Over the Labor Day weekend, Peter's family came over to celebrate his birthday since Peter and I will be in Italy on his actual birthday. A few days before, I asked Peter what kind of cake he wanted, and he took no time in giving me his answer--it had to be Red Velvet. It's his favorite cake flavor, and it happens to be mine as well. When we find ourselves shopping in Houston's Galleria area, we almost always make a stop into Crave Cupcake to treat ourselves to their scrumptious Red Velvet cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting. They have many other fabulous flavors, and they often feature cupcakes with seasonal flavors as well, but we always go for the Red Velvet. So when Peter asked me to make this cake, I was pretty excited.
Of all the desserts I've made in the past, I've actually never made a double layer cake before, so I was really looking forward to trying something new. After some research for a good Red Velvet recipe, I chose one from a cookbook that I really should use more often: The Joy of Cooking. Although I have owned my copy for many years, I tend to use it only when I need to look up a conversion chart or definitions of cooking terms and techniques; I often forget how many excellent recipes are in this great cookbook.
The Joy of Cooking's Red Velvet recipe starts with a basic Buttermilk Layer Cake recipe, to which you add unsweetened cocoa powder and red food coloring. After a little preparation of all the ingredients, the batter came together quickly and easily. I love the fact that the recipe calls for buttermilk. It made the cake incredibly moist with a light crumb. But the best part of making a Red Velvet cake is the color, of course! I realized at the last minute that I didn't have enough red food coloring in my pantry, so my cakes didn't get the deep red color I was hoping for, but they still turned out great and there was certainly no mistaking that it was a Red Velvet cake!
As for the frosting, the recipe also came from The Joy of Cooking, and it didn't disappoint. The recipe does make a lot of frosting, and I generally do not like to put too much on cakes since it can become overly sweet. I think you end up losing the flavor of the cake when there is too much frosting. Before placing the cakes on my cake stand, I covered it with strips of parchment paper and then placed the bottom layer on top of the parchment strips to keep the cake stand clean. It was so much fun to see the cake take shape as I frosted it. A small offset spatula helped make the job much easier and for someone whose never made a double layer cake before, I think the end result came out great, and it was delicious. But the best part was that I made my favorite person his favorite cake for his very special day.
Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Note: Have all ingredients at room temperature.
For the cake:
2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1-3 T. red food coloring
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter two 9 x 2-inch or 8 x 2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment round. Dust cake pans with flour, tapping out excess. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add in the sugar and increase the mixer speed to high, beating for 3-5 minutes until the butter and sugar are light and fluffy in texture.
In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs and vanilla together. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and gradually add in the egg/vanilla mixture. Mix for another 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and begin gradually adding in the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk. Add the food coloring into the batter after the first addition of the buttermilk. Mix the batter until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Divide the batter between the two cake pans and spread out evenly with a spatula. Tap the pans on the counter a couple of times to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake on the middle rack for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer/cake tester comes out clean. Transfer cakes (still in the pans) to a rack to cool for 5-10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes out onto the cooling rack to finish cooling completely. *I inverted the cakes onto a plate first and then transferred them to the cooling rack.
If you are making the cakes a day ahead of serving, cool them competely and then wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature on a flat surface such as a baking sheet.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz. (2 blocks) cream cheese, softened
10 T. unsalted butter, softened
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 lbs. (8 cups) confectioner's sugar, sifted
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together over medium speed the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract until well blended. Add the confectioner's sugar in thirds to the cheese/butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until all of the sugar has been evenly incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
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