive and who wants to break an arm and a leg in their wallet for that? You can make green coloring with spinach and kale and make blue with red cabbage and vinegar. Its inexpensive easy to make and the most natural of all with the added health benefits of the juices.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks for your comment Brycee! The natural coloring I link to in the article is made from beet juice. I used this to make mine because I already had it on hand and it was faster than making it from scratch. But you’re right – the best DIY method (if you have the time) would be making your own natural coloring. I’ll add this option to the article. Thanks again!

      • Jake says

        It’s also possible to skip the food coloring and just add grated whole beets to the cake part. (It might be healthier, too.) We pretty much followed this recipe , but the cake was dark brown instead of red. So, somewhere between the 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder in this recipe and the 2/3 cup of cocoa powder in Joy’s recipe there must be a change in color.

        It’s always amazing to me that such a large proportion of vegetables can be added to a dessert, and the vegetable flavor just completely disappears!

  3. Kim Look says

    My daughter and I just made cupcakes with frosting and colored them with berry juice deduced from an organic frozen berry blend. The color was beautiful and the taste was amazing. Add a little lemon juice for some fun flavor.

  4. Bethany says

    Thank you for this recipe! It’s just the inspiration I needed for a ¨healthy¨ cup cake to make in my cooking class for the little children at the local rescue mission. I’m going to add beet powder for the red coloring…..can’t wait to try it!

  5. E.Blake says

    I use mixed almond coconut milk in all my recipes, and if it needs to be butter or sour milk I add a tablespoon of lemon juice.
    be careful buying alternative milks that add B-12 most contain cyanide in the form of “cyanocobalamin” always look for the safe form “methylcobalamin”.

  6. cynthia says

    Can I just leave the red coloring out without affecting the quality of the finished cake? Thank you! ♥

  7. Rodney says

    if you really would like a nice red velvety cup(Cake), use beetroot juice or liquidised raw or cookrd and cold.
    The may require a bit more or less than what you are now using. The puree would work as well, experiment untill you get your balance correct.

  8. Amy Sasser says

    Red velvet is also my husband’s favorite. Guess I need to search out some natural food coloring today so I can make some for him. 🙂

    Several of the reviews for this said the colors weren’t right or that they had to use a ton of it for true colors. What is your experience with it??

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I used the amount in the recipe and they turned out red. However, I did notice that the few cupcakes we had left after a week started to fade back to a chocolate color. No problem if you eat them up within a few days. 😉

  9. Marlies says

    I happen to love Red Velvet cake and was wondering if it was possible to substitute beet juice instead of food coloring?