Recipe: Frosted Red Velvet Doughnuts (GF, SF, Vegan) Top Food Additives To Avoid

Recipe: Frosted Red Velvet Doughnuts (GF, SF, Vegan) Top Food Additives To Avoid

I’m pleased to offer this posting as my entry for Week 1 – A Gluten Free Holiday Event 2011. The event runs weekly through November and December, with different predetermined themes and hosts each week. I aim to create an offering for each week  and I’m eager to see the contributions from other Gluten Free Blogger’s. What a great sharing community.

Amy at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free is kicking off the Gluten Free Holiday Event. Her theme for the week is “Healthier Through The Holidays”. She asks us to share tips and recipes for staying healthy through the holidays.

This will be my first Gluten Free Christmas. I don’t have much experience with converting old family favourites to healthier gluten free versions but I imagine by the time Christmas 2011 is over, I will have collected a bundle of GF recipes and holiday tips.

First up, I would like to share a  top 20 food additives to avoid link with you. This link comes via Dr Matsen’s Northshore Naturopathic Clinic Newsletter. Dr Matsen has this to say about food additives…

many of these food additives should be avoided especially if you suffer from asthma, rhinitis, or other allergies, which are so prevalent today in children and adults.

You will notice that the second item on the list is amaranth. This is NOT the same as the healthy “grain”. Amaranth as we know it, is a seed that’s high in protein and gluten-free but unfortunately, there is also a synthetic dye that has been named “amaranth” because it’s similar in color to the natural pigments found in the amaranth seed

I thought the information on the top 20 list was a bit dated (1994-1996) but I guess things haven’t changed much in the last 15 years, because a Google Search turned up many recent articles that reiterate the same message. I’m not going to publish the top 20 list here but I will give you some of the links I found on food additives… in addition to the top 20 food additives to avoid, this website has information on Pesticides and what you can do to protect yourself. Plus it lists a few additives that are safe, ones that you don’t need to avoid. Maybe we can lobby manufactures to use more of the good food additives (which are probably more expensive?) and less of the bad food additives? a more up to date (Jun 14, 2011) article on the worst food additives. This article comes to a conclusion that seems reasonable to the-new-gluten-free-me…

many food additives are used purely for cosmetic reasons and several throughout time have been shown to be toxic or carcinogenic. The only way to truly avoid additives is to stay away from processed foods.

Okay, I know this next article doesn’t have to do with bad food additives but it caught my attention when I came across it at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency link and it does support my reasons for avoiding pre-packaged, ready-to-eat, processed foods.

In the summer of 2008, there was an outbreak of food-borne illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat. The outbreak resulted in the deaths of 23 Canadians.

Since the Listeria outbreak in 2008, the Government of Canada has taken actions to improve communication and reduce the risk posed by the possibility of similar outbreaks in the future.

  • On March 16, 2011, CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) began posting quarterly information about the Agency’s enforcement activities.
  • CFIA has developed a recall widget to automate distribution of recall notices. Food safety stakeholders can embed the CFIA widget into their websites, blogs, or social media pages, allowing them to receive live content from CFIA about food recalls. See a live demo in my footer. I wonder if the FDA has something similar? If you know the answer, please leave a comment below. I would like to add the info for my American readers.
  • In February 2011, CFIA began issuing notifications of all allergy alerts through Social Media. This service is part of the CFIA’s ongoing commitment to deliver timely recall information to Canadians so that they can make informed food choices. CFIA now has 47,500 subscribers to the recall-and-allergy-alert email notification service. I’m happy to hear that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been working on improving communications but I sort of wonder how many people have to get sick before an email alert gets issued?
  • The CFIA is also taking steps to make sure there is better training in the handling of processed ready-to-eat meats and better testing with faster results for Listeria monocytogenes. If you are elderly, pregnant, a child or have a compromised immune system, you are more vulnerable. Do you feel confident a recall alert can get to you or your parents or your children in time to prevent a serious illness? Wouldn’t you be better off avoiding processed ready-to-eat meats?

Sorry, I wandered a bit off topic there, let’s get back to the subject of avoiding food additives…
I guess most foodies would be familiar with Michael Pollen’s writings;

shop the perimeter of the grocery store where whole foods are found.

