Red velvet is an absolute wonder, it seems rather overrated but then you bite into it… and it justifies its exasperated, most loved, reputation. I made my first red velvet cake for a birthday and it was absolutely, beautifully red! Now I make it for another birthday (for a friend’s boyfriend), more of a lover’s cake really. So I prepared my ingredients and set to it. After my first attempt however my red velvet endeavours were not the beloved lustrous red that I once succeeded in, and its disastrous adventures made me take a back seat in future productions. Then of course I decided I had to master it!! I just had to; I needed to take the drivers’ seat and tour all the way around the world with my red velvet front-of-the-race act in the back seat, carefully lulled in its mighty delicate packaging of soft, fluffy cream cheese with a pit crew of white chocolate to defeat those prying flecks of dirt and those inevitably tempted finger-lickers.
But alas! Here in another world where things are morosely ordinary, I decided to embark on a kitchen escapade and made lumps and bumps of messes in every direction. I will never regret my joyful time. My mum saved me here, twice might I add. My mum was my saviour, she uses this crazy red-red when she makes tandoori chicken, and it really boots my red velvet cake into gear. You can add profuse amounts of red food colouring and copious heaps of gel but then you must consider the consistency, which suddenly drowns in the pothole of colour. The worst part is that even when you create such folly you aren’t left with the gleaming red you deserve, and I won’t lie I always accused the cocoa to be the culprit of my losing in the colour department here. The red that saved me is in the form of a powder, and regardless if you are booted in the sports car gear to match the challenge of the lustful red of velvet, you will not escape without a smudge of red somewhere on yourself – it’s that good!!
So then I thought, I conquered my race with red, won it with one hand on the steering wheel and one on my mixing bowl, and I’m left pondering my new challenge. The velvet. Red velvet is not just known for its beauty, that is red, but it’s the moistness of the cake which makes it a cake worth driving round the world for. You could consider the moistness a defined feature of consistency, of colouring, of the flour, of the pinch of salt, or you could see that none of those are distinctive enough to leave something famous right in its name. Buttermilk is the moist factor in this beauty, beetroot was a has-been but we’ve come to see that not many recipes call for this as a necessity any more, it’s a shame really. I love to eat beetroot and I have seen and tasted the wonders it does to a cake but unfortunately it has a mighty fine substitute where food colouring takes a first for the red and the buttermilk running right next to it for a lick of moistness. I am never one to have buttermilk on hand however, I have never needed it for anything unless a recipe calls for it, and only then do I use it. In my case I have discovered countless substitutes so I make my mix of lemon and milk and throw that in instead, it always works.
I used cooking rings to shape and bake them, but if you’re not someone who has a number of them on hand, like myself, then it just takes a bit more patience. I sliced them to smother the tiers with cream cheese and then piped over the whole of it. You can use any kind of technique, nozzle, or fancy artwork you like, the end result is brilliant.
So these are the epitome of my win of the red velvet 2013 championship race, I hope you win yours this season!
Oh and I did dominate, the colour gleams, and the moistness was irrevocably ingrained into its flesh.. Just as it should be.
Recipe + Method
130ml butter milk
180g plain flour, sifted
2tsp white wine vinegar
280ml sunflower oil
1tsp red food colouring (powder)
1½ tbsp red food colouring (liquid)
1tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder, sifted
½ tsp salt
10g cocoa powder, sifted
230g caster sugar
90g white chocolate, melted
180g butter, at room temperature
2 ½ tbsp milk
400g, icing sugar, sifted
To prepare, either butter the cooking rings or as I did, spray with cooking oil, then cover with baking paper and place on a baking tray lined with paper or a silicone sheet. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt together, then place aside till needed. After, cream together the sugar, eggs and oil, once its thoroughly combined, add the buttermilk, liquid colouring and vanilla. Then fold in the dry ingredients and then the vinegar. Once this is complete, add in the powdered colour and gently fold, keep adding until it has reached the peak of red you desire. Pour into the cooking rings until ¾ full and bake in a preheated oven at 30-40 minutes on 160C (fan assisted). To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar and butter, then add in the white chocolate and the milk as needed.
When the cakes are baked leave them to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack and peeling away the paper. Once completely cooled, slice them horizontally and swipe with frosting (I used a plain piping nozzle) but coat as you wish.