Sunday, December 25, 2011

Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

After all of my whining stress about this Christmas Season, I am most thankful that my family gathered together for a traditional German Christmas Eve Dinner.   What made this particular holiday so different, is that we adults mutually agreed that we would not exchange purchased Christmas gifts.  Know what? I was perfectly fine with that.  My gift to my family was slaving standing in my kitchen for several hours, making Austrian Goulash, Bavarian Semmel Knoedel (can you say that?) red cabbage, cherve' and an assortment of sausages.

I wanted to make a dessert that would look festive, and wouldn't be too difficult to make. After all, I had about four hours to create the entire menu.  I spotted this recipe in the most recent issue of Cuisine At Home Magazine.  I've never made a Red Velvet Cake, before, and I loved the idea of a White Chocolate Frosting.   This particular recipe uses buttermilk and vegetable oil, in lieu of butter.   I was banking that this combination would be essential components to a really moist cake.

I got a little nervous, because it took a lot of red food coloring so that the cake wouldn't be pink!  I had to dig in to my gel food coloring (for frosting), as I didn't have one full ounce of liquid food color.  That was a real challenge to get it to break the gel paste into the buttermilk.  At last, I mixed the buttermilk with vanilla and the food coloring, first,  since the recipe said it would help to avoid a huge mess. Ha! (More on that later.)

I confess.  I usually skip sifting cake dry ingredients. In this case, I sifted both unbleached flour and cake flour together.  This recipe listed 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, plus some espresso powder and salt.  Sift, sift, sift... done.  Last, but not least, I wisked all of the dry ingredients together.

To white sugar, I added three eggs, and beat it until white and fluffy -- about 5 minutes. Next, I slowly drizzled the vegetable oil until it was fully incorporated.  Alternating the dry ingredients...
...and the red buttermilk mixture.  I then added some white vinegar at the end.  I divided the batter into 2 8x8 square baking pans.  These were baked at 375 for about 35 minutes.
TIP: Whenever I bake cakes, I set two timers-- one for the time recommended, and a second one for about 10 minutes sooner.  I test each cake a little early from the recommended time, so that I don't risk over baking the cake. The cake in the metal pan baked much faster than the glass one.   Of course, you can bake the cakes in a round pan, but I wanted my photo to look like the one in the magazine (background of picture below).  About that mess...

Red dye is a mess!  You can see the magazine photo in the background.  Stunning, isn't it? Speaking of red dye-- if you don't like red dye, then don't use it.  I did a little bit of research on Red Velvet Cake.   Camps are divided on what a true definition of Red Velvet Cake is.  (If you're curious, you can click here for the story.)  I'm not afraid of a little food quality red dye, on occasion. Heck, I like maraschino cherries! Don't judge.  

I was relieved to see that my cakes didn't look pink. Let the cakes sit for about 10 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack.  While the cakes completely cooled, I made the frosting.

Cream cheese frosting is what I most often see with Red Velvet Cake. However, that's not a traditional frosting. Did you know that?  It's true!  A Cooked Vanilla Frosting is a more traditional frosting. I've made this before, with my favorite chocolate cake.   On medium heat, cook whole milk and flour together until it's thick.  Whatever you do, don't boil it and don't walk away! It thickens up super fast, and then you've got a mess.  Mine got a little lumpy (because I decided to clean up, and got distracted).  I ended up putting the milk/flour mixture through a fine sieve.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, to prevent a "skin" from forming over it. Put it in the fridge to cool.

I once took a Wilton cake decorating class. While I'm not a super-pro, I have learned a few tricks to make things a little easier.  I use a serrated knife to level off the one cake that rose higher than the other.   I bought a Cake Lifter, and I have to tell you that this prevents me from breaking my cakes whenever I transfer them.   

I struggled, a bit, with cutting off the edges of the square cake.  The edges turned out a little crispy an dark.  Not pretty.  It took some cursing patience, but I got the edges cut off so that it would reveal the pretty red color of the cake. 

TIP: When I cut a cake in half, I place it on a turning cake stand. I place a serrated knife in the middle, and slowly rotate the cake until the lines connect.  I keep rotating, while cutting in deeper.  Finally, my cake is cut in half and it's even. Otherwise, you can insert toothpicks to give you margins to cut.
I used 4 ounces of Ghirardelli White Chocolate, which is pretty thin.  I used the microwave, at about 30 seconds, to melt the chocolate; then I set it aside to cool.  In my stand mixer, I used two sticks of softened, unsalted butter and white sugar.

