RED Red Velvet Cake

February 17, 2012


Margaux says…

I realize that I’ve already posted a red velvet cake recipe, but I’ve found over the years that there are two red velvet cake camps: people who like their cake more chocolate-y, and people who want it to look very RED.  Well, actually, make that three camps…I’m in the very small and unpopular “red velvet cake is kind of silly” camp.  I personally don’t get the hype.  Plenty of cakes have cream cheese frosting on them, and besides, GIVE ME CHOCOLATE!  The other red velvet cake I posted is my favorite one, because it has more chocolate in it.  But I have to say, this recipe is also pretty stellar.  There is only a hint of chocolate, but the cake is so delicate and light, it just melts in your mouth.  So when a red velvet cake is requested by someone in the “RED” camp for their birthday, I make this one.  Just a warning, though…there is A LOT of red food dye in it.


The birthday girls that I made this for were born on Valentine’s Day, so of course a heart shaped cake is called for!

Before you really glob on the frosting, I highly recommend doing a thin layer of icing all over the cake first, which I’ve heard called “dirty icing” the cake. When frosting such a dark cake with white icing, it’s best to do this in order to get all the crumbs held into that first layer. Then when you add the second layer, the crumbs dont pop through. I normally don’t take time for such trivial things, but it’s really necessary with this cake, in order to have a nice looking finished cake.

My heart-shaped pans are only 8″, so we luckily had leftover batter to make cupcakes to give out as valentines. And to taste-test, of course!

He likes to eat cupcakes with a spoon-he’s always very careful not to get messy. Oh, and careful to get all the frosting!

RED Red Velvet Cake
adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

6 egg whites, room temperature
4 tablespoons red food color (two 1-oz. bottles)
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups sifted cake flour
2 cups superfine sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola or safflower oil, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk

1. Grease bottom of two 9-inch heart-shaped or round cake pans; top with parchment paper cut to fit. Spray with baking spray with flour. Set oven rack in the lower third of the oven; heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk egg whites, food color and vanilla in a medium bowl until lightly combined. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Mix oil and butter in bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, 1 minute (they won’t completely mix together, and that’s okay). Add flour mixture and buttermilk; mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened. Raise speed to medium; beat 1 ½ minutes. Lower speed to medium-low; beat in egg mixture in two parts, raise speed to medium and beat 30 seconds each. Pour batter into the prepared pan; smooth the surface evenly.
3. Bake until cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and cake springs back when pressed lightly around the edges, 25-35 minutes. Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto a greased wire rack. Reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I made a double recipe of this in order to ensure that I had enough to fill and frost the cake AND for my extra cupcakes I made. I ended up with a little too much. I think a single recipe would be enough for one 9″ cake, unless you like your frosting really slathered on…then maybe I would make a recipe and a half.

1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high until completely combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and first beat on low until combined. Scrape down sides with rubber spatula, then mix on medium high until smooth.

For my son’s 3rd birthday, which was Spiderman themed, I made a red and blue velvet cake. I made each layer in a separate batch of cake batter, and in the blue velvet cake added almost 2 tbsp blue food coloring, and a few drops of violet, in place of the red. The few drops of violet give the cake that royal blue hue.

Birthday Cake!

January 22, 2011

Margaux says…

I loved my birthday cakes growing up.  I was so proud of the fact that my mom made them and decorated them herself, unlike most of the kids’ parents I knew, who bought their birthday cakes at Trefzger’s or Kroger.  In reality, my mom’s not a baker (she HATES to cook), and the cakes were boxed mixes.  But she is an artist, and would do a rendering of whatever struck my fancy that year (Lil’ Orphan Annie, Care Bears, My Little Ponies to name a few) on my choice of cake, which was usually the Pillsbury cherry-chip cake with vanilla frosting.  And it always looked perfect.  I always vowed to do the same for my kids.  Last year, it started with Desi’s first birthday, and he got a dog cake (note:  never present a butter cake on brown craft paper).  This year, he’s two, and he’s starting to get opinions about things.  In his opinion, choo-choo trains are the best things in the world, next to skateboarding.  And in my opinion, trains make much cuter cake decorations than skateboards do, so he got a train cake.

The difference between my mom and me is that I LOVE to bake, and I am not an artist…just the opposite of her.  So I drew up the plans for what I wanted the cake to look like, and my mom helped me construct it (and my aunt Gigi helped roll the fondant!).  There could have potentially been up to 32 people at the party, and I didn’t want to run out of cake (last year we almost did!), so I decided to create a two-tier cake, with a 9-inch chocolate layer cake on the bottom and a 6-inch banana layer cake on the top.  (You can halve any 9-inch recipe to make a 6-inch cake).

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the interior of the cakes.  As usual, I was seriously running short on time, and totally forgot to take any progress photos of the cake until the end, and then forgot to take a photo when we sliced into it.  You’ll have to take my word for it…it was delicious!  I used Rose Levy Berenbaum‘s cake recipes, which I’ve always found to be pretty much perfect.  I used a basic ganache recipe for the filling of the chocolate cake, and my favorite vanilla frosting recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated, for the exterior frosting and piping frosting.  To fill and frost the banana cake, I used the “creamy dreamy white chocolate frosting” recipe that Rose recommends for her banana cake, from the “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” cookbook.

