{Gluten-Free} Natural Red Velvet Cake

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As inferred last week two weeks ago, there have been some exciting things afoot recently. In no particular order, I went to New York City, my husband is back for good, and I made a red velvet cake with no dye. It’s been a good end to the summer. (Now if the thermometer would just cooperate!)

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 First, New York. I love New York for the same reason people love the ocean: the bigness of it, the release of being insignificant in the face of such vastness, yet also somehow feeling as if it were tailor-made just for you.

You might also say that my life boils down to an unrequited love for New York City. I soaked in the city from the west coast via the New York Times as a teenager, imagining myself dining at michelin-starred restaurants with Ruth Reichl and sneaking out via my fire escape like Holly Golightly to gallivant around the city that, like me, never slept. Despite being admitted to NYU, my parents opposed my going out of state for college, so I mothballed my dreams of the Big Apple and settled for a decent liberal arts college closer to home. It was a miserable four years, but, “You would’ve been lonely here, too,” observed J on a subway platform last weekend. He’s probably right.

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 Still, I snuck in a few trips to the city in college, more confident and more deeply smitten each time. Apparently I haven’t exactly kept this to myself, so when J was planning his trip home, he knew exactly where I should meet him for the drive back to Georgia. The afternoon he finished his final project at his internship, he tossed his bags in the car and headed east from Detroit, intent on picking me up by 2:00p the next day.

 On the plane I was nervous. What if he hated it? I love New York so desperately; what if my husband does not? Our relationship probably would’ve survived it, but thankfully my fears were unfounded. J rolled up to baggage claim at JFK with a huge grin on his face, and not just because he was happy to see me. “People drive like maniacs here!” he exclaimed gleefully. “Right, I forgot to tell you,” I said, flinging my backpack in the car, “Your horn is pretty much the most important part of your car.”

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 We snaked through traffic to our AirBnB accommodations in Williamsburg, dropped our bags in a shabby yet well-located sublet and beelined to Smorgasburg. Grilled Mexican corn and bulgogi tacos? Yes and yes. Walking, handholding, marveling at street art and tiny shops and so many dogs. Dinner on the back patio of a mediterranean-inspired restaurant: I ate half a chicken and I am not sorry. When something tastes exactly as it should, you enjoy it properly and then order dessert, too. Later, over cocktails in a candelit bar with the windows flung open, we were at our very best. Eight years since we met and he can still make the streets sparkle and the stars come out just for me.

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 Our remaining full day in New York was walking and eating, eating and walking, on a path that permitted some serious sightseeing, too. As it was J’s first trip, I was determined to march him past all of the landmarks so he can say he’s been. We hit Chelsea Market, the High Line, MoMA, Central Park, Times Square, the New York Public Library, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, Babycakes, and Chinatown before escaping a late-afternoon rainstorm in a bar on the Lower East Side. After some discussion, we decided to take a pass on the former World Trade Center and Lady Liberty, and opted for a leisurely dinner of (gluten-free!) pizza and sangiovese before strolling the two-and-a-half miles back to our pad. The next morning permitted a quick breakfast at a magical little place before bidding the city goodbye. So long, New York.

 After a brief stopover in D.C. to stagger around in the heat while taking in the sights, we eased into the sauna embrace of the South. Hello, cicadas. Hello, y’all, fried chicken, and dilapidated grandeur.

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 We’ve been home for a week, and everyone keeps asking, “So how is it having a husband again?” It’s swell, thanks. Taking time off has made us more self-sufficient but more satisfied with each other’s company. As much as we hated to leave New York, it inspired us, and we’re ready to survive and thrive during our third year in Savannah.

In celebration, I made a cake. A New York Times recipe for Beet Red Velvet Cake has been sifting through the piles on our dining room table for some months, and it seemed like the right time to give it a try. The cake isn’t the bright chemical red you may be used to, nor is it sickly sweet under a thick coating of cream cheese frosting. Roasted beets lend a deep ruby undertone to the mild chocolate cake, and a drizzle of vanilla yogurt icing provides the customary tang. It may not be traditional, but it felt right: a perfect complement to new beginnings.

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{Gluten-Free} Natural Red Velvet Cake
Serves 10
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Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
3 hr
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
3 hr
For the cake
  1. 1 fist-sized beet (150g)
  2. 160g (1 c.) plain Greek yogurt
  3. 2 tsp. vinegar
  4. juice of 1 large lemon (1/4 c.)
  5. 90g (6 Tbsp.) butter
  6. 300g (1 1/2 c.) granulated sugar
  7. 70g (1/3 c.) vegetable oil
  8. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  9. 3 eggs
  10. 30g (1/3 c.) Dutch process cocoa powder
  11. 200g (~1 1/2 c.) gluten-free flour*
  12. 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
  13. 1 tsp. baking powder
  14. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  15. 1/2 tsp. salt
For the icing
  1. 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
  2. 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  3. 1 tsp. vanilla
For the cake
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Pierce beet a few times with a knife, wrap in foil, and roast until easily pierced through, about an hour. Remove and allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, oil a Bundt pan and dust with a mixture of tapioca starch and cocoa powder. Set aside and lower oven temperature to 350F.
  3. Peel cooled beet, chop into 1/2" cubes, and pulse in the food processor until finely chopped. Add yogurt, vinegar, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. Sift cocoa, flour mix, salt, xanthan gum, and leavenings together and set aside as well.
  4. Beat butter with whisk attachment until light, 2-3 minutes. Cream in sugar, and then add oil, eggs, and vanilla, pausing to scrape down the sides frequently. Add beet mixture and flour mixture in two additions, beating well between each addition.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 55 minutes, or until cake tests done. Remove and allow to cool 30 minutes, or until cake is just a little warm. Loosen with a knife or small spatula and carefully upend it on a serving plate.
For the icing
  1. Whisk together yogurt, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Dollop over cooled cake or serve alongside.
*My flour mix was
  1. 80g tapioca starch
  2. 85g brown rice flour
  3. 35g sorghum flour
Adapted from from Pamela Moxley, via the New York Times
Wooden Spoon Baking http://www.woodenspoonbaking.com/