red velvet cake
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I’ve made an excellent cake. Totally suited for a birthday, layered and all, frosted and decorated – a beauty. The texture (or as knowledgeable bread gurus like to say: the crumb) is gorgeous, soft and slightly gloopy in a nice way (I’ll do anything to avoid saying ‘moist’). The frosting is a dream: not as sickly as whipped cream on its own, which sometimes makes you feel like it swells in your mouth, and this time not in a nice way. It’s also not too cream-cheesy, presenting a quandary of whether it should be on a cake or on a lox bagel. I’ve made the stencil myself (yes! me who cannot draw a stick man!) and I’ve managed to decorate the cake with cake – well, cake crumbs. Covering the vast expanse of my kitchen, worktops and floor, while at it. So – well done!
Yes – except my red velvet cake isn’t quite that red.
Over-researched, I’ll say. It turns out working with food colourings is quite a hit-and-miss and I’ve had no previous. I studied a small bottle of liquid red and a tiny tube of gel for a long while and went for the one that said ‘stable in baking’. You would, wouldn’t you?
I put a few drops of the ‘stable in baking’ into my mix to start with – not even a hint of a hue. I squeezed in some more – faint pink. I squirted half the tube to obtain a washed-out dirty beetroot – and finally went to town with it, in desperation.
I know. It’s brown. I’m not in denial.
But it’s an excellent cake, totally suited for a birthday, layered and all, frosted and decorated – a beauty. The texture…
red velvet cake
- For the cake layers:
- 200g (2 cups) plain flour
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 12g (1 1/2 tbsp.) cocoa powder
- 90g (4/5 of a stick) butter, softened
- 210g (1.2 cups) caster sugar
- 2 eggs (about 90g in total)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 190g (0.8 cup) buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. liquid red food colouring
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- For the frosting:
- 150g (5 oz.) full fat cream cheese
- 150g (5 oz.) mascarpone
- 85g (just over 1/2 cup) icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 240g (1 cup) double or whipping cream
You’ll need two 18 or 19cm round cake tins, buttered, floured and lined with a disc of parchment at the bottom. Preheat the oven to 175C/350F/gas 4.
Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl. In another bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed, add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Stir the red colouring into the buttermilk. Add to the butter mix alternating it with the flour, in three goes, beginning and ending with the flour.
Mix the bicarb of soda with the vinegar in a small cup, let it fizz and fold it quickly into the batter.
Divide the batter between the two tins, smooth the surface and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of the cake tin and invert, lifting off the tin. Once the cakes have completely cooled, wrap them in plastic and place in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight.
To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese with the mascarpone until smooth, using an electric mixer or a hand whisk. Beat in the icing sugar and the vanilla. Beat or whisk in the cream until the frosting thickens and reaches spreading consistency.
To assemble, slice each cake horizontally in two. ( If you want to decorate it with cake crumbs, trim the sides of one or both cakes, slice off uneven top of one or both or sacrifice one cake layer. Dry the trimmings in a medium oven for 30 minutes, then whiz in a blender to fine crumbs.) Spread a quarter of the frosting over each layer and stack them up (using less than a quarter if you’re making four layers). Smooth the top and frost the sides of the cake.
To decorate with cake crumb, place a stencil or a shape cut out of parchment over the cake top and sieve the crumbs all over the cake. Using a pastry brush cover the bald patches and brush the crumbs off the stencil, then lift it.