Perimeter shopping was first brought to light in Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food. The idea behind perimeter shopping is that the perimeter of the grocery store tends to be where the “real” food is located – the produce, fresh vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, dairy and baked goods. Laureen’s Notes: The perimeter is also where you will find most items that are Naturally Gluten Free.

On the other hand, the processed stuff – the crackers, cereals, dressings, frozen foods and an endless list of “ready to serve” items, tend to be found in the aisles and on the shelves. In fact, the term “shelf life” refers to the amount of time these processed items can last on the supermarket shelf (forever in many cases).

If you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the food label it is probably a chemical additive, it is best to avoid it.

You know, before I went Gluten Free, I hardly ever read a product label or gave much thought about what was in the highly processed foods I was eating. I suppose ignorance was bliss? I’m amazed at how much my habits have changed since last year and about how much healthier I am as a result of those changes.

Besides eliminating Gluten, I try to adhere to the following tips for healthier habits into my new-gluten-free-me lifestyle;

  1. Try to buy fresh organic fruit and vegetables when possible. Thoroughly wash or peel non-organic produce to remove chemicals and pesticides.
  2. Support local farmers (preferably, those who run organic-sustainable farms), choose fruits and vegetables that are in season. This is a win-win. You will be supporting the local farming community while reducing your exposure to the chemicals used to delay ripening, prolong shelf-life, preserve color and so on. Before I started blogging, I had no idea that CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Programs existed but the new-gluten-free-me has already signed up with a smaller local organic-sustainable farm for the 2012 season.
  3. Stay away from processed foods and stick to more wholesome home cooked foods. I still buy some processed foods but  I make more informed decisions. I always read the product label first and I avoid products that may contain gluten but as often as possible, I also avoid foods that have unpronounceable chemical additives. In fact, I try to stick with products that are either Naturally Gluten Free, or have the fewest number of added ingredients  and/or the shortest ingredients list.
  4. Avoid refined sugar. Okay, you need only look as far as my last post to see that the new-gluten-free-me sometimes struggles with this one. Maybe I’m trying to make up for those lost years when I thought I had to avoid baked sweets? These days, if I find a GF recipe for something sweet that I’ve always loved but haven’t had in years. I know I can safely eat the full on sugary sweet GF version, without having a bad reaction…well then, that is what I want to do! Later, I will most likely make adjustments to make the recipe healthier (see today’s recipe as an example) but first, I feel like living it up a little, giving in to the excitement, I feel like I want to do something just a bit crazy. Later, I refuse to feel remorseful, but I will likely behave more responsibly towards my body next time.
  5. If you are looking to change your eating habits, I recommend making the changes gradually, remove one thing at a time. Once adjusted, remove something else that is bad for you. This rule can also be applied to using the highly processed ready-to-eat meals, with the food additives, that are bad for you. Start by adding at least one home-cooked-made-from-scratch meal each week and then, increase the number of home cooked meals when you feel you can. Your health is worth the extra time and effort. I know from experience, the little changes add up and you know, those changes will probably improve your health and might even save your life.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o sum it up: we need to make informed choices but remember, we are all unique, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet, so don’t beat yourself up if you slip up once in a while. By far, the most important thing to do is to love yourself and love your body. You are beautiful!

Nobody is as good at being you as you are. Nobody! [1]

Now, before you run off to the kitchen to try my new Red Velvet Doughnut recipe (and yes, I do believe they are that good), I would like to thank Amy for hosting this week’s “Healthier Through The Holidays” – A Gluten Free Holiday Event 2011. If not for the Event theme, I doubt this post would exist but I am happy and proud of myself for getting it done. Posting a recipe alone, would have been so much easier for me because this piece took me out of my comfort zone.  Writing doesn’t come naturally to me and I get nervous about voicing my opinions. I always do rewrite, after rewrite, after rewrite, before any of my work gets posted and my nervousness about voicing my opinions, well, that too is a self-esteem thing.  I know that with practice, I will get better at writing and feel more confident about expressing my opinions and that, is just as healthy for me, as is avoiding food additives.

