20 September 2017

Red Velvet Cake

Until a few months ago, I’d never even heard of red velvet cake. Now I’m obsessed with it!

I had my first taste of red velvet cake when my husband and I were on holiday in California in July. We were staying with friends, Ryan and Amy, just outside Los Angeles and happened to be there over Independence Day. Amy decided that it would be a great treat to make some red velvet cake for us all, saying that it was particularly appropriate for Independence Day, because of the bright red and white colouring. It was about 11.30pm by the time we got back from dinner and fireworks that night. We were very full from dinner and very tired, but the cake looked so delicious that we cut a slice and got stuck in straight away!

What is red velvet cake? – I hear you cry!

It is a very popular American dessert, which consists of a rich and moist cake that has a light chocolate flavour with an intense red colour. It’s covered in lots of decadent cream cheese frosting, which looks very striking with the contrast between the rich red cake and the white frosting.

On the last night of our trip we went out for a steak dinner. At the end of our meal, the waitress produced a surprise mini red velvet cupcake for each of us that had ‘Happy Anniversary’ written on a white chocolate disc, which was set on top of the icing. We had been married for exactly two months at this stage and the waitress thought it was worth celebrating! Yet again, we enjoyed another truly delicious version of red velvet cake.

Thus, my obsession began. That night I decided that I was going to make it my mission to learn how to make this cake in my own kitchen, and I’m thankful to Amy who gladly shared her recipe with me. I’ve now had several attempts at it, using a few different recipes. The results were varied, one of which involved me cleaning up icing sugar from every little crack and crevice on my cooker (don’t ask). Even this morning, much to my dismay, some more of it reappeared – it’s amazing how far that stuff will travel! This recipe requires the use of 9 inch cake tins. If, like me, you only have 8 inch tins, then spoon the extra mixture into some muffin cases and make some cupcakes! Red velvet cakes are not normally decorated but I decided to experiment with dying some desiccated coconut red. It seemed to work and looked great against the creamy white frosting. There are many variations on the frosting, some of which include the use of white chocolate. I’ve used a fairly straightforward one here, which, as you can see is not exactly calorie friendly! But, like Nigella, I shall make no apology. If you’re going to eat cake, you may as well do it properly!

I doubt that I’ll remember to celebrate Independence Day next year, but this is great cake for a special occasion, perhaps for Christmas or Valentines Day, or even a 2 month wedding anniversary!

I wish you every success with your red velvet cake mission and hope that you don’t have to do battle with your icing sugar…

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

  • 250g (9 oz) plain flour, sieved
  • ó tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
  • 113g (4 oz) unsalted butter, at
  • room temperature
  • 300g (10 ó oz) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 240ml buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp liquid red food colouring
  • 1 tsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Frosting:

  • 360ml double cream
  • 227g (8 oz) cream cheese, at
  • room temperature
  • 227g (8 oz) mascarpone cheese,
  • at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 115g (4 oz) icing sugar, sieved

CAKE METHOD

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and place rack in centre of oven.

Grease two 9 inch round cake tins and line the bottoms with greaseproof paper.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until soft (1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

In a measuring jug whisk the buttermilk together with the red food colouring. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, in three stages, beginning and ending with the flour.

In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter.

Work quickly at this next stage, because the chemical reaction is fast! Divide the batter evenly into the two tins and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

Once the cakes are cooked, transfer them to a wire cooling rack. When they are completely cool, wrap them in cling film and put them in the freezer for at least an hour. This makes slicing and frosting a lot easier.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

In your food processor, or with a hand mixer, blend the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and sieved icing sugar and blend until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whip the double cream until stiff peaks form. With a large spatula gently fold a little of the cream into the cheese mixture to lighten it. Then continue to fold in the remainder of the whipped cream in several stages. If the frosting is not thick enough to spread, put it into the fridge for a while until it firms up.

ASSEMBLY OF CAKE

With a serrated knife, cut each cake layer in half horizontally. You will now have 4 cake layers. Place one layer (with the top of the cake facing down) onto your serving plate. Spread a layer of frosting on the top of the cake, then place your second layer on the top. Continue to frost and stack your cake layers, then frost the top and sides of the cake. Place in the fridge to set for about an hour before enjoying your completed red velvet cake!

Claire Buchanan