Red Velvet cake is a bit of a phenomenon among baked goods, the popular It-Girl among chocolate cakes and cupcakes, adored for its rich red color and sheer trendiness. The turn-off for those who aren’t as enamoured with red velvet is the food coloring it contains, with many recipes calling for tablespoons or an entire bottle of the stuff. Beet cakes sometimes work, but often that brilliant purply red colour is lost upon baking. Turns out it stays bright when you simmer slices of beet in milk, staining it red and allowing for a naturally colored hot chocolate with a slightly earthy flavor. Most of the granulated sugar on the market is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, so it’s really not that much of a stretch.
I’ve tested this with a handful of under-10-year-olds, and none could detect the presence of beet – they’re too busy being thrilled to have hot chocolate with a marshmallow on top. I doubt a grown-up would notice, either – it really wouldn’t occur to anyone that there might be beets in their hot chocolate, would it?
Red velvet hot chocolate is the perfect fit for a chilly Halloween night – add a cinnamon stick to spice it up, if you like. If you happen to have a roasted beet, it will work much faster – to roast wrap a whole beet in foil and place on the oven rack at 350F-400F for an hour, until tender when poked with the tip of a knife.
Red Velvet Hot Chocolate
1 red beet, peeled and sliced
2 cups milk
2-4 Tbsp. cocoa
2-4 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
In a medium saucepan, bring the beet and milk to a gentle simmer; it should steam on the surface and turn bright pink, but not boil. Meanwhile, stir the cocoa and honey together in a small dish to make a thick paste.
When the milk is hot, scoop out the beet slices with a slotted spoon and discard or set aside for another use. Whisk the cocoa-honey mixture into the milk and serve hot, topped with marshmallows to help show off its red color and smooth texture.