Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Red Velvet Cake

This seems to be my week to plunge into the culinary unknown. Red velvet cake has intrigued me for a long time. A southern tradition, it was unknown in upstate New York where I grew up. I only became aware of it with the advent of the internet with its plethora of recipe sites and blogs. Most of the recipes I have seen use a cream cheese frosting. I came across this version with the more authentic butter roux frosting on BHG.com. I just had to try it.

The cake was easy to make and other than the intense red color, seemed to be just the right consistency and amount for three 8" pans. When the layers came out of the oven, even after the full 30 minutes baking time, they were not cooked in the centers. Judging by the "doneness" of the edges, I think this recipe would be better made in 9" pans.

The frosting was fun to make. Cooking the milk and flour was like making pudding. It blended well into the butter and sugar mixture. My fears that the roux would make it too heavy were unfounded. This is a light, easy to spread frosting which generously frosts three 8" layers.

My problem with this recipe is the taste. I just don’t like Red Velvet Cake! It’s too sweet even for my overactive sweet tooth. On the other hand, the frosting isn’t sweet enough. And I particularly don’t like the gritty texture.

Note: the picture below is from the site. My version was not nearly as attractive because the layers did not cook fully, creating a cratered cake.

Verdict: Not bad, but I don’t think I’ll be making this again.

Red Velvet Cake
(source: BHG.com)

3 eggs
¾ cup butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 1-oz. bottle red food coloring (2 Tbsp.)
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. vinegar
1 recipe Buttercream Frosting

Let eggs and butter stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8 x 1 1/2 –inch round baking pans; set aside.

In medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, and ¾ tsp. salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium-high 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until combined. One at a time, add eggs; beat on medium after each. Beat in food coloring on low.

Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture; beat on low-medium after each just until combined. Stir together baking soda and vinegar. Add to batter; beat just until combined.

Spread in prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until pick inserted near centers comes out clean (cakes may appear marbled). Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool.

Prepare Buttercream Frosting. Place layer flat side up on plate. Spread top with ¾ cup frosting. Stack layer, flat side up; spread top with ¾ cup frosting. Stack final layer, flat side down; spread remaining frosting on top and sides. Makes 16 servings.

Buttercream Frosting: In medium saucepan whisk together 1 ½ cups whole milk, ⅓ cup flour, and dash salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Transfer to small bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cooled (do not stir). In large bowl beat 1 ½ cups softened butter, 1 ½ cups sugar, and 2 tsp. vanilla on medium 5 minutes until light and fluffy and sugar is almost dissolved. Add cooled milk mixture, ¼ cup at a time; beat on low after each until smooth.

Recycle: vanilla bottle, food coloring bottle, vinegar bottle

Compost: eggshells

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