As Valentine’s Day is officially one week away, it’s time to get our love-on…recipes, quotes, finds for your honey. Enjoy!
Two summers ago, my family gathered from points near and far to have a 100th birthday party for my Grandfather, the patriarch of our crazy bunch. There were fancy invitations, we made foods that we knew he loved, had games, we even wrote an official proclamation for the day. It was a truly fun and memorable day. The kicker to all of this? My Grandpa died 15 years earlier. Yup. You heard me correctly. This man was so adored and loved by his family that when his 100th birthday rolled around, we still felt compelled to throw him a bash to honor his centennial. Talk about making a lasting impression, eh? And honestly, may we all achieve that in our lives…that we establish such bonds and are so loved that even when we are gone, people still throw us parties.
So, my part in all of this fun was to bake THE birthday cake. Everyone in the family knows I love to bake. What to bake? How to decorate it? Talk about pressure. I sweated it. I had such visions for this cake.
After much ado, I finally decided to make a Red Velvet cake, for several reasons stemming from “who the heck doesn’t love red velvet cake?” to “it’s even red and white…just like the Polish flag and he was 100% Polish”. Nothing about this day was haphazard, I can tell you this. So, I researched. Trolled food sites for the perfect recipe. No box was going to be used in the baking of this cake, no sirree Bob. I cross-referenced ingredients, read reviews, poured through cookbooks. This had to be the most perfect cake I had ever produced in my little kitchen.
Two days before the party was cooking day. I baked it. Something happened. I had several layers that were all different thicknesses. And it seemed more crumbly that it should be. Oh, God. Really? Ok. This cake was not going to win. I am. Take two! Sweat, sweat, sweat. I made the cake again. At that point, I had purchased so much red food coloring that I could have helped any makeup artist on any zombie film. The bowls scattering my kitchen made it look like a crime scene, with all that flaming red batter all over the place. It was truly ridiculous.
Cake #2 came out of the oven. Looked good this time! Phew! Smelled great, too. Did we have a winner?
Fast forward the day of the party. I took all the parts of the cake -a bale of cream cheese frosting, the cake layers, fresh raspberries-to my parents’ house and decided to assemble it there (didn’t want to risk having a cake slide all over the creation on a 2-hour car ride). What resulted was the most lop-sided, odd-looking cake I have ever made. The plump raspberries on top that were supposed to be for decoration ended being used as culinary diversions…build this side up higher! No, that side needs more height! I swear, if you looked at this cake from one side, it looked like it was sliding off of a perfectly level counter. I have no idea to this day what the hell happened and that was the most visually “off” cake that I have ever baked.
It tasted ok. It wasn’t show-stoppingly amazing as I had hoped, but it worked. It almost seemed a little too red-pound-cakey to me. It’s like the pressure I felt was cooked right into the cake, if that makes sense. We all had a good laugh about it and frankly, my Grandpa wouldn’t have thought anything less of a crooked, running-down-hill cake or a cake that was not as light and airy as it really should have been. He was a man who was about the eating. Not the fawning over the aesthetics of a meal. BUT, since that day, that recipe, although good, has left a bit of an odd taste in my mouth (pardon the pun). So, I’ve been back to searching for a great red velvet recipe. You know what? I finally found it. Not too dense, not crumbly. Easy. Crazy-red. Delish.
Maybe someone will make it for me on my 100th birthday.
Red Velvet Cake-courtesy of Alton Brown
(some of the amounts are unusual. If you’ve ever watched Alton Brown, you’ll understand)
1/2 cup + 3 Tb. flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 Tb. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk, room temp.
1 fluid oz. red liquid food coloring (yes, that much)
1 Tb. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup + 1/4 cup+ 1 Tb. dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
2 whole eggs, room temp.
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Set rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Spray 2 (9 inch) round pans with nonstick spray, line bottoms with parchment paper, spray the parchment and set aside.
Whisk flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt together. Set aside. Whisk the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla together in small bowl and set aside. Now is when your kitchen will start to look like a crime has been committed.
Combine the brown sugar and butter in large bowl and cream until lightened in color. Slowly add eggs and beat until fully incorporated.
Mixing slowly, add the flour mixture in 3 installments, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix slowly 30-45 seconds.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake until cake springs back when pressed and looks perfectly divine. Cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and cool completely before frosting with the best, simple frosting known to man.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1.5 cup +3 Tb. confectioners’ sugar
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 oz. butter, softened
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
Combine cream cheese and butter until just blended. Add vanilla and salt. Add confectioners’ sugar in 4 batches, beating after each addition. Refrigerate 5-10 minutes before using. Prepare to go to heaven.
*This recipe can also be made into cupcakes. Please note, though, for some reason they come out flat-topped. Don’t be alarmed. They look odd at first, but once you pile on the frosting, you’d never know. This recipe as a cake, though, comes out looking as you would expect it to.