Monday, February 25, 2013

red velvet cake.

Before this whole red velvet cake investigation/baking extravaganza, I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of red velvet cake.  I just never understood the appeal.  (As someone who loves cake as much as I do you can imagine how crazy a statement this is for me to make.)  But I may have to admit, that after embarking on the search for the perfect version, I have been converted.  How you may ask? It's because this cake is ridiculously good (really ridiculously good) .  It’s oh so moist the way every cake should always be.  The tang of the buttermilk comes through subtly but it still makes itself known and the cocoa powder is present but not overpowering.  The frosting is creamy and dreamy and not cloyingly sweet the way some cream cheese frostings can be.  I am going to make the bold statement that this is the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had and probably the only one I will ever eat going forward.  

Red Velvet Cake
Recipe adapted from NYTimes

Ok! As I mentioned in my previous post I looked at many red velvet recipes.  The amount of cocoa powder in these recipes ranged from 2 tablespoons all the way to ½ cup, which is absurd that there is such a range.  I knew from my own previous red velvet experience that I prefer a cake with a higher cocoa content so I did a test round using the ½ cup of cocoa powder.   While I loved it, the consensus among my guinea pigs was that it was too chocolaty to be considered a true red velvet cake.  I found that dialing the cocoa powder back to ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons was the perfect amount.  You still got a hint of chocolate but it wasn’t a chocolate punch.  I also dialed down the amount of food coloring.  The cake in my mind doesn’t need to be blindingly red (especially from the additional of chemicals!).  Even dialed back to 2 tablespoons it was plenty red!

Makes 3 9-inch cake layers

3 ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 ½ teaspoons white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut circles out of parchment paper the same size as your cake pans.  Place the parchment rounds in the bottom of the pans and then grease your pans with butter.   

Whisk cake flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl. 

Place oil and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  With machine on very low, very slowly add the red food coloring (take care it may splash!).  Add vanilla.  Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches.  Scrape down the bowl and beat just long enough to combine. 

Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add the to batter with machine running.  Beat for 10 seconds. 

Divide the batter among the pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 30 – 35 minutes. Let cool in pan 15 minutes.  Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment.  Cool completely before frosting. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

In the notes on the Smitten Kitchen site, she mentions that this makes enough frosting for a lightly frosted cake.  I prefer a decent amount of frosting on my cake so I did 1 ½ times which made the perfect amount of frosting for the cake (in my humble opinion). 

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, at room temperature
4 ½ cups confectioners sugar
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (or you can use a handheld mixer).  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add sugar and vanilla.  Beat, on low speed to combine.  If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using. 

Icing/Decorating Notes

-I struggle a lot with icing cakes.  I find I can never make it that neat and then it looks like a 5 ½ year old got a hold of the cake before it made it the party (never a good look).  At the suggestion of Smitten Kitchen, I tried icing the cake in two batches, first a “crumb layer” and then a more decorative one.  To make the crumb layer you use a very thin layer of frosting to coat the cake (you should be able to see the cake through the frosting). When you have coated the cake, place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let the icing firm up.  Once it firms up, remove from the fridge and then do a second icing layer so you no longer see the cake! 
-The gold sprinkles on my cake is gold sanding sugar.  It gives an amazing look to all baked goods.  The gold in particular is very classy!  You can find it at Willams Sonoma. 
-The hearts I made out of paper and just attached them to wooden dowels.  Simple and cute. 

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