Red Velvet Cake was made famous by the movie Steel Magnolia’s (Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton), where they made a wedding cake for the groom in the shape of an armadillo and the cake inside was red. It’s rather macabre, but apparently after the movie came out it surged in popularity. In recent years it has had something of a decline due to people’s reluctance to eat colorants. I’ve never felt much fascination for it – it’s red cake. Many people just add colouring to a plain sponge, but I have since discovered that there is much more to it. Did you know it’s technically a chocolate cake?
My colleague at work Amber claims that it’s her all time favourite cake. As I’d never made one I decided to try making some red velvet cupcakes. The recipe is courtesy of Chrysta Wilson, from the Kiss My Bundt cake store in Los Angeles. The recipe appeared in a magazine I bought called Popular Plates: holiday baking – easy recipes from Americas Great Chefs.
Now originally when the cake was invented, the colour of the cake came from a chemical reaction between the cocoa powder, buttermilk and vinegar. In those days cocoa was a lot more acidic because of the way they processed it. These days they process cocoa using the Dutch method so there is very little colour change. It is for this reason that people now add food colouring. It has become very fashionable to have stunning red cake. I was rather horrified at the amount of colouring in this recipe. I used good old shop bought red, but I am going to be looking for natural alternatives such as beetroot. I’m not a huge fan of the colour from a health perspective, even though the cupcakes were a stunning red.
The texture of these cupcakes is dense, and well velvety, with a deep sweet/sour flavour. The cakes are usually iced with a cream cheese icing. Now my friend Beverly wanted me to make these healthier (what’s the point really with the amount of sugar and colorants?) but anyway I was convinced to substitute creamed cottage cheese for the cream cheese. Well I ended up with a thin icing that would run straight off my cupcakes. The lesson in this is follow the recipe the first time, then make substitutions the next time you make it.
Well I added more than double the amount of icing sugar and it was still to runny. By this stage we had run out of icing sugar and the shops were closed. So we were using the Bamix to grind castor sugar into icing sugar! It was a bit grainy, and can never be a substitute, but worked okay. I finally had something I could ice my cupcakes with. The icing was a little bland as I had not added extra vanilla, but was still usable.
So the cakes were duly iced, and I took them to work in the morning, and they were a resounding success.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe:
Makes 21 muffin size cupcakes, or 21-24 mini bundts
You will need 24 muffin cases and two 12 hole muffin trays.
1 ¼ cups of vegetable oil
1 cup of buttermilk
2 eggs at room temperature
2 TABLESPOONS (yikes!) of red food colouring
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 ¾ cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
¾ teaspoon of fine salt
1 Tablespoon of high fat cocoa powder
4 oz unsalted butter softened
8 oz cream cheese softened
2 cups of icing sugar
½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180° C.
1) Using an electric mixer, combine the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food colouring, vinegar and va/789nilla. Beat on a medium speed for 1 min.
2) In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
3) With the mixer on low, slowly add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet, about half a cup at a time to ensure there are no lumps.
4) Place about a quarter of a cup of the mix into each of the muffin cups in the muffin tray. They should be about ¾ full. Bake them for about 15 minutes till a toothpick comes out clean. If you make bundts they will take longer, about 20 min.
Ice them when cool.
For the icing: Combine the butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer. Beat till really smooth. Add the vanilla extract. Slowly add the icing sugar with the mixer on a medium setting. Beat until light and fluffy. (if you use cottage cheese, be it on your own head for the results, oh and try tripling the amount of icing sugar!) Whip until fluffy, and pipe or dollop onto your cooled cakes.
Finally enjoy them with childish enthusiasm!