To Beet or not To Beet?

“Beetroot”, they said.  This is what you use to get the perfect colour for a red velvet cake.  And being my first time baking the cake, the instruction was clear.  And the modus operandi too.  Follow the advice of the experts.  So that’s exactly what I did.  I made my way to the supermarket and bought the brightest packet of beetroots that I could find on the shelves.  They were a deep red in colour, exactly what I imagined any red velvet cake could look like, and I was excited at the prospect of the same striking colour popping on my red velvet cake.  I went home ready to produce a masterpiece.  With all ingredients mixed and the final addition being the beetroot juice, I peeled the beetroots and placed them in a juicer.  And after a few seconds of whizzing, I produced half a cup of beetroot juice.  As I poured the desired quantity of beetroot juice into the cake mixture and then combined it well with a wooden spoon, being careful to ensure that the beetroot juice was evenly distributed, I could not hold back my excitement to see the final product.  Unfortunately, the more I combined the beetroot juice into the cake mixture, the more the cake mixture went from the red colour that was the beetroot juice to a pale brown colour.  It was odd.  I had followed the instructions to a ‘t’.  And done what all the recipe books had recommended…  Beetroot juice.  Nevertheless.  I decided to wait and see the final baked product before drawing any conclusions.

I slipped three level cake tins in the oven and then switched the timer on.  It beeped loudly after thirty minutes, and I knew I was almost there.  I put on a pair of oven gloves and carefully took the baking tins out of the oven.  The cakes had baked perfectly.  The three layers had all risen to the same height and looked identical in appearance.  And the skewer that I poked each with had come out perfectly clean.  I immediately turned the cakes out onto a wire rack, as I removed them from the baking tins.  Oddly, the cakes still looked brown in colour.  However, I figured that their insides would surely have the desired red colour.  I covered the cakes with a net and set them aside to cool.  In the meantime, I prepared cream cheese icing and placed it in the refrigerator to set.  The cakes took about 2 hours to cool and, once they were ready, I iced the cake and placed it in the fridge to set.  This meant another hour of waiting.  And wondering just how perfect my red velvet cake would be. 

Finally, the cake was fully set, and I could dig in!  I prepared a plate with a beautiful cake fork beside it and then cut into the cake.  But, alas, the deeper I cut, the more this unappealing brown colour was exposed.  Being even more brown in the inside than the cake had appeared on the outside.  That bright red beetroot colour had not transferred to the cake.  Not in the slightest! All I could see was an odd brownish colour.  I placed a slice of cake on the plate, looked at the photo in the recipe book and then back at my cake, and it was chalk and cheese.  Reluctantly, I decided to taste the cake and, to my surprise, it was delicious.  Light, fluffy, creamy and not too sweet.  It was just brown in colour.  And I would to have to do something about that.  Perhaps I had made a mistake in the baking process, I thought to myself as I tidied the kitchen up.

I tried the recipe again the following day.  Using bright red beetroot juice from the best beetroots that I could find at the supermarket.  And to my great disappointment, the results were exactly the same.  The cake was delicious.  But it was still this odd brown in colour.  All of the red in the beetroots had been lost in the baking process, and what remained was a brown velvet cake!  I would have to try other options for colouring my red velvet cake.  So, I tried gels, which was a complete waste of time, as those did not work out at all.  Then I moved on to powders.  However, given the many powders available in the market, and the different shades available in each colour, it was a huge exercise.  Some of the reds came out too electric.  Others were simply too pale.  And even the red velvet colour powder was a disappointment.  In fact, I think that was the worst as it was the closest to the brown velvet than all the other red powders that I tried!  What I was looking for was a deep red colour.  I eventually mixed a combination of red powders and, voila!  I produced the perfect red velvet colour for my delicious cake.  But boy, what an exercise to get there!

Today, when you bite into our red velvet cake and cupcakes, you will be met with the most striking and beautiful red colour.  It’s rich, deep in texture and and has a uniqueness of its own.  And the colour is applied consistently in our products.  Tsim & Bibi has developed a red velvet colour that is in line with its brand, and a red velvet cake that that defines who we are. 

I learnt one of the greatest lessons through this process.  Being the importance of knowing who you are.  That is, your brand.  This sets the boundaries of who you are and who you are not.  It defines what you are prepared to do and the lines that you will not cross.  The same applies equally to your personal brand as it does to any business or initiative that you may be carrying out.    

In our case.  We had to define what makes a Tsim & Bibi red velvet cake.  And integral to this was the colour.  Faced with many options out there, and even guidance from the experts on how best to produce that colour, we found that none of the solutions offered to us, worked for us.  Rather, we had to invest the time and effort and do some mixing and matching of our own until we produced a colour that best defined us.  We were not sidetracked by the many voices in the market, neither did we find ourselves overwhelmed by the many available options.  Rather, we applied our minds to all the information at hand and landed at a place that best represented us.  And since then, we have stuck to that formula.  Unwavering.  Unshakeable.  Unstoppable.  We know who we are and have set that as the boundary in which we will play in the global cake industry.

This process is so important for us in our personal capacities too. Oftentimes, we compromise on who we are at our very essence and core.  We allow the world, and the many voices out there, to define us and therefore influence who we are and what we become.  We’re afraid to step out and set ourselves apart, simply for fear of rejection or rebuke by the world.  And in most cases, we are not willing to take the time to define ourselves in this unique manner.  To do the work. Instead, we place unfounded limitations on ourselves, dealt to us by the world at large, and choose to rather operate in sync with everyone else, finding a deceived sense of comfort within the masses. 

But you must know who you are in order to be the best version of yourself.  You must define your personal brand and live by it.  Don’t let the world rob you of your uniqueness.  Your difference is your attraction.  You will thrive most in that space.  And be the freest that you can be.  Life is long.  But it is very short when you spend your time trying to make the world happy at the expense of yourself.  When you are constantly compromising your personal standards and beliefs in order to fit in.  You lose out on so much.  And in your heart of hearts, you know it. 

So, do what we did.  Go out there.  See what is out there.  And even try out what is out there.  But do you.  Unapologetically.  Even if it means going against what has become the trusted grain.  And don’t compromise on that person.  If yours is a deep rich red colour, find it and stick to it.  If you have to mix and match a few things, while also discarding some other things, to get it right, go for it. 

The world is tired of all the copycats out there.  The world is waiting for YOU!

Yours in caking-it,


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