Friday, February 13, 2009

My all-time favorite Red Velvet Cake recipe

Recipe and photo reprinted with permission from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Dupree (Wiley, 2008)

To win this book - leave a comment sharing your favorite Valentine's Day memory.

Amy’s Bread Red Velvet Cake
Yield: one 9-inch double-layer cake Equipment: two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans

This is our version of the dramatic red and white cake that is much loved and familiar to anyone who was raised or has lived in the southern United States. When someone asks us to describe how it tastes, we can only say, “It tastes like red velvet cake.” It has its own very unique flavor. It doesn’t taste at all like chocolate, though it does have a little bit of cocoa in it. We use Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting to finish this cake. At the bakery we love to dress this cake up for holidays.

We feature it at Christmas by decorating the snow white frosting with green rolled fondant holly leaves, with the holly berries piped on in red frosting. For Valentine’s Day we bake thinner layers in a sheet pan and cut out heart shapes with a 5-inch cookie cutter. Then, using a pastry bag with a star tip, we pipe decorative concentric outlines of either pink or white frosting around the top of the heart until it’s completely covered with a frilly blanket. For the Fourth of July, we sprinkle it generously with confetti made of little red, white, and blue stars.

Sour cream, full fat 120 4.23 1/2 cup
Valrhona cocoa powder 12 0.42 2 tablespoons
Baking soda 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon
Christmas Red food coloring 16 0.56 1 tablespoon
Boiling water 226 8 1 cup
Cake flour, sifted 342 12.10 3 cups
Kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon
Baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons
Eggs 250 8.82 5 large
Vanilla extract 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons
Unsalted butter, slightly softened 170 6 3/4cup
Dark brown sugar 542 19.12 21/2 cups, firmly packed
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting 1 recipe (see below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease the cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment then dust them lightly with cocoa powder or flour. Shake out the excess. Or use Baker’s Joy baking spray that contains both oil and flour so you don’t have to flour the pan. With Baker’s Joy, put the parchment liner in after you spray the pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, cocoa, baking soda, and food color until it is a smooth paste. Very gradually add the boiling water, whisking until it is fully incorporated. In another bowl, combine the cake flour, salt, and baking powder and whisk them gently for even distribution. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.

3. Using an electric mixer, with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg mixture gradually, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.

4. Lower the mixing speed to medium-low and add the fl our to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with the liquid mixture, also in 3 parts, beginning with the flour and ending with the liquid. Mix until it is evenly incorporated. There should not be any lumps or dry pockets of flour remaining. This is a fairly thin cake batter, so there is not much danger of overmixing it, but don’t go above medium-high speed.

5. Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared cake pans. Weighing the batter into the pans is the most accurate way to do this. This ensures that both layers will be uniform in size and will finish baking at the same time. You’ll have approximately 820 g/29 oz. of batter per pan. The pans should be about ½ full. Place the pans on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake them for about 35 minutes or until the cake is almost ready to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Rotate the layers carefully from front to back after 20 minutes, for even baking.

6. Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack that has been sprayed with cooking spray and lift off the pans. To prevent cracking, carefully right each layer so the top side is up and the parchment-lined bottom is down. Cool them completely on the rack. Before frosting, be sure to remove the parchment from the bottom of each layer. While the cake layers are cooling, prepare the frosting.

To assemble the cake:

7. Place one layer, top side down, on a flat serving plate. Cut several 4-inch-wide strips of parchment or waxed paper to slide under the edge of the layer to keep the plate clean. Using a thin metal spatula, spread the top of this cake round with a ½- inch-thick layer of frosting, leaving a ¼-inch unfrosted border around the edge. Place the second layer top side up on the first, aligning the layers evenly. Spread a generous layer of frosting around the sides of the cake, rotating the plate as you work so you’re not reaching around the cake to frost the other side. Try not to let any loose crumbs get caught in the frosting. If you can, let the frosting extend about ¼ inch above the top of the cake.

8. Starting in the center of the cake, cover the top with a generous layer of frosting, taking it all the way to the edge and merging it with the frosting on the sides. Try to use a forward-moving, circular motion, not a back-and-forth motion, to avoid lifting the top skin of the cake. Rotate the plate as necessary. Use the spatula or a spoon to make decorative swirls. Slide the pieces of parchment paper out from under the edge of the cake and discard them. Store the cake at room temperature, preferably under a cake dome, for up to 3 days.

If you can’t find Valrhona cocoa powder, try another premium-quality brand, but be sure to use the volume measurement of 2 tablespoons, not the weight. Cocoa powder brands vary dramatically by weight. When we weighed 5 tablespoons of three different brands, the weights we got were 12 g, 20 g, and 30 g, so the safest thing to do is to use the tablespoon measurement for anything other than Valrhona cocoa. This is one of the few times we recommend using a volume measurement instead of a weight.

Be sure to use full-fat sour cream in this recipe, not lowfat or nonfat. Fat is a flavor carrier. Whenever naturally occurring fat is removed from an ingredient, much of the ingredient’s flavor is also removed. Fat also is a key factor in the texture of baked goods.

In the bakery, we buy gallons of Christmas Red food coloring. We chose this particular red because the baked cake comes out a nice, dark red color instead of the pale orangey-red that often occurs with other shades of red food coloring. In the Ingredients and Equipment section at the back of this book.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Yield: enough to fill and finish one 9-inch two-layer cake

This elegant buttercream is the frosting we chose for our Red Velvet Cake (see page 165) because it reminds Toy of the fluffy white frosting on the Red Velvet Cake she ate as a child. The small amount of shortening in this recipe is just enough to stabilize the frosting so it can be left at room temperature indefinitely without melting. It’s not as sweet as a traditional confectioner’s sugar buttercream, and it has a softer, smoother texture that won’t develop a thin sugar crust. This smooth texture makes it a perfect frosting to use with a pastry bag and tip to pipe swirls on top of cupcakes or Red Velvet Cake hearts.

Unsalted butter, slightly softened 312 11 1⅜ cups
Shortening 84 3 ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon
Sugar 300 10.58 1½ cups
Egg whites 150 5.30 From 5 large eggs
Light corn syrup 40 1.40 2 tablespoons
Kosher salt ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon
Vanilla extract 1¼ teaspoons 1¼ teaspoons 1¼ teaspoons

1. In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening together for 1 to 2 minutes, until they are light in color and texture but not too soft. Scrape this mixture into a different bowl and set it aside to use later. Clean the mixing bowl to use for the egg whites.
2. Combine the sugar, egg whites, corn syrup, and salt in the top pan of a double boiler. Heat over simmering water, stirring frequently, until the sugar granules have dissolved and the temperature on a food thermometer registers 140ºF. Transfer the whites to the clean mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment, whip the whites on medium to medium-high speed until the mixing bowl feels just cool to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. The mixture should be white and fluffy and very thick.

3. Add the butter mixture and the vanilla to the egg white mixture and whip again, on medium speed, until the frosting has a smooth, creamy, spreadable texture, almost like stiff whipped cream, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. The frosting can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container at room temperature, but it should be used within 3 days. You may have to stir it briskly to re-fluff it if it’s been sitting for a long time

You will need to have a candy thermometer or a digital kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature of the egg whites and sugar as they’re being heated.


Carolyn G said...

This looks absolutely divine!

She's Crafty said...

Carolyn - Thanks so much! Let me know if you try it :)