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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Best-Ever Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake gets its name from its signature color. Because of how the way cocoa was processed back in the olden days, it would color everything red. Nowadays, we have to use artificial dyes. Most dislike the taste of dyes in their liquid form, so I think that it is much better to stick with pastes or powders. You can find powders online, as well as pastes, but the Wilton color paste/gels can also be found with ease at any arts and crafts store. Since most of us have the liquid dye at their disposal, this recipe calls for that.

Best-Ever Red Velvet Cake
yields a 10" cake, serves 12-16
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups Buttermilk or almond milk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 fat pinch of salt
  • 8 oz (BY WEIGHT) canola oil(it's pretty much 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp red food coloring(this is liquid. If you use gels, use about half that.)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, 320 degrees if you have a fan/convection oven. Prepare the pans of your choice with either fat and flour or a sheet of parchment paper. A full recipe will make either a full half-sheet pan or two 10" cake rounds. To make a personal-sized cake, simply cut the recipe in half and prepare two 6" cake rounds in the same way. 

Combine the buttermilk, vanilla, food coloring, and eggs and whisk until smooth. The dye will look very intense at this stage, but that's okay! I swear to you that it will calm down. 

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blitz for 1 minute. Add the oil and blitz for 45 seconds. or until smooth. You're basically cutting in the fat like you would a pie crust...only the fat is liquid, not solid! This method is known as 'reverse creaming' and is suitable for a denser cake recipe. Next, simply add your wet ingredients in thirds, scraping down the bowl of your food processor/standing mixer after each addition. It will be an extremely smooth and very sexy looking cake batter.

Gorgeous red color!

Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor, this cake recipe can be easily made by hand! Simply take a large bowl and whisk together all of your dry ingredients, and add in your oil the same as you would if you did have a machine. Stir gently by hand until smooth. Add in your liquid mixture, a little at a time, until everything comes together. Try not to over-mix; you only want to stir it until you have no more lumps.

Pour into prepared pans (I used two 10" rounds) and spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Pop into your preheated oven and check after 25 minutes. My cake took about 30, but your oven might be different. Just be sure to use a skewer inserted into the middle, and that it comes out rather dry to test your cake. 

When trimming a cake, you must ensure you let it cool in its entirety, so that it's at least room temperature before cutting into it. It's better, of course, either cold or frozen. I'm not joking when I say that the freezer is the baker's second-best friend, next to the oven. Don't be afraid to use it in its entirety! 

Trim your cakes down to size using a serrated knife and cake wheel. Slice each layer in half lengthwise to create a total of four layers. Make sure your layers are even on top and save the scraps either for snacks or to decorate with! If you do want to use them to decorate, bake them in a low, dry oven for at least 15 minutes. You're basically creating croutons out of cake, which you will later crush or blitz in the food processor to create crumbs. The result will be lovely!

To decorate, start with a bottom piece and fill with buttercream, repeating each layer as you go. You can put the jankier layers in the middle, but be sure you finish with a bottom piece on top, flipped so that the bottom is facing upwards. My inner 12-year-old likes to call this a "bottom sandwich."

I used cream cheese frosting, which is basically 2:1 ratio of cream cheese to butter plus powdered sugar. I used 2 lbs cream cheese with 1 lb butter, all at room temperature, with 1 egg yolk and approximately five cups of powdered sugar, with a hefty pinch of salt and scant teaspoon of vanilla. For a small vegan alternative that works just as well, use 12 oz vegan butter substitute per 2 cups of icing sugar, and add a full spoonful of coconut oil. Add salt to taste, and there you are! Crush up the crumbs from the cake scraps to create a rather attractive garnish, which you can press into the sides of the cake as pictured. 

Et voila!

Every time I make this in a restaurant setting, people go nuts!
If you'd like to make something a little more fanciful, feel free to gather up your decorating supplies such as decorating tips and piping bags to give a little more pizazz. I like the 'naked' cake look because I like to see a lot of the layers within. I also like the naked cake look because - to be honest - I don't like to eat a lot of frosting all at once. What I do like are various textures, so I like to utilize sprinkles and candies for the top! I invite you to have a lot of fun at this stage and go crazy with any kind of decorations you may have on hand. Try to stay within one color family, if you can, so your cake will look like you put some thought into it.

I love this recipe because it's not only an American classic, but because it's something that everyone recognizes with ease. It's quite easy to make this cake a show-stopper with a little time and effort! Best of all, you don't need to have special equipment to make this cake. This is what I like to call a 'dump-it cake' because you can - if needed - make everything together in one big bowl and save yourself a lot of dishes.

Thank you so much for reading! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Beautiful red velvet cake, just because!


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