Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Natural Food Dye Strawberry Cake Experiment

For my birthday this year I wanted a healthier strawberry cake with no artificial food dye.  (Our 5yr old has neurological reactions to artificial food dyes, plus they aren't good for any of us.)  To start with I purchased a Duncan Hines white cake mix (never use Pillsbury brand, they have red #40 even in the white cake mix!).  I separated the white cake mix powder into 3 bowls using a measuring cup to get as equal portions as I could. The box mix called for 3 egg whites so it was simple to add 1 egg white to each bowl.  Next the recipe called for water, so I put a 3rd of the amount of water in one bowl for the white batter.  For pink batter I used fresh strawberry juice (we have a juicer) instead of water and for the dark pink batter I used fresh beet juice (again, from our juicer).

I've been seeing the camouflage cakes in Target and Walmart over the past year or two and thought it would be neat to try making one of those.  I easily found the instructions online and it was simple to alternate blobs of batter in my cake pan (see picture on the left).  While researching the camouflage cakes I stumbled upon something called a zebra cake that had really neat stripes. Since I was already playing around I figured now was the perfect time to try one of those too.  The instructions called for putting a small blob of batter in the pan and continuing to alternate colors placing each spoonful in the center of the pan.  Gradually the batter spreads out and covers the whole pan (see picture on the right).

The colors aren't near as bright after baking, but still looked awesome in the cake pans.  We were so excited to put this cake together.

For the icing I used a simple recipe that called for fresh strawberry puree, powdered sugar, vanilla and salted butter.  The icing tasted GREAT, but next time I will make up a larger batch.

Here's a picture of what the cake looked like once sliced.  The bottom half (left) was the zebra striped layer and the top half (right) was the camouflage layer.  We were really disappointed at how the dark pink of the beat colored batter turned tan after baking.  The light pink and white layers were mostly unchanged, but really not that noticeable unless you were looking for them.  The cake tasted great, which is of course the most important thing, but as a camouflage and zebra striped cake go the colors after baking were a flop.

I haven't given up though. I think I'll try some darker berries or something other than beats next time to see if the cake will retain it's color after baking.