The melted chocolate and cooled flour/milk mixture is on standby.  Cream the white sugar and butter, until it's really fluffy-- about 7 minutes.  Add the chilled milk mixture and white chocolate, and beat on high speed until light and fluffy-- about five more minutes.

It's pretty amazing how the frosting whips into a whipped cream texture.  I tasted the frosting, and I felt it really needed vanilla, so I added about 1 teaspoon. Perfect.
NOTE: No, you don't have to add white chocolate.  I happen to love white chocolate, so that's what intrigued me most about this recipe.  I think I would have doubled the amount of white chocolate, though, as I thought it was barely detectable.

Using a vegetable peeler, I shaved the long (and very thin) side of the Ghiradelli bar.  A thick block of white chocolate would have made pretty and longer curls.   I also crumbled some of the cake trimmings, for decoration.

Piping an edge of frosting is the easiest way to fill all four layers.  Cuisine At Home suggested piping the entire surface-- however, I realized I'd run out of frosting really fast.

So, I "plopped" some frosting in the middle and spread it with an offset spatula.  I wasn't worried about crumbs, either. 

I was going to cut some wooden dowels (like I use for grilling shrimp etc.) but I decided to skip that process.  Here's the challenge-- this frosting is very soft!  The cake can easily turn into the leaning Tower of Pisa!  I sprinkled some cake crumbs on top, for decoration and then the white chocolate. Then, I immediately chilled the cake.   The frosting sets pretty quickly.

 More mess to cleanup. Sigh.  I put the cake into the refrigerator and got busy making dinner.

The cake definitely was a show-stopper at the dessert table.

The crumb of the cake definitely had a velvet texture, which is really how the cake got it's name.

The frosting did ooze over the edges a bit.  Next time, I think I'd leave a bit more of a cake edge, since this frosting down soften very quickly.

So, the moment of truth--  
TASTING NOTES:   The cake was very moist, and  I was happy with the fine crumb texture.  The color definitely was a beautiful red, and I thought it was visually appealing.   
Work Involved:  I thought this cake was a bit labor intensive, and certainly used a lot of dishes. Flavor:  My niece, I didn't realize before, adores Red Velvet Cake. She was so excited that I had made this, and I was so pleased that she was delighted.  
Let's start with me.  I was a bit underwhelmed with the flavor.  You see, I've never been a big fan of  Red Velvet Cake.  I think it's because I love adore white cake, and I like a rich dark chocolate cake as second choice-- as long as it has white frosting to tame the chocolate flavor.  Red Velvet Cake is a cross between a white cake and a tease of chocolate. At least that's my opinion.  I loved the frosting, which isn't cloyingly sweet.  In fact, I much prefer that over a cream cheese frosting (boo, hiss).  Out of five stars, I declared this cake to be a 3.5.  My niece, however, said this cake deserved 6 stars out of 5!  My son loved it, too. Was it worth it?  Anytime someone I love is happy with a recipe, then it was worth the effort. 

So, don't listen to my personal lackluster review.  Remember, I love white cake the best. If you love Red Velvet Cake, then I think you'd like this version.  It's got the moisture factor, and isn't super sweet.  Make a Cream Cheese Frosting, if you prefer. 

I sent my niece home with the majority of the cake.  I'm glad it made her very happy.  As always, a printable recipe card is at the end of this post.  I'm on a two-week vacation, and I can finally catch up with my back-log of recipes that I'd like to share with you.  Amen!

Next year, I'm going to to jump start my Christmas baking and homemade edible gifts a lot sooner. I'll box up my jars, and fancy ribbons, recipes and edible decorations that I bought-- all with the best of intentions-- until next year.  No matter what, the Spirit of Christmas was in the house.  I am thankful.  But now-- life goes back to normal, and less temptation to indulge in sweets should lessen. At least, I hope so!

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Christine said...

Merry Christmas Debby!
Your German dinner sounded grand! Makes me miss the Midwest! Try to find garlic summer sausage in L.A.! Mission Impossible.
That cake was a lot of work but it's gorgeous!!
Enjoy your vacation!

