Thursday, March 12, 2015

Best-Ever Red Velvet Cake

It tasted even better than it looked.
Not long ago, I posted about the best-ever cake technique I discovered thanks to Ron Ben-Israel, the colorful Sweet Genius, in my Vanilla/Vanilla Cake recipe. Deciding to throw caution to the wind for my birthday, I made dessert specials throughout the weekend of Birthday Cake.

The cannoli cake was paired with quince gelato!
The best part about birthday cake is that it can be anything, as long as it's on someone's birthday. We usually conjure up images of a very good, moist yellow cake with white icing and lots of rainbow sprinkles, but I decided to go with something a little more grown-up. The first day, I used the vanilla cake recipe with a cannoli filling and buttercream. The result sold out. But for Saturday, I couldn't resist going for that American favorite: the red velvet cake.

Red velvet cake gets its name from its signature color, which used to be au naturale, just because of how the way cocoa was processed back in the olden days, it would color everything red. Nowadays, we use artificial dyes. Most dislike the taste of dyes(I do as well) in liquid form, so it's 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. I didn't have the bright red I wanted, so I just used the liquid dye in this recipe.

Red Velvet Cake

  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups Buttermilk
  • 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.

Combine the buttermilk, vanilla, food coloring, and eggs and whisk until smooth. 

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blitz for 1 minute. If you don't have a food processor, use the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment and "stir" for 1 minute. Add the fat, and blitz for 45 seconds until smooth. You're basically cutting in the fat, like you would a pie crust...only the fat is liquid, not solid.

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. 

unfffff....

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. 

They kind of resemble cupcakes...
If you don't spread out your batter, they'll "muffin top up" like they did in this picture. I did this on purpose because I wanted lots of extra cake scraps for decoration. 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. Seriously, 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 turn table. Then 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. 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.

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." Because bottom is another word for butt. Get it? 


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. 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!

A beautiful, 4-layer, Red Velvet cake, sure to impress, satisfy, and feet (at least) 16 hungry guests at your next birthday party. Happy baking and happy eating! Comment below with questions!

*heavy breathing*