Hi everyone! I’ve returned from the pseudo-reality that is the exam season and I’m raring and willing to bake again for you lovely people. In fact, within two hours of finishing my last exam, a couple of my course friends and I baked this beautiful red velvet cake.
Do excuse my rushed photography but this wasn’t a serious bake for me at all. I simply wished to unwind and relax after all my hard work, and my immediate go-to activity is to bake (naturally.) If this was a hard-core baking session, I would not have invited some helpers along. While I have full faith in my friend Joanna’s baking skills (Her Guinness chocolate cake is simply to die for! I plan to steal the recipe), my friend Sophie’s kitchen skills leave something to be desired.
As much as I joke, they are both fantastic friends and this cake was dedicated to them (hence why I got them to sign their names on it.) They are so smart and they teach me as much as some lecturers at university so I felt it was time to return the favour. I told them to name any cake in the world and I would bake it and Sophie piped up ‘Red Velvet.’ Deal.
I had never made a red velvet before but as far as I could tell, it was a sponge cake with a bit of cocoa powder and a lot of red food colouring. It’s a really popular choice for Valentine’s Day due to its passionate hue. Here’s a bit of background of those unfamiliar with the cake:
Red velvet cake is a cake with either a dark red, bright red or red-brown colour. It’s traditionally prepared as a layer cake topped with cream cheese or cooked roux icing. The reddish colour is achieved by adding beetroot or red food colouring Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, and flour for the cake and cocoa, beetroot or red food colouring for the colour. Cream cheese frosting and butter cream frosting are most commonly used.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_velvet_cake
I really wanted a bright red cake but I think it would have involved less cocoa powder and my mates insisted we did nothing to impair the flavour of the cake so I was overruled. But the cake did achieve a lovely maroon colour, so I guess it was a good compromise. I did some research on how to maintain the lovely red colour (rather than the crushingly disappointing brown) and seem to me like the best tip is to make sure your food colouring is natural. Traditionally, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda was placed in to enhance the pigmentation of beetroot but if you are using food colouring, this is not necessary. However, the ingredients are still included in many modern recipes out of habit. I have upheld this custom in my recipe below. (Here’s a really good article I found about the science of the colour of red velvet.)
Also, as a side note, can I just emphasise how good my cream cheese topping is (Not to blow my own trumpet!). I’ve been experimenting for a while with different ratios and I think I’ve got it perfect. But judge for yourself and comment below! If you don’t like cream cheese, butter cream icing is a good substitute.
Ingredients (serves 15)
- 175g (6oz) butter
- 450g (16 oz) caster sugar
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 38 ml (1.3 fl oz) natural red food colouring
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 500g (17 1/2 oz) plain white flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 340 ml (12 fl oz) buttermilk (I substituted buttermilk with 4 parts natural yoghurt and 1 part milk.)
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
For the cream cheese icing:
- 250g (9 oz) butter
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) icing sugar
- 500g (18 oz) soft cheese
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/ 160ºC fan (355ºF/ 320ºF fan). Grease two 20 cm (8 in) round cake tins.
- In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth.
- Add an egg, one at a time, and beat.
- Add the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla extract. Mix well.
- Sift in the flour and salt. Add this in stages with the buttermilk and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar until bubbles start to form. Add this to the cake mix.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. After 30 minutes, I recommend covering the cakes with aluminium foil to prevent the tops from burning.
- As you wait for the cake to cool (this will take around half an hour), make your icing by mixing the four ingredients together.
- Level the tops of your cakes (tutorial in preparing cakes coming soon!). Don’t throw away the excess cake as you use them to make crumbs for decoration.
- Place icing between the two layers, then ice the top of the cake. Sprinkle crumbs on top to decorate.