I’m not much of a cake-baker. I’m grateful for the fact that frosting can cover a multitude of sins. I’m also smart enough to know that people first eat a cake with their eyes so that by the time that they actually take a bite they have already decided if they are going to like it or not. Mostly. Cake baking is a skill that really does take some practice to master and up until now it has just been too easy to whip up a fruit crisp or the occasional tart when a home made dessert is called for. Having said that, baking is one of the many things I set out to teach myself through the initiation of this blog. While cupcakes are fairly easy — just plop a scoop into a cup, cool, and frost – baking a whole cake takes a bit more planning, time, and technique. Usually, when it comes to entertaining I’d rather spend the requisite time and effort on the main event. Appetizers get short shrift in my house as well for this very reason. When the dinner you are cooking for is for a birthday, however, you are somewhat obligated to present a cake so make the time I did.
I had been saving Cindy’s easy cake recipe for the next time I would be called upon to make a cake –she and I share an aversion to fancy frostings and decorations — but I knew the birthday girl, Meshia is quite partial to the red velvet cupcakes at Sprinkles . I set out, therefore, to make her a real old fashioned Red Velvet Cake. I never really thought the Sprinkle’s recipe tasted much like the red velvet cakes I had remembered. (You can see Cindy’s influence on me with the cake topper. )
The “flavor hook” of a good red velvet cake is in the buttermilk, vinegar, and cocoa combination. Sprinkles erroneously describes it as “Southern light chocolate cake”. There is a lovely ‘tang’ and an extruded cocoa thinggoing on here. Thinking of this as ‘chocolate cake light’ is really short selling it. (Besides, how anyone can taste anything other than “sweet” in a Sprinkles Cupcake is beyond me. ) The ‘red’ comes from food coloring but apparently old style recipes called for beet root to color the cake due to WW II rationing. Someday if I should ever master this cake I will try to recreate a beet version as I would imagine beets add an interesting element to the flavor profile. So even though this particular cake flavor has had a second resurgence in popularity thanks to the many cupcakeries that use it as a calling card (the first resurgence came after the film Steel Magnolias Red Velvet flavored its famous armadillo groom’s cake) I don’t think many people have tasted a real Red Velvet Cake.
In the fridge firming up the frosting…
The picture below taken with a flash reveals the outcome in a way you couldn’t make out just looking at the cake with the naked eye. The crumb was not at all consistent throughout. While the taste was quite good and hit all the notes I was expecting in a red velvet cake. Nothing too sweet here though some bites felt tougher than others. The pic makes it look like some of the cake was not even cooked but to the naked eye it all looked the same color — it was just the texture that was not even. At the time I thought it was my imagination until I saw this picture. I’ll do some reading to figure this out and perhaps I’ll retry this in a couple weeks with a different recipe. For now, I’m going to guess that my cake pans were over filled and/or I was just on the verge of overcooking the whole thing. Just a quick comparison to other recipe’s online has me thinking that larger pans must have been used when this recipe was written. 5 cups cake flour seems like a lot for two 9″ pans.
Red Velvet Cake
(from an old recipe card I found)
This is what you will need:
- 5 cups cake flour
- 1 t salt
- 4 T cocoa powder
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 bottle red food coloring
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 t vanilla
- 2 t cider vinegar
- 2 t baking soda
- 16 oz cream cheese
- 1 1/2 cup whipped cream
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 t vanilla
- sweetened coconut flakes
This is how you make it:
- Prepare the flour mixture by combining flour, salt and cocoa powder in bowl and set aside.
- Mix buttermilk and food coloring in second bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, mix the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
- Add the eggs – one at a time – beating well after each addition.
- Add the vanilla and continue to mix.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the colored buttermilk in small additions.
- In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda.
- Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter.
- Butter 2 9-inch cake pans lined with parchment paper.
- Fill the prepared pans with about 4 cups of the finished batter each.
- Split batter among pans.
- Bake at 350 F for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Prepare the frosting. In the bowl of your electric mixer, process the cream cheese, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
- Then, in a separate bowl, with hand mixer, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold these two mixtures together and place in the refrigerator for about an hour or until firm enough to spread.
- Let cakes cool in pan for about 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing the cakes from the pan.
- Let cool completely.
- When completely cool, split layers with a bread knife.
- When your cake layers have cooled completely place one cake layer on a serving platter.
- Spread the cake layer with the layer of frosting.
- Repeat for layers and frost outsides of cake.
- Refrigerate cake to set frosting.
- Save extra frosting for touch-ups.