Saturday, February 08, 2014

Red Velvet Cake and History

   
          With Valentines Day less than a week away, I thought I'd make something extra special for the holiday of love, and homemade is one true expression of that emotion so let's make a red velvet cake from scratch! But first, have you ever thought about where the red velvet cake came from? Or why it is red? I had to find out, after all, a  good baker always wants to know these things, so here goes. Red velvet cake has been dated back to the late 1800's when John A. Adams started up a extract company after his wife wasn't happy with a plain vanilla extract, along the way with too much red food coloring in storage,  Adams invented the  red cake, by adding 2 bottles of the red dye to a cake recipe that was smooth as velvet and marketed it as "The Cake of a Wife Time" with free color recipe cards in grocery stores all over the mid west and parts of the south. The cake became a sensation.  There is also a urban legend surrounding this cake and even some believe it was invented by Russians who used beet juice for the coloring. But no matter what story you believe, the red velvet cake is one of the more popular cakes requested with many other foods invented from the master. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake Recipe
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 oz. red food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or three 8-inch round cake pans.
2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.  In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
4. Make sure you have cake pans buttered, floured, and nearby.  In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda.  Yes, it will fizz!  Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine.  Working quickly, divide batter evenly between the cake pans and place them in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check early, cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. To remove the cakes from the pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, then gently lift the pan.  Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting. 
Recipe Notes: *Sift cake flour once before measuring, then sift again with the other dry ingredients per recipe instructions. Wear an apron and be careful with the red food coloring–no matter how hard I try, I always end up staining something!  As you’re mixing the cake batter, use a spatula to scrape down the bowl frequently throughout the entire process.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract.  Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.  If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).
Recipe and photo from Pinch my Salt

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