Friday, August 26, 2011

Can anything really be this good?

I grew up with Red Velvet Cake. It was THE birthday cake in our house. From Scratch. There was no such thing as boxed Red Velvet Cake when I was young. The recipe calls for two bottles of red food coloring - how decadent can you get? The cake actually plays with your head and your taste buds, because even though the cake is made with cocoa, your brain can't really wrap itself around the notion that the flavor of chocolate is coming from something so completely red.

Another lovely thing about scratch red velvet cake is the buttermilk. Hands down, there is no better cake of any kind than one that has buttermilk in the ingredients. The version in a box just misses the mark here - you don't get that yummy buttermilk smoothness and bit of tang out of the box. I really believe it's the key ingredient in a true red velvet cake. Well, except for the frosting, and I will go to my grave defending authentic Red Velvet Cake Frosting, and it IS NOT made with cream cheese.

Don't misunderstand me, I L-O-V-E cream cheese frosting - on cinnamon rolls and carrot cake, but it does not belong on red velvet cake. True southern recipes call for a delicious, slippery, subtle white frosting that must be cooked first, then beaten to the end of oblivion. That is what I'm talkin' about! I really find it almost impossible to enjoy a piece of red velvet if it has any other frosting.

There is one exception, however. That cake up there in the picture? That cake is frosted with whipped cream - and that's ok - because it is a "strawberry shortcake red velvet cake" and that is different. You put whipped cream on strawberry shortcake, so I'm in complete agreement that it goes perfectly with that breathtakingly gorgeous creation. I really want a piece of that cake. How do you even slice that cake? How would you get it to the plate in one piece? It really wouldn't matter, I'd eat that cake in whatever condition it was set in front of me. And I know I would love it, whipped cream and all.

Red Velvet Cake 
 (no, not like the one in the picture - you have to click here to get that recipe!)


For the Cake:
2 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 ounces Red Food Coloring
1 cup Buttermilk
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ cup Shortening
1 ½ cups White Sugar
2 Eggs
2 ½ cups All-Purpose Floursifted
1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp White Vinegar
For the Frosting:
1 cup Milk
5 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 cup White Sugar
1 cup Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1. Grease two 9 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Set aside.

2. Combine the buttermilk, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and 1 ½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the cocoa mixture. Beat in the buttermilk mixture alternately with the flour, mixing just until incorporated. Stir together baking soda and vinegar, then gently fold into the cake batter.

3. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

4. To Make Icing: In a saucepan, combine the milk and 5 tablespoons flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool completely. Cream together butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy, then stir in the cooled milk and flour mixture, beating until icing reaches spreading consistency.

****If you want to get really fancy, slice each cake layer horizontally to create 4 layers, and put frosting on the top and between the layers only - not on the sides. 

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