January 08, 2015

Just the name "red velvet cake" suggests something elegant and rich—dramatic, supermoist layers of tinted chocolate cake coated in a dense, creamy white frosting. 'Tis the season for such decadent pleasures, right? Although it may be the time of year to splurge, it's hard to justify an 880-calorie, 57g-of-fat piece of cake. Ho-ho-holy cow! We had to find a better way to bake this favorite holiday cake and feel better about eating it, too.

Our secret weapon: red beets. Cooking the vibrant-red, naturally sweet vegetables with nonfat buttermilk and vanilla, and then pureeing them into a luscious cream adds an ultramoist, velvety texture to the cake that also allows us to use less oil and butter—a savings of 255 calories and 22g fat. Double bonus: The red beet color eliminates any need for artificial dye. And rather than weigh down the entire cake with a cream cheese and butter icing, we create two frosting elements: Between the layers, we spread a light cream cheese and Greek yogurt filling, sweetened with a touch of sugar and whipped until fluffy with a splash of cream. Then we cover the entire cake with a fluffy, cloudlike meringue—a decadent white icing combo that saves 344 calories and 16g sat fat over cream cheese buttercream. It's the dramatic splurge you'd expect: tender, moist cake with rich, creamy frosting—for only 284 calories per slice. You simply can't "beet" it.

NEW CLASSIC RED VELVET CAKEHands-on: 48 min. Total: 2 hr. 7 min.

Cake:1 (10-ounce) beet, peeled and cut into 8 wedges3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract8 ounces cake flour (about 2 cups)3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1 1/2 cups granulated sugar1/4 cup butter, softened1/4 cup canola oil2 large eggs1 large egg whiteBaking spray with flour

Filling:4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream2 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt1/2 teaspoon vanilla extractDash of salt1/2 cup powdered sugar

Meringue frosting:2/3 cup granulated sugar4 large egg whites1/4 teaspoon cream of tartarDash of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare cake, place beet in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool slightly.

3. Place beet in a food processor; process until very finely chopped. Remove 1 cup beet from processor; reserve remaining beet for another use. Combine 1 cup beet, buttermilk, and 1½ teaspoons vanilla in food processor. Process until very smooth.

4. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

5. Place 1½ cups granulated sugar, butter, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and 1 egg white, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add flour mixture and beet mixture alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Divide batter evenly among 3 (8-inch) round metal cake pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 23 to 24 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in pans on a wire rack. Remove cake from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

6. To prepare filling, place cream cheese, cream, yogurt, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and dash of salt in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat at low speed 1 minute or until well combined (do not overbeat).

7. To prepare meringue, combine 2/3 cup granulated sugar and remaining ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water 2 to 3 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 160°, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Beat egg mixture with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form; beat at high speed until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat).

8. Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spread half of filling over top; top with another cake layer. Spread remaining filling over top; top with remaining cake layer. Spread meringue frosting over top and sides of cake.

SERVES 16 (serving size: 1 slice)CALORIES 284; FAT 9.6g (sat 3.7g, mono 3.9g, poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 5g; CARB 46g; FIBER 1g; CHOL 39mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 199mg; CALC 55mg

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