Marriage is a most beautiful thing. Take for example the marriage of a hot dog to its bun. Mustard to a knish. Or in this case, the best cake recipe with the most glorious frosting.Oh, you thought I was referring to the marriage between two people? No, no, no – that’s a completely different story. It’s tumultuous. A dichotomy of opposing egos – it’s as generous as it is demanding. Like a cake studded with ghost peppers. You can figure out ways to maneuver around them, develop techniques over the years to handle them, but you’re inevitably going to chomp down one and when you do, you might find yourself questioning the decision to go for that slice of cake.But you go on anyway, running around with your head ablaze because darn it you committed to this slice of cake! And the heat dies down and you’re left with a smear of frosting on your plate that you scoop up and wonder, “Gosh this is so delightful, whatever was all that fuss about?”. That’s married life for ya.
People go bananas for red velvet, and personally, I’ve never understood why. Always made with a smidge of chocolate – the base cake isn’t strongly flavored enough. I opted for a recipe that has more cocoa than the usual red velvet recipe (3 tbsp vs 1 tsp) but not so much that it’s more of a chocolate cake (one recipe called for 1/3 cup cocoa!). It’s often topped with a tangy/sweet cream cheese frosting, though delicious, is better served with a sweeter cake, like banana or carrot cake. I feel like it’s striking, contrasting colors that people fall for. Also, a very tender cake made by the addition of buttermilk AND vinegar.
I wanted to try the original cooked milk/flour frosting recipe that accompanies red velvet. But as my hectic week dwindled down, all I had the energy for was whipping up two bars of Philly with a healthy stick of butter and calling it a day. I also experimented with the food coloring – since I used a gel food coloring, which is typically more pigmented than the usual food coloring. I used a rounded teaspoon rather than the tablespoon of food coloring that the recipe called for. In hindsight, I probably could have used more to offset the cocoa. Taste-wise – no complaints.
The second cake was for an acquaintance’s farewell party. I used my all time favorite chocolate cake recipe (Beatty’s) but with a no fuss frosting (Hershey’s perfectly chocolate frosting). I came upon this particular frosting recipe after looking for an alternative to the buttercream Ina Garten uses to accompany this cake (it has a raw egg yolk and I have two young’ns). What I love about this recipe is
- It uses cocoa powder rather than chocolate baking bars. Those can be so fussy. Semi-sweet vs bittersweet. Melt, then cool. Ugh.
- It’s made in a saucepan on a stovetop, with just a whisk. No fancy equipment necessary.
- It’s got a glossy sheen like that of a ganache.
That being said, it is a bit high maintenance in one respect: you’ve got to use it right away, and do not dilly dally with the application. It dries fairly quickly and as soon as it does, it becomes difficult to spread. Unlike buttercream which you can spread and tweak all the livelong day.
It’s also reminiscent of the Entenmann’s chocolate fudge cake I used to have as an afterschool snack – pretty much every day of my childhood. Yup. Silky texture, rich chocolate flavor. If you’re making dessert for chocoholics, there’s no going wrong with this combo.
For the decorations I stuck to my handy dandy ziploc bags with a hole cut at the end. Really fancy equipment over here at Kitchen3N!
Red Velvet Cake recipe barely adapted from NYT Cooking.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder (I used natural cocoa powder since it’s more acidic and would react well with the buttermilk/vinegar)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp red food coloring (if using the gel, traditional food coloring use 2 tbsps)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 8 oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 cups confectioners sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour, or butter and apply parchment paper to two 9 in round cake pans. Set aside.
- Sift flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda into a bowl.
- Beat butter with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer for about 2 minutes on medium-low speed. Add sugar and beat for 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Reduce speed on mixer to low and add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla extract and food coloring. Next add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Then add 1/2 cup buttermilk. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Then add vinegar to the buttermilk and add to the batter. Add final 1/3 of dry ingredients. Use a spatula to give it one final mix.
- Divide evenly between the two cake pans and cook until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (20 to 25 min).
- After taking it out of the oven, let it cool until the pans are ready to handle. Loosen the sides with a spatula or knife, going under the cake a bit on all sides to loosen. Then place one hand on top of the cake, flip it out onto your hand, then set it down on the wire rack to cool completely (one of my first baking follies as a kid was to apply frosting to a cake I just pulled out of the oven…). Remove parchment paper.
- Make the frosting: whip cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes). Add vanilla. Decrease speed to low and add confectioners sugar one at time. Taste for desired sweetness/flavor. Adjust as necessary.