Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Red velvet cake, without the red (or the icing)

Then why make it, you ask? What's the point of red velvet cake if it's not red, and doesn't have icing?

Don't worry, it's still good.

Red velvet cake is a pet peeve of  mine. I can't tell you how many times I've had red velvet cake (usually at an office party) that is nothing more than regular white cake with a ton of red food dye added. People: This is not red velvet cake! I don't care how red it is.

REAL red velvet cake is made with cocoa and buttermilk. And tastes chocolate-y. The red color originally came from a chemical reaction between the unprocessed cocoa and the buttermilk. (Hershey's isn't the right kind of cocoa; but it's okay to use, that's what I used.) Some people added a little beet juice to enhance the reddish tinge (adding beet juice doesn't affect the flavor). Then I guess everyone decided they liked the red color so much, most red velvet cake recipes these days call for TWO BOTTLES of red dye.

Even if the cake is made the right way, with cocoa and buttermilk, if it has two bottles of dye in it, I can't taste anything but dye. (You do know food dye is made from petroleum, right?)

But I had some buttermilk I needed to use up, so I decided to make it anyway, with or without the red. I didn't make the icing because, hey, I was lazy. Plus I figure that way, it's more acceptable to have cake for breakfast. Without icing, it's just like a cake wedge-shaped muffin, right? Right?

Anyway, here's the recipe. Should you choose to add the two bottles of dye (ewwww, btw), add that to the cocoa powder to make a sort of paste before adding it to the batter. And wear an apron, that crap stains.

2 1/2 cups sifted flour (sift by itself first, then sift with the other dry ingredients, as per below)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Sift the first three ingredients together, and set aside. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and cocoa (or cocoa/dye paste). Add 1/3 flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, and so on. Scrape down the bowl and make sure everything is well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar and baking soda (yes, it will fizz) and incorporate that into the batter. Divide into the cake pans, and back at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Cook 3 tablespoons flour and 1 cup milk until thick. Cool COMPLETELY. Cream 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 1 cup butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until fluffy, and fold that into the flour/milk mixture.

Another pet peeve: cream cheese icing on red velvet cake. Good and all, but the flour/milk icing above is the authentic one.

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