Red Varrrrrrlvet

I postulated about a month or so ago that I wondered if one could make red velvet mochi cake. I have absolutely no idea why this popped into my head (I’m not even really a fan of red velvet) but I decided it would be worth a try. How hard could it be? A little cocoa powder, some red food coloring…

You give me piratey cupcake wrappers, I WILL make you cupcakes in said wrappers!
You give me really awesome cupcake wrappers, I WILL make you cupcakes in said wrappers!

As it turns out, there’s actually a lot more to a real red velvet cake than the hint of cocoa and often garish color. For one, buttermilk. That was all well and good…if I didn’t have to make it dairy-free (so I could share with my best friend). I usually use either coconut milk or condensed soy milk (which I condense myself). Luckily, after a little searching I found out that soy milk could, in fact, be spoiled with a small amount of acid just like regular milk can when you need a buttermilk substitute. One hurdle down!

Another issue I ran into was the leavening – mochi cakes generally only call for baking powder for leavening (which falls into a dense, chewy awesomeness moments after coming out of the oven) while red velvet calls for baking soda and vinegar to be added, foaming, at the last second. I went with the red velvet method and it worked out great.

Lookit that frosting! So smooth!
Lookit that frosting! So smooth!

In keeping with my dairy-free theme, I decided that fake cream cheese and margarine was too creepy a combination to use for a frosting (despite mochi cakes not really needing frosting in general, I don’t think you can have proper red velvet without some kind of white frosting), so I went with a white chocolate-coconut milk ganache. I know white chocolate isn’t dairy-free but a small amount is tolerable, and the ganache is so rich and luxurious that you don’t need a lot. Just one little creamy, slightly coconutty swirl is enough.

Not neon red, but a more pleasant, edible shade.
Not neon red, but a more pleasant, edible shade.

Another difference between red velvet cake and mochi cake is that the fat in red velvet is generally all vegetable oil, as opposed to the melted butter used in mochi cakes. I used all vegetable oil the first time I tried to make these (yes, it took me two tries) and they came out just fine. Except, being the first try, they weren’t quite right yet. A bit too much cocoa, not enough red.

Artsy shot!
Artsy shot!

Not unexpectedly, I had been posting to Twitter the whole time about my experiment, and got a fantastic suggestion from a like-minded Twitterer. Why not add red bean paste to the mix?


So, on my second try, I substituted red bean paste for half the oil, decreased the amount of cocoa powder and used only enough dye to turn the batter a pinkish-orange color. The cakes baked up wonderfully and taste not completely unlike red velvet, from the hint of cocoa and the tang of the acidic “buttermilk”, but also a little classically Japanese with the red bean and mochi flavors also popping up a bit. And, of course, there’s that frosting…

Parrots love cupcakes too.
Parrots love cupcakes too.

Red Velvet Mochi Cupcakes

First, Make the Ganache (because it takes a while to set up):

  1. 200g white chocolate, chopped
  2. 100g coconut milk

Melt the white chocolate over a simmering double boiler. Set aside. Heat the coconut milk until steaming (you can do this in a small saucepan or just in the microwave) and pour it into the chocolate. Using a small spatula, stir gently from the middle of the bowl until the ganache is fully emulsified, scraping along the sides once in a while but not incorporating any extra air. Set aside to set up – you can chill it if you’d like but give it a stir once or twice to make sure it doesn’t set up too hard. It can be softened at room temperature if it does.

Then, Make the Cakes (red velvet recipe adapted from Pithy & Cleaver):

  1. 12 oz. plain soy milk
  2. 2 tsp white vinegar
  3. 2 oz. vegetable oil
  4. 2 oz. sweet red bean paste
  5. 1 cup (200g) sugar
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  8. 5 1/3 oz. Mochiko
  9. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  10. 1/8-1/4 tsp red gel food coloring
  11. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  12. 1/2 tsp white vinegar

Place the soy milk in a small saucepan and simmer until it reduces to 6 oz. Remove from saucepan and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with paper liners (or prepare a cake pan if that’s how you roll).

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, red bean paste, sugar and eggs. Add the cocoa and Mochiko, mix thoroughly. Add the 2 tsp. vinegar to the condensed soy milk and pour it into the mixture, whisk to combine. Whisk in the color gradually until you get a reddish-orange color. Measure the baking soda into a small bowl, pour in the 1/2 tsp. of vinegar and allow to begin frothing, then dump into the batter and quickly mix. Pour immediately into prepared baking vessel. Bake 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a cake comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack.

Once the cakes are fully cooled, fit a piping bag with a star tip and fill it with the ganache. Pipe a swirl onto each cupcake.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

I know there are a lot of weight measurements in this recipe, and frankly I’m not interested in converting every little thing I make. I wouldn’t make this without a scale personally. My advice to those who wish to convert the weights to volume? Don’t. Just buy a scale. They’re not expensive and after one or two recipes you’ll wonder how you ever baked without one.


  1. Those look great. I’m a bit obsessed with using coconut milk as a substitute just to test right now and didn’t realize you could be my go-to reference. But question, couldn’t you just use natural cocoa powder to get the red color rather than add food coloring to get them to be red? I thought that was how red velvet cake gets its color.

  2. Traditionally, yes, the cocoa is supposed to be the red color. It’s supposed to react with the acids in the buttermilk and leavening, I guess. But it doesn’t turn very red (maybe it is processed differently these days?) so I added the color just to help. It would taste just as good without the food coloring though!

  3. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

    Your newly innovated confection would make a good treat to celebrate the lunar new year :)

    And, I may even be able to feed these to my neighbour who suffers from pretty severe allergies.

    Printing to try :)

  4. Wow, now that is all very interesting info, and a delicious product!

    I’m particularly taken with your topping. I’m having trouble getting my head round dairy free/vegan options and this sounds wonderful, esp since I dont really like the tofu ganache option.

  5. Very cool and they look so moist. I love the idea of a white chocolate coconut milk ganache.

    Turns out I was thinking mochi cakes were something tooootally different. Oops… haha :)

  6. Actually, if you got waaaaaaay back in the day and research the true start of red velvet cake, the red color came from beet juice, not the cocoa powder. The first red velvet cakes weren’t deep red, per se, they were more of a purple color from the beet juice.

    It’s amazing what you can learn from a Georgia peach grandmama, when you just sit down and listen lol.

    Great substitutions in the recipe! Never knew soy milk could be turned into a non-dairy buttermilk.

  7. As if it didn’t already sound delicious and look good, the addition of red bean paste sounds like a stroke of genius to me :)

  8. This is a totally interesting take on Red Velvet! I made red velvet once and wasn’t very keen on it. This sounds like a nice twist to it! Btw, how does a mochi cake taste like..texturally? :)

  9. I’ve never had a mochi cake, but that’s pretty awesome you were able to figure out a dairy free version of red velvet.

  10. hey wow this is a great idea! you’re so brave to tackle it head on – i usually stick to what i know and nothing more… lolz

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