Sunday, July 14, 2013

Red Velvet Cake

I get a lot of requests from my family to make cakes for birthdays or special occasions and I always ask them to pick what kind of cake they would like. Usually I get a lot of requests for carrot cake, vanilla cake, or daffodil cake (secret family recipe), but this year I got a request for red velvet.  I have never made or eaten red velvet cake before this, but over the past few years it seems to have become a pretty major food trend and so I was very excited to see what all the fuss was about.   As I have mentioned before, I have a very large collection of recipes and a good chunk of them are "specialty" cakes that I pretty much will never have any reason to make because they are complicated and have too many components or are ridiculously decadent and it is extremely unlikely anyone will ask me to make something so fancy; but I still save the recipes anyways, umm, well because they sound too delicious not to (which probably isn't a very good reason...)? I am not sure why, but to me, red velvet cake fell into this category of fancy cakes that I am never going to make, yet I have 10 or so recipes saved for it anyways. So I'm really glad I got a request to make this, because it was as simple as putting together a basic vanilla or chocolate cake and extremely tasty too.

To start the cake batter, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer.)  The butter adds flavor and richness while the oil add a nice moistness to the cake. While this is creaming, in a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until everything is well distributed.

Measure your buttermilk and add the red food coloring until you get a deep red color that you like. You can use either the liquid or gel food coloring for this. If you don't have buttermilk, you can make a substitution with milk and a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of vinegar. Make sure you let this stand for at least 5 minutes so the acid has time to do its work.

Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until smooth and combined.  Then add a third of the dry ingredients, half of the buttermilk, another third of the dry mix, the remaining buttermilk, and then the remaining dry ingredients, beating each time until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. The last step is to mix the baking soda with the vinegar in a small bowl. This will foam up a bit, but just add it right into the batter.  This may seem like an odd thing to add to cake, but I have read that this is what gives the cake the texture that red velvet is known for.  Make sure to stop beating immediately after the batter is incorporated to avoid over mixing. Give the batter a few big stirs from the bottom up with your spatula.

Evenly distribute the batter into two greased and floured 9" cake pans. Bake in a 350ºF oven for about 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes and then invert pans onto wire racks and cool cakes completely. Sadie thought that the leftover batter in the bowl was super yummy. She licked that bowl clean!

To make the frosting, beat together the room temperature cream cheese and butter with a whisk attachment.  Carefully add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed so that you don't get sugar all over the kitchen. Mix in the vanilla. Once everything is well mixed, beat on medium high speed for a 2 to 3 minutes. Add a tbsp or two of milk or heavy cream if the frosting seems too thick.  Chill in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the cake. 

To frost the cake, place one layer upside down on the cake plate (the flat side should be up, so that you have a nice flat cake), spread a big dollop of frosting on top to make the middle layer of the cake, then place the second cake on top (also upside down).  Pile some frosting on the top of the cake and push over the sides, smoothing the frosting down and evenly around the sides.  Add more frosting to the top if necessary and smooth until you are happy with the look. Decorate however you like. I just topped mine with sprinkles.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Look at the beautiful red, moist and delicious cake! The slightly chocolatey cake melts in your mouth and the cream cheese frosting is the perfect compliment. The birthday boy was very happy with the cake. Right after he finished his slice, he said, "I'm requesting this cake again for next year's birthday!" 

Red Velvet Cake
Inspired by Laura in the Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (see substitute above)
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp white vinegar
Red food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  In a stand mixer or large bowl cream together butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.  Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl. Mix red food coloring into buttermilk.  Into the wet ingredients, alternately beat in 1/3 dry mix, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 dry mix, 1/2 buttermilk and 1/3 dry mix until just combined.  Stir together the baking soda and vinegar and mix into cake batter.  Divide batter into two 9" greased and floured cake pans. Bake for about 25 minutes until fully cooked.  Cool 10 minutes in pans and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Assemble cake by frosting the bottom layer, putting the top layer on and frosting entire outside of cake. Keep refrigerated until serving. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz cream cheese
4 oz butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk or heavy cream, as needed

Beat together room temperature cream cheese and butter and then mix in powdered sugar slowly. Add vanilla and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy.  Refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.


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