The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Making a Red Velvet Cake

Bessemer Opinions hasn't been the same since the demise of radio station 100.5, but now we have a link to Birmingham's Mountain Radio over to the left, so you can listen to good music while cruising the site.

I'm still not back into the political sphere full fledged yet, so I'm not going to comment on Montgomery or Washington today. Instead, I'm treating you to some Red Velvet Cake.

I came across a new recipe by Keri Fisher in Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking edition.

Did you know, that in spite of the massive amounts of red food coloring used today, the base red color comes from a chemical reaction between the acidic ingredients (vinegar and buttermilk) and the natural cocoa powder? (Don't use Dutch processed cocoa, it won't rise properly in this cake). The acid allows the anthocyanin in the cocoa to be released in its red form. This is the same reaction that makes hydrangea blooms pink when in an acid environment (as opposed to blue in an alkaline environment). Could we make a blue velvet cake? I might do some experimenting.

Buttermilk powder and natural cocoa

I made one slight change to Keri's recipe. Instead of using fresh buttermilk, I used Saco Cultured Buttermilk Blend powder, after being convinced that powdered buttermilk is just as good to use in recipes, with no reduction in quality; assured. It's easier to have buttermilk on hand this way, for biscuits, cakes, pancakes.

In this recipe you combine the dry ingredients (which for me included the buttermilk powder), the liquid ingredients (which for me included an extra cup of water to replace the liquid buttermilk), and the cocoa and red food color in separate bowls. I also learned that weighing my flour and sugar (when weights are given in the recipe) yields more accurate measurement than measuring by cups.

Flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk powder

Eggs, water, vinegar, vanilla

Cocoa and food coloring

Cream the butter and sugar and then add the other ingredients like you would for any cake, alternating dry and liquid, and ending with dry. Then mix in the red cocoa mixture.

In the past my Red Velvet Cakes have been either 3 layer or a bundt type with a glaze. this recipe calls for two layers but could easily be made a three or 4 layer (many recipes call for splitting the two cooked layers and making 4 that way).

Whip up a fluffy batch of cream cheese frosting and you have a product that Keri describes as living up to both the "red" and the "velvet" in its name.

Cook's Illustrated doesn't have this recipe up on its site yet. After I've tasted this cake and decided whether further changes are needed, I'll post the recipe on here.

The finished product

If you are in the right place at the right time this evening, you can have a slice of this cake.


Anonymous said...

Joe, is it an urban legend that what used to make them red was beets? Do you have a good set of scales?

Joe said...

I read that they used beets, especially during the big war (WWII) when sugar was scarce, as a sweetener. I assume they made the cakes red, too. In Keri's write up, she said she tried beets and they gave the cake a "vegetal" flavor.

I hope my scales are good. Maybe I should "test" them.

Homer said...

I had never heard of red velvet cake. I made an elaborate chocolate cake log, decorated with chocolate leaves and cranberries, to my ex's family Xmas party. And his cousin brought a red velvet cake (made from a mix). Guess whose cake was completely ignored? Humphhhh.

Joe said...

Homer I would have gone straight (figure of speech) to your chocolate cake log. Send me that recipe! (or make me a cake)