Valerie said...

Wow, Debby! This cake is Gorgeous! I'm with you on the cake preferences...there is such a thing as too much chocolate, so it's good to have vanilla around for balance. As far as red velvet cake is concerned, as long as it contains vinegar and buttermilk, everything's okay. :D

Beautiful work! Thanks for the frosting tip too!!

Gloria said...

OMG Look amazzaing and delicious:))

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

I don't think you could have made a more festive dessert, Debby. Your cake is beautiful and was a special treat for your niece. My mother made a similar frosting that we all loved, but I have to admit that I am adicted to the cream cheese version. I made a chocolate roll for yesterday's dinner and filled it with whipped cream flavored with some of the hazelnut cream I sent you. OMG, it was so good. All this over indulgence must soon come to an end.

Joanne said...

GORGEOUS! Red velvet is actually my favorite kind of cake...mostly because of the cream cheese frosting. But that white chocolate sounds fabulous as well. Hope you had a GREAT Christmas!

Amalia said...

This looks beautiful and so delicious! I also made red velvet cake for Christmas and it was so good! I can just imagine how amazing this tasted :)

Lynda said...

Beautiful cake! I love that you used a white chocolate frosting, although I do love the cream cheese. I like Red Velvet, but do kind of agree with you that it doesn't have the flavor of a white or chocolate cake, but it's still good.

Laura @ A Healthy JalapeƱo said...

Debbie, I knew I loved following your blog. This looks heavenly. Paul and I have become huge suckers for Red Velvet cake and had it on Christmas Eve too at my fathers house. Yummmm!
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

bellini said...

Debby, this cake seems like it is perfect for those special occasions. I can envision all of those Southern women with kitchens covered in red dye. I had read you can use beets, but I wouldn't let a little mess stop me:D

Rosita Vargas said...

Una verdadera tentaciĆ³n luce perfecta,muy bien elaborada,felicitaciones y felices fiestas,abrazos hugs,hugs.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

It's beautiful and my hat goes off to you. I am not a baker and have never made a cake. There would have been panic everywhere in my kitchen if I'd attempted what you did Debbie. Great job.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

Anonymous said...

This cake is a showstopper! I am your newest follower. Pat

Roz said...

Red Velvet Cake is my all-time favorite, but I've not found a good recipe yet to match our hometown - famous baker who is one the only 8 master sugar artists in the U.S. She was on one of the cake shows on tv and baked my daughter's red velvet wedding cake. Every Christmas I order a 3 layer R.V. cake from her and can't get enough. Debby, your cake looks like hers with the DEEP red color and moisture. I have got to try this and let you know! Thanks for sharing!

Monica H said...

How did I miss this cake? I love RV cake!

Everyone has an opinion about it though. I made one from Southern Cakes that I loved as part of the Cake Slice Bakers and others didn't care for it, so I guess you'll just have to keep trying more recipes :-)

Anonymous said...

I made this and the cake part was wonderful. I'm just wondering if the frosting has too much flour as written. It tasted very floury to me, although the others who had it did not notice. I have made a similar frosting with corn starch so knew what to expect, I thought.
I do enjoy your blog and I appreciate how appetizing you make it all look and sound!

Debby Foodiewife said...

Dear Anonymous.
To answer your frosting question-- no, mine doesn't taste floury. I use unbleached all-purpose flour, if that makes a difference. A cream cheese frosting would be a good alternative, too.
Thank you for your compliment!

Mountain gal said...

I took several cake decorating classes. I had a great teacher that gave us a great hint. Right after you take the cakes out of the oven, use a clean hand towel placed on top of each cake and use your hand to push down on any areas that are higher than the rest. Works great. No need to use a knife to trim the top level.

Christy said...

To prevent all the crumbs in your icing as you make layers, freeze your cake layers, yes it will add in an additional hour or two, but it's worth it! My friend who's a very successful professional baker and has her own dessert cookbook out, shared that tip with me a few years ago!

Nandini said...

This is such a wonderful recipe! Makes a perfect red velvet! Thanks a lot for this.. My husband says its the best cake he's eaten in his life.. and thats SOMETHING!! :)

Debby Foodiewife said...

Thank you, Nandini! So glad you enjoyed the cake.