A Bit of Red Velvet Cake History:
While foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes. Boiled grated beets or beet baby food are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture. [source]
Now, if you’re still with me, I shall reward you with a delicious but healthy new recipe.
Whoa, hold on. HALT the presses!

I had this post drafted, almost ready to post on Thursday morning. I thought the only thing left for me to do, was bake some doughnuts for my pictures but then, I read Rikki’s newest SOS Kitchen Challenge post and that lead me to the The Mommy Bowl with Deanna’s recipe for Cranberry Red Velvet Cupcakes :: Cranberries? Now why didn’t I think of that??? Of course I should use cranberries instead of beets!

A last-minute revamp of my recipe and the results turned out even better than anticipated. The cranberry adds moisture and a bit of tart sweetness that combines beautifully with the chocolate. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Doughnuts
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Summary: Cranberry and chocolate doughnuts, topped with a Sugar-Free, Dye-Free, pretty pink frosting and a light sprinkle of white chocolate shavings. Something you would feel good about adding to any Holiday Party Table. Tasty, good for you healthy doughnuts? Yes, but don’t expect a squishy soft, overly sweet Krispy Kreme type of doughnut. These are denser but still moist on the inside. Satisfying, with a bit of crispness around the edges, kind of like a muffin top. The hint of red in these Red Velvet Doughnuts, is all natural, it comes from a cranberry purée.
Doughnut recipe inspired by the Red Velvet Cupcake recipes at My Diverse Kitchen and BitterSweet and The Mommy Bowl as well. The Pink Sugar-Free Vegan Frosting recipe originated at Nourishing Meals.
Gluten Free | Grain Free | Dairy Free | Egg Free | Refined Sugar Free | Real Food | Vegan | Vegetarian
*** Always refer to packaging labels for the most up to date allergy information
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray donut pan with cooking spray. Note: I got 9 1/2 donuts out of this recipe.
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook cranberries and water until the berries are soft and start to split open (about 5-10 minutes). Remove from heat, set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Whisk the GF flours, xantham gum, coconut sugar, cacao powder, baking powder, salt and 1 pkg of stevia (if needed, you can add more later) until well blended. Sift the dry ingredients to aerate the GF flours and to break up any lumps. Set aside.
  4. Measure out 3/4 cup of the cooked cranberries. Be sure to get some of the juice from the saucepan.
  5. In a blender or a food processor, pulse and process the cranberries along with the juice or liquid until smooth. Measure out 3/4 cup of the cranberry purée. In a small mixing bowl, add the cranberry purée, coconut oil, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and mix until very smooth and well mixed.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir until just mixed. If you over mix, you will disturb the delicate structure of the GF flours. Gently spoon the batter into the prepared doughnut pan and smooth down the batter with the back of a teaspoon. These doughnuts don’t rise much, so it’s okay to fill to the top.
  7. Bake the doughnuts on the centre rack of preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn halfway through baking time.
  8. Do not under bake, or they will come out gummy and doughy. It’s better to over bake than under bake these doughnuts. When done, doughnuts should feel solid on top and a toothpick should come out clean.
  9. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then gently move to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before decorating with frosting (recipe below) and white chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

Pink Frosting
Summary: This Sugar-Free Vegan frosting is really pretty, not overly sweet. If you would like a sweeter frosting, you could try adding more agave nectar or use some stevia.
Gluten Free | Grain Free | Dairy Free | Egg Free | Refined Sugar Free | Real Food | Vegan | Vegetarian
*** Always refer to packaging labels for the most up to date allergy information
  • 1/2 Cup GF Vegan shortening (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 Cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 Cup agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond flavoring
  • 1-2 tsp cranberry purée
  • White Chocolate shavings or sprinkles (to decorate)
  1. Place all ingredients except chocolate shavings into a mixing bowl and whip up with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. This can be made a day ahead of time, stored at room temp. Just re-whip before frosting the doughnuts.
  2. Don’t be shy about piling this frosting on. It is not overly sweet and the recipe makes plenty for the 9-10 pieces you’ll get from the doughnut recipe.
  3. For the White Chocolate shavings, I used a vegetable peeler on a block of white chocolate and used my fingers to break the strips down into little shavings. Trouble finding Vegan, Dairy-Free White Chocolate? Here is a recipe from Bitter Sweet blog.

