Monday, November 29, 2010

The things we do for love: Red Velvet cake

Every year for the past 36 years, Shawn's parents gather the family to celebrate his birthday. And, every year, for roughly the past 10, they've asked me to provide the cake. This year was no different.

I usually buy one because, as I’ve mentioned many times before, I'm not big on baking. But this year, when Shawn asked if I could make a Red Velvet cake (his newly discovered favourite), I decided to give it a shot. For those of you who aren't familiar, Red Velvet cake is a two layer vanilla cake flavored with a little cocoa, coloured bright red with food colouring and topped with cream cheese icing.

The recipe I used appears in the current issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I won’t reproduce the incredibly detailed recipe here —not just because it’s incredibly detailed — but because Cook’s frowns on any unauthorized reproduction of their recipes.

I will, however, share Cook’s secret for attaining the right shade of red: 2 tablespoons of natural cocoa mixed with one 1-ounce bottle of red food colouring, which is added to the cake batter. According to Cook’s, "natural cocoa" (as opposed to the cheap and ubiquitous Dutch-processed kind) must be used in order for the cake to rise properly and attain the right colour.

And how did Cook’s illustrate the right shade of red?

In grayscale! (True, Cook’s is not a colour publication, but the above image was really not helpful.)

For all the effort, the cake turned out well, especially the frosting. I'm just not sure I obtained optimum redness. Judge for yourself. Here are the pictures from my adventures in cake making:



As you can see, the process was not always pretty. But if it’s pretty we want, we’ll have to wait for Char to post one of her birthday cakes.




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