I'd like to make a red colored cake for my red-head daughter's first birthday, and I would like a non-beet alternative way to dye it red. I've made red velvet cake before and the bug-based food coloring I used tasted and smelled awful. Plus I hear it can cause allergic reactions in young children.

I like beets, but I don't want a beet flavored cake so that alternative is out. Are there any other alternatives for a UK based amateur baker?


3 Answers 3


Red Velvet cake originally was a reddish brown from the natural processed cocoa (not Dutched) reacting with the baking soda. You can still make red velvet cake this way, but it will not have the glowing hue that dyes create.

You have to be sure not to use Dutch-processed cocoa powder as this has been pH neutralized and it is the acidity of natural cocoa powder that helps it retain its red color (which is caused by anthocyanins in the cocoa). Using buttermilk as the liquid in the recipe will help keep the environment acidic enough to be hospitable for the red coloring.

Hershey's and Nestle both sell natural cocoa powder.


There do exist red food dyes that are specifically labeled vegan, and thus aren't insect-derived. Wilton also makes a 'no-taste red', which isn't as foul as the normal red color. I've personally found that the red liquid dyes tend to be less obnoxious than the gel-based ones, but I have no idea if other people feel that way, or if it holds true for all liquid dyes (and come to think of it, I was baking cookies with the liquid, while I use gels and powders for icing).

... but I have no idea if these might be available in your area or not. I'd try looking for a cake supply store, or even a bakery that makes cakes and see if they'll sell you some of their supply.

(and I personally was one of those with an extreme reaction to red food coloring (not sure if it's allergies or not) ... so I'm a bit sensitive to the subject.)

If you can't find prepared dyes specifically, I'd look into fruit ... you might not get as bright of a red, but pureed red fruit (strawberries, raspberries, cherries) might get you towards a red shade. If you're not in an area that gets the flown in shipments from the southern hemisphere (and thus out of season fruits), many large grocery stores sell frozen berries.

  • 1
    tomato helps balance the pinkier shades. even seen ketchup in old American recipes!
    – Pat Sommer
    Jan 18, 2013 at 0:29

Order plant-based, non-petroleum liquid colors online from Chocolate Craft, Seelect, India Tree, or Maggie's Naturals.

  • Do these include beet as the coloring mechanism?
    – lemontwist
    Jan 16, 2013 at 20:16

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