The Breukelen Life

The Breukelen Life

Food, Yoga and Travel in Brooklyn

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A Cake of Secrets

December 6, 2011

Even though I lived in Georgia for almost 15 years, I have never been as fascinated with red velvet cake as I have been over the past few years. While it all started with two best friends asking for it for their birthday party, it has kind of spiraled out a bit. The fascination with perfecting my recipe, the history behind it and most of all, making sure there is enough icing on the cake.

A bad red velvet cake is dry, tough, and the icing goopy, flavorless. Well, lets face it; any cake that tastes like that is bad. But when you pick up a slice of red velvet, there are certain expectations and I’ve found that when those aren’t met, things can come crashing down fairly quickly.

Red Velvet, cake of secrets, actually dates back to 1873 making it much older than the fabled Waldorf Astoria recipe debacle of the 1920’s. Gilt Taste did a really fascinating article on Red Velvet, noting that at the time of the mention, the term velvet was used to define anything with an “especially fine crumb.”

Which is what I have worked to perfect in mine.

I started out with a Bon Appétit recipe from 2003 and almost worked the entire way through the 400 comments on the recipe. (I really should start flagging everything I say on here that proves my need for finding a different hobby…)

This is a great basic recipe, ready for tweaking. You can view the original recipe here. You can see that I added ½ stick of butter and ¼ cup of cocoa powder instead of the 2 tablespoons originally noted. I have also doubled the icing because what was there originally was not enough. To make a high layered cake, you will need to make 1 and ½ of this recipe, bake into 2 layer pans and then slice each of those layer in half.

Not to toot my own horn but my last edition of this cake was particularly good and I think it had a lot to do with using local flour and a high quality cocoa powder instead of the original can of Hershey’s I’ve had in my cabinet since I moved into my apartment. Here’s the recipe – Enjoy!

• 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured.)
• ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 tablespoon red food coloring
• 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 large eggs

• 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 4 cups powdered sugar

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Sift sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. It is good to sift several times to aerate the dry ingredients. This helps create the fine crumb we are looking for.

Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 27 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

For frosting:

Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 1-2 cups frosting over top of cake.

Top with second cake layer, flat side down.

Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

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