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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Experiment with Roselle

I have always wished to make a Red Velvet Cake, but very very hesitant due to the amount of red colouring used.

So, I experimented with Roselle, a natural source of red pigment.
I boiled 20 pieces of roselle's calyces with water, reduced the infusion and got this, a super concentrated reddish paste.

The pot was still left with lots of pigments and so I rinsed the pot with
1. Evaporated milk (left)
2. Yogurt. (right)
This is to melt the dried pigments on the walls of the pot, it's still a lot of colour, so don't waste it.

No, I didn't rinse the same pot twice. But I did it twice, cos the first cake became a dark grey cake. I was laughing at the cake when I saw it out from the oven.

If you noticed, the left pic that has the excess pigment melted in evaporated milk, more bluish than the one on the right, which was yogurt. Anthocyanin, the pigment present in Roselle, reacts and changes colour according to Ph. If it is exposed to alkaline conditions, it turns blue, and in acid, red. Just like the Ph indicator back in your chemistry classes. Milk is a weak acid (pH 6.4-6.8) and yogurt is more acidic(pH 4-5). Same goes for blueberries, if you add lemon juice to your blueberry ice cream, be sure to get magenta coloured ice cream, the more lemon juice you add, the "reddish" it becomes but if no lemon juice is used, it stays blue blue blue. Same goes for red cabbage.

Ok, stop talking about anthocyanins. But look at my results, adapted from Tartelette's 1st cake

First cake,

The surface looked dark grey and the cake is brownish grey. But taste wise, fabulous!! My brother in law finished up the cake and inititated to learn from me. I laughed at it, cos it was a failed experiment.
I thought, maybe the batter wasn't acidic enough for it to stay red, because initially I thought the roselles are pretty sour, so with the acid in it, should be enough to react with the baking soda used, so I didn't bother to use buttermilk/yogurt. The batter actually turned blue before the cocoa powder was added in, which was why I knew it's not acidic enough. Not even the vinegar could help me. I was hoping for a bluish cake, but hahaha, a grey cake came out.

The 2nd cake,
I used yogurt this time for the batter to be acidic, and the result was disastrous. It looked redder than the 1st cake, but roselle is just not strong enough to overcome the cocoa powder. It was very magenta-ish before the cocoa powder was added in, but once the brown powder went it...... it no longer stayed pretty.
And taste wise, it was really horrible. It sticks.. not to the finger, but the palate. Found it hard to swallow. I guess with roselle concentrate, yogurt and vinegar, it became too acidic and maybe that's why it is so dry and crumbly and sticky in the mouth. Threw the whole cake away, it was inedible.

I guess my quest for a roselle coloured Red Velvet Cake shall end here. The natural pigment is just no contender with the little bit of cocoa powder. It just can't overcome it. I've tried baking with Roselles before and the colour came out nice and pretty, but it just don't work together with cocoa powder. I might just come up with a magenta coloured cake... but not Red Velvet Cake.

BTW, please don't suggest beetroot to me. I'm keeping red velvet cake away from me forever.


  1. What an experiment!! The chemistry of food is so amazing...for example lemon/lemon juice is acidic in its natural form, however, when we eat/drink it, it becomes alkaline food. I also read that lemon juice is called for in a recipe when blueberries are used, this way, the blueberries will not cause the crumbs (surrounding the berries) to turn 'bluish green' upon baking. I learn a new thing everyday, thanks for sharing this wonderful post :)

  2. Wendy, great experience and sharing with us, learn a lot from your here.

  3. Happy Homebaking,
    Oh yes, the lemon juice will make the pigments in the blueberries to be acidic and stay purplish, rather than bluish green.

    I'm glad you found this interesting :)

  4. Not a chemistry student. I find it interesting and useful. Glad you shared.

  5. Wendy, what a great experiment! haha... But the roselle extract looks pretty concentrate and yet still unable over take the cocoa huh! Never mind can still make other things out of that. Right? Have a great weekend, dear.
    Cheers, kristy

  6. Busygran
    Hope this information will b useful for you when you cook red cabbages and blueberries.

    I used up all the extracts for each cake, meaning, that Tablespoon was all I got from the extraction, plus the "rinsed" pigments. Nothing was left behind.

  7. Have you try with beet juice yet? I know if I cut beets it will stain my fingers and cutting board and it gives a nice magenta color.

  8. Yea, we also covered the red velvet cake topic when we met up. The red food coloring is the only thing that keeps me away from the cake! But am still reluctant to make the red demons ... =_=""

    Wendy, thank you for the CHEM101 lesson! I learned something more about acidity vs. alkalinity today! I'm not a science student to begin with. Haha!

