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  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C) and line muffin tins with large paper liners.
  2. Beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar together on high speed for 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, stir the buttermilk, grated beets and vinegar together. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture, blending well after each addition. Spoon the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the top of the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed. Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the tins, then take then out to cool completely on a cooling rack.
  3. For the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat gently until the sugar is incorporated, then beat more vigorously until the icing is fluffy. Pipe or spread the frosting on each cupcake.

The cupcakes should be stored chilled, but served at room temperature. They will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

**For a more intensely red colour, you can replace the grated beets with 2 tsp (10 mL) of red food colouring, and then add another ¼ cup (60 mL) of buttermilk to the recipe.


Using raw beets is a natural way to add a gentle pink tone to the cupcakes, but don’t expect a vivid red colour. For that familiar brilliant red colour you see in photos and from commercial bakeries, you have to use the food colouring – I look forward to hearing your decision (I preferred using the beets).

The colour of your cocoa powder can impact the colour of your cupcakes. On my first test, I used a rich, dark brown cocoa powder and it overpowered the beet colour. I used a lighter variety later (Fry’s) and found the pink tone a bit better.

It is best to use regular cocoa powder, not Dutch process. Dutch process cocoa is a milder tasting cocoa and it has had an alkalizing agent added to it (to neutralize acidity). I find using the regular, or natural, cocoa is better since there is such a small measure. I want as much cocoa taste as I can get by this measure!

You can easily double this recipe to get 30 cupcakes (I put that to the test, too!). To help you along, remember that 2 tbsp = 1 ounce (by volume), so 6 tbsp doubled becomes ¾ cup!