Well, it was a long and rainy weekend (any of those near the Chicago area know exactly what I’m talking about). After I had walked to and from the grocery store in the rain and wind, almost losing my footing and my little wheely-cart about three times and turned into a popsicle because of the wind, I decided to hunker down and make it a rose-filled weekend. I worked on gum paste roses for my cake decorating class, and then on decorating my cake of the week with a rose design that I had seen in passing that thought was beautiful.
One of my favorite cakes, oddly enough, is Red Velvet. I think I’m in the minority here, but I just love that it’s not overly sweet, not overly chocolate-y, and of course, I LOVE that it has cream cheese frosting (is there anything better??).
I think the history of Red Velvet is fascinating – in part because no one really knows the true history of the cake. Some say it originated in the South (where it has been developed and loved over the years), while there is also a story that puts it as a creation of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. There is an urban legend that a woman asked the W-A for the recipe, only to be billed $100 for the recipe – which, after her disbelief subsided, she copied and passed along to everyone she could think of just to spite the W-A and that bill (thus apparently giving Red Velvet Cake a nickname of “$100 cake”).
During WWII, apparently people used beets to color the cake because of shortages. One thing that does fascinate me about this cake is the varying levels of cocoa that you find. Usually most cake recipes, while they vary, tend to have very similar ingredients and amounts. But for Red Velvet, the amount of cocoa can range from 1 tsp – 1/2 cup – and that’s a HUGE difference! Supposedly the original red color came from the reaction of the cocoa to the acidity in the buttermilk… but after using those ingredients, I doubt that the cake would be that red without the addition of food coloring. Traditional Red Velvet is NOT a chocolate cake – it has just a hint of cocoa, just enough to give subtle taste of chocolate to complement the buttermilk flavor. It also contains pecans in some way (which was news to me, but makes sense with it now being a Southern cake). It is also often served with cream cheese frosting in order to play off the vibrant color of the cake when you cut into it – and it always does look gorgeous to me!
What I did for my cake to incorporate all of the traditional ingredients was to limit the cocoa to 2 tsp, and to add pecans to the cream cheese frosting that I put in between the cake layers. I love the flavor that comes out of this cake – you can taste the buttermilk, just a hint of vinegar (in a good way), and a subtle taste of cocoa that follows everything. I really like the crunch that the pecans give the cake, although I must say it was extremely difficult to spread that icing on. Between the crumbliness of the cake and the chunkiness of the icing with the pecans… even with the simple syrup, it was quite an ordeal!
For the frosting, the first thing to do with this cake is frost it completely with a crumb coat, thick enough where you can’t really see through the frosting. I then stuck my cake in the freezer for about 20 minutes, just to get it to set for the piping. The roses on this cake were actually difficult to get the hang of – but once I got into a groove, it took no time at all to knock them out. I started on the sides, using my 824 Ateco tip. The simplest way to explain this is to imagine piping a rosette in reverse – you start in the center, and loop around from there. Once I finished the sides, I moved on to the top. Once I finished with all the large roses I could pipe, I started adding mini-roses, “swooshes”, and little stars wherever there was still visible space. I believe in class we used the same motion to make little piped butter tea cookies… so if you have ever made something like that, you have an idea of the motion!
The recipes I used are below – I have no idea where I got this from, it’s just a printout with no name and my notes jotted down all over the place. 🙂
Red Velvet Cake
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp fine ground sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 oz red food coloring
- 1 tsp white distilled vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 3 8-inch cake pans by lightly oiling and flouring, or spraying with Pam for Baking. (I did not have 3 cake pans, so I made 2 cakes, cleaned one pan, then made the third).
- In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and sea salt). In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, mix the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.
- Once the wet ingredients have incorporated, start adding the dry ingredients. You do not want to add these too slowly, or you might overmix the batter.
- After all of the dry ingredients are added, mix on medium speed just until batter looks smooth and develops a light sheen.
- As best you can, scale out the batter into the prepared pans so you have even layers. My batter ended up 495 g per pan (I had 1485 g of batter total).
- Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until cake starts to pull slightly away from the side of the pan and a pick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Flip out onto a cooling rack, and let sit until completely cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting (this is for 1 batch, I had to make 1 1/2 batches)
- 1 lb (16 oz) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted (measure AFTER sifting)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- crushed pecans, as needed
- In a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter together until starts to spread in bowl. Add confectioners sugar in thirds, and mix until combined.
- Add in vanilla, mix to combine, and the mix on medium for around 5 minutes, or until frosting is fluffy.
- For the inside layers of the cake, scoop out a small amount of frosting (less is always better than too much) and mix in some crushed pecans, to taste.