  9. PeiLin,
    Haha, you might not have been in the science stream, but I don't think you know less.
    You are very well read and I'm very impressed with the way you dig information :)

    Enough liao lor.... hehehe.
    Cannot eat or throw away so many experiments.
    I've read in the internet that beet juice don't work, which is why I wanted to try out roselle.

  10. Odd colour but really, all you need to do is stop calling it red velvet cake and nobody will know!

  11. Shirley,
    Haha!!! Thank you for being so frank about my colour. Very odd, isn't it?
    Anyway, it's ok to let you all know this is supposed to be a red velvet cake, I flop at times too. I'm human.

  12. more red velvet cake??

    I've never heard of Roselle before- but it looks really interesting! The paste looks so dark and concentrated!

    You know so much about food science!! It's really interesting =] Makes me sorta wanna do food science next year at uni =P btw, I thought milk was acidic??

  13. Von,
    Roselle is known as rosella in Australia.
    I thought rosella jam or cordial is pretty popular there?

    And thankyou so much for pointing out my mistake.
    I'll rectify that immediately. Haha, maybe I was thinking about drinking milk for gastric attacks.

  14. I heard a lot of this red velvet cake too, same like you, put off because of the red colour usage. I saw from one book, they made red velvet from a mixture of chocolate & green tea, I have not tried it myself. Thanks for sharing your interesting experiment!

  15. DG,
    Wow, choc and green tea??? If you ever try it, please please post it up.

  16. Great experiment! I made this once with red colouring but I won't make it again as it uses so much red colouring!

  17. how bout trying with beetroots??

  18. Pigpigscorner,
    Scary hoh, the amount of red colouring. 1 bottle!!! Yaiks!

  19. ♥ Olá, amiga!
    Passei para uma visitinha... amei!
    Está tudo muito lindo, criativo e saboroso.
    Boa semana!
    Tudo de bom!!!♥

  20. HAha ok no beetroots for u.. i try ok..

  21. Swee San,
    Initially, I held the comment when I msned you.
    Haha, but you gave a 2nd part to it, so I had to publish the earlier part for your 2nd comment to make sense.

  22. Wendy, you're omnipresent! Thank you regarding the mochi bread and Sun Moulin! I think I can visit the one at KLCC since it's close to my workplace. Better do it before the office relocates. LOL! I know the Isetan there is big. Mid-Valley got Isetan meh? Only Carrefour, Jusco and Metrojaya, if not wrong. Sorry lar, I hardly go to Damansara/Bangsar area lar ... The Curve is too far for me ...

    Take care, have a great week ahead!

  23. Pei-Lin,
    Hahaha, Just that we visit similiar blogs :)

    Oh, about Isetan at Midvalley, there is, at the Gardens, not Megamall. Gardens is still considered Midvalley. kekekeke.

  24. What a unique experiment!! I love it!! Even though they don't look exactly like a red velvet cake, they look pretty darn good!! YUM!!
    Would you mind checking out my blog? :D

  25. Hi, Wendy, I was about to suggest beetroot and stop there when u said no more trying, haha,
    but i did remember Catherine Lau(the author of "Cheesecake Seduction" did a red velvet cake using beetroot juice if i'm not mistake, which was publish in the Flavour magazine,so it should be workable.

  26. great information. Thanks for trying different techniques and sharing.

    Plan B

  27. Sem,
    I don't subscribe to Flavours, but may I know which month and year was it, cos my sis in law subscribes to it. I can check with her.

    Thanks for dropping by to promote your blog. Nice blog you have.

  28. wow!!! I have never seen these roselle plants before, and what a great idea for natural colouring. I remember my grandmother using the hibiscus plant for dyes.. not sure if it is edible.

  29. Chef Bee,

    I'm not sure which type of hibiscus you are refering to, but this type, roselle, scientific name Hibiscus sabdariffa is edible and very rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants.

  30. wow, Wendy! I learn so much from your blog. You are such a dedicated blogger, I appreciate all your efforts. =)

  31. hi, Wendy, I think it's either Jan-Feb 2009 issue or Mac-Apr 2009 issue, will check it out for you when I'm home tonite.

  32. Wow Wendy,

    I really salute you in those experimenting work ;)

  33. KK,
    Thank you. The best way to thank me is to read it daily, hahaha!!!

    Thanks alot.

    Haha, curious ma, so I experimented.

  34. Wendy,
    Ya, it is in the Jan-Feb 2009 issue, pls let us know if you have try it.


  35. I realize this is an old post, but for anyone who is still interested: If you used dutch processed cocoa (the darker variety of cocoa), it may be worth your time to try this again using regular cocoa (which is lighter in colour). The dutch processed cocoa is alkaline (which would cause your roselle to turn brown, same with beets). The regular cocoa is acidic and should result in a better red colour.

  36. I added some roselle jam im my cake with orange juice and jest,my cake turned light green


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