Monday, November 7, 2011

Another Adventure in the Realm of Baking.

The first time I ever saw and tried Red Velvet cake was in Pennsylvania. It was being sold at one of the many farmers' markets: slices, whole cakes, half a cake and whoopie pies. I tried a slice and while it was good, I still preferred my old fashioned yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting. Call me a creature of habit, but I like what I like.

Red Velvet cake gets a good dose of its flavor from cocoa powder. A myth is that the red coloring in the cake comes from a chemical reaction between the cocoa powder and the baking soda, but that only creates a brownish-gray color. The red comes from either red food coloring or beetroot juice; frosting for this cake is usually a white frosting or cream cheese. Origins are pretty iffy; the Waldorf Astoria in New York claims to be the inventor of this cake. However, in the Southern United States, a Red Velvet cake was commonly the groom's cake at weddings. Then there are the Amish and Mennonite in Pennsylvania who are known for their outstanding baked treats.

A few weeks ago I purchased some Red Velvet cupcakes at a supermarket and they were absolutely delicious. Being adventurous, I decided it was time for me to tackle this cake. I found many a recipe in books and online, narrowed it down to three, saw what ingredients were listed exactly alike and averaged out the rest. Not bad really and while the cream cheese frosting was pretty good, I found it a bit too sweet for my tastes. Next time I'm going with a plain white frosting.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting(makes 8 servings)

2 ½ cups cake flour (or finely sifted all purpose flour)
1 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup softened butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
3 oz. red food coloring
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F; spray 2-9 inch round baking pan with nonstick baking spray; or a light coating of oil with a dusting of flour.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and cocoa powder; set aside.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth; set aside. In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, vinegar, food coloring and vanilla. Add liquid mixture to creamed mixture, beat until smooth.

Add the creamed mixture to the large bowl; mix until smooth scraping down the sides as batter is mixing. Divide batter between the 2 baking pans; bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes cleanly out of center of the cakes. Let cool before frosting.

While cake is baking, prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, begin mixing the cream cheese and butter together. Add one cup of confectioners’ sugar at a time, until each cup is well incorporated. Once the entire mixture is smooth; mix in the vanilla. Place in the refrigerator to firm up before frosting the cooled cakes.

Makes enough to cover sides, top and in-between 2-9 inch cakes.

Mary Cokenour