I’m not much of a cake-baker. I’m grateful for the fact that frosting can cover a multitude of sins. I’m also smart enough to know that people first eat a cake with their eyes so that by the time that they actually take a bite they have already decided if they are going to like it or not. Mostly. Cake baking is a skill that really does take some practice to master and up until now it has just been too easy to whip up a fruit crisp or the occasional tart when a home made dessert is called for. Having said that, baking is one of the many things I set out to teach myself through the initiation of this blog. While cupcakes are fairly easy — just plop a scoop into a cup, cool, and frost – baking a whole cake takes a bit more planning, time, and technique. Usually, when it comes to entertaining I’d rather spend the requisite time and effort on the main event. Appetizers get short shrift in my house as well for this very reason. When the dinner you are cooking for is for a birthday, however, you are somewhat obligated to present a cake so make the time I did.
I had been saving Cindy’s easy cake recipe for the next time I would be called upon to make a cake –she and I share an aversion to fancy frostings and decorations — but I knew the birthday girl, Meshia is quite partial to the red velvet cupcakes at Sprinkles . I set out, therefore, to make her a real old fashioned Red Velvet Cake. I never really thought the Sprinkle’s recipe tasted much like the red velvet cakes I had remembered. (You can see Cindy’s influence on me with the cake topper. )
The “flavor hook” of a good red velvet cake is in the buttermilk, vinegar, and cocoa combination. Sprinkles erroneously describes it as “Southern light chocolate cake”. There is a lovely ‘tang’ and an extruded cocoa thing
going on here. Thinking of this as ‘chocolate cake light’ is really short selling it. (Besides, how anyone can taste anything other than “sweet” in a Sprinkles Cupcake is beyond me. ) The ‘red’ comes from food coloring but apparently old style recipes called for beet root to color the cake due to WW II rationing. Someday if I should ever master this cake I will try to recreate a beet version as I would imagine beets add an interesting element to the flavor profile. So even though this particular cake flavor has had a second resurgence in popularity thanks to the many cupcakeries that use it as a calling card (the first resurgence came after the film Steel Magnolias Red Velvet flavored its famous armadillo groom’s cake) I don’t think many people have tasted a real Red Velvet Cake.
In the fridge firming up the frosting…
The picture below taken with a flash reveals the outcome in a way you couldn’t make out just looking at the cake with the naked eye. The crumb was not at all consistent throughout. While the taste was quite good and hit all the notes I was expecting in a red velvet cake. Nothing too sweet here though some bites felt tougher than others. The pic makes it look like some of the cake was not even cooked but to the naked eye it all looked the same color — it was just the texture that was not even. At the time I thought it was my imagination until I saw this picture. I’ll do some reading to figure this out and perhaps I’ll retry this in a couple weeks with a different recipe. For now, I’m going to guess that my cake pans were over filled and/or I was just on the verge of overcooking the whole thing. Just a quick comparison to other recipe’s online has me thinking that larger pans must have been used when this recipe was written. 5 cups cake flour seems like a lot for two 9″ pans.
Red Velvet Cake