Don’t forget to tune in for Week 2 of A Gluten Free Holiday Event next Thursday, November 10th. We’ll be sharing Thanksgiving Favourites, from appetizers to desserts, at Cook It Allergy Free.

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To see a text listing of Laureen’s gluten free recipes, click here

For dairy, egg, nut and gluten free flour substitutions, click here

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Laureen Fox
Laureen is an enthusiastic amateur cook and Canadian Food Blogger from Vancouver BC. She loves spending her days creating good wholesome food in this Fox Kitchen. Evenings will find her blogging about the best that living without gluten has to offer.

Disclaimer: this post includes some affiliate links. If you order by clicking the links, the cost to you will be the same, but I may receive a small stipend for referring you. Thank you for supporting this Fox Kitchen!

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  1. Deanna says:

    I’m so glad I could be an inspiration! (I do have a chocolate beet cupcake recipe, too – but it’s chocolate colored, not red.) If I hadn’t been making the cupcakes for the Iron Cupcake event, I would have left out the dye entirely. Sadly, people expect shocking colors. *sigh*

    Love your version of the doughnuts!

    • Laureen says:

      :) Thanks Deanna. The cupcakes you made for Iron Cupcake are sooo pretty! I’ve made RV Cupcakes with beets but your cranberry ones taste better.
      People are funny sometimes, aren’t they. I’m pretty sure that if I were to add dye to half a batch of the doughnuts and laid them out side by side…the bright red ones would disappear long before the reddish coloured brown ones. Simply cosmetics, isn’t that one of the biggest reasons why manufacturers use so many questionable food additives?

  2. Thanks so much for participating and sharing A Gluten-Free Holiday with your readers, Laureen! It’s great to have the support of my fellow bloggers. :)

    Why didn’t you like the frosting? Was it the texture? I haven’t tried a frosting with that much arrowroot powder but I bet it makes it a little grainy. Am I wrong?


    • Laureen says:

      Hi Amy,

      You’re right about the frosting texture but I think it had more to do with the shortening (did I use too much?). I kept adding more arrowroot powder but in hind-site that was probably not the best thing to do. I’ve adjusted the arrowroot in the recipe back to what it should have been and added a more detailed explanation as to why I didn’t care for the frosting.

      I must say though the frosting sure looked pretty, my pictures don’t do it justice and by the second day the frosting tasted better. I wonder if that is because I was getting used to the different texture? Thanks for your help on this, it’s nice of you to take the time to offer some good feedback.


  3. Ricki says:

    Yay for red velvet cupcakes made with cranberries! They do look lovely, whatever you thought of the frosting. 😉 And thanks for submitting to WW this week!

    • Laureen says:

      Hi Rikki, the doughnuts turned out better than I could have imagined. I love your WW, you and your participants inspire me to experiment with Vegan baking and I must say, I’m enjoying the ride.

    • Laureen says:

      I’ve tried beets in red velvet cupcakes, you can’t taste them over the chocolate but now that I’ve tried the choc/ cran combo I don’t know if I’ll ever go back. Thanks for stopping by, I’ve got another delicious recipe to link up this week :)

  4. Alea Milham says:

    This post is a wonderful resource and the gluten-free doughnuts are the icing! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and delicious recipe with both the Hearth and Soul Hop and the Gallery of Favorites. I am sure many readers will benefit!

  5. These look great. I will have to try them. I have used Seelect all-natural red food coloring.

    I have also used the Babycakes mini-doughnut baker and they turn out great and are just the right size for a couple of bites.

  6. I made a half batch of these last night as donut holes in my mini muffin tin.. oh my. They were SO GOOD! It satisfied the craving for donuts I’ve been having for months! In fact, I made the boyfriend take them away from me this morning so I wouldn’t finish them off.

    I swapped around some flours since I didn’t need them to be GF and I just rolled them in some powdered sugar I had.

    Thank you SO much for this recipe! You’ve inspired me to experiment some more with some different fruits.

  7. Pingback: Anti-candida, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan Wellness Weekend Event | Ricki Heller

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