Red velvet cake seems to be all over the nation’s cafes and tearooms these days. I was initially sceptical about it, as I generally am about any passing fad, but having discovered it when we were planning our wedding (ultimately choosing it as one of the layers for our wedding cake), I’ve come round to the idea. Seeing the photos of the finished cake, it will come as little surprise to you to learn that the red velvet cake is American in origin – like a lot of American food, it’s massive! This particular recipe has three layers of chocolatey, vanilla-y white chocolate-frosted indulgence. Before I get started, it’s worth noting that the “red” aspect of the cake is basically a gimmick and obviously makes no difference to the taste. But then so is the yellow and pink of a Battenberg cake, so I can’t really argue about that one.
I decided to take on the challenge of creating a red velvet cake for one of my 30 Before 30 baking activities, and Christmas had left a new addition in the kitchen that I was eager to put to the test. This food mixer – a present from my dear husband – may not be a genuine KitchenAid, but it certainly looks the part and, as I discovered, it does the job brilliantly. In the description below, I’m following a recipe that I found online at allrecipes.co.uk.
You will need
- 250g butter, softened (take out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to bake!)
- 600g caster sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 tablespoons red food colouring
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 375g plain flour
- 250ml buttermilk – I couldn’t find any in Tesco, so I used Kefir instead
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tablespoon vinegar – apparently white wine, white malt and white cider vinegar are all fine. I wish I’d known this – it wasn’t clarified in the recipe I followed!
- 2 x 200g tubs cream cheese
- 350g white chocolate
- 250g butter, softened
Grease/line three 20cm tins and preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (gas mark 3). Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. It will seem an improbably large amount of sugar!
Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Mix together the food colouring and cocoa powder and add to the mixture.
Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk, little by little. Then mix together the bicarbonate of soda and the vinegar, before gently stirring it into the mixture.
Bake the cakes for 25 minutes; a skewer should come out clean. Leave to cool.
Make the icing: melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, and then beat in the melted chocolate and soft butter. Here I made another mistake: I used the microwave to melt the chocolate to save time, but the chocolate came out slightly lumpy. It wasn’t the end of the world, but for a smoother finish I’ll melt it over boiling water on the hob next time.
Assemble the cake when cool, layering up cake and icing.
I sprinkled over some red hundreds and thousands as a finishing touch, which looked great until a few hours later, when the red dye was absorbed by the icing!
Slicing the cake, I was disappointed to find that – though moist and delicious – the cake was not as red as the batter had led me to believe it would be. Two whole tablespoons of red food colouring – about half the bottle – was evidently not sufficient to overpower the brown of the cocoa. However, on conducting a bit of research, it turns out that I may have had more luck with the red colour had I included the vinegar as instructed, as it reacts with the buttermilk to bring out more of the red in the cocoa. I had left the vinegar out because I have so many different kinds, didn’t know which to use, and didn’t want to risk spoiling the cake! So it was more of a brown velvet cake this time, but I shall know next time! It was still delicious, I’m happy to report.
A final observation concerns the food mixer. It was great, and really saved a lot of effort in the baking process. It dealt with the cake batter and icing in no time, and it frees up your hands to continue with other tasks while it gets to work. Definitely recommended for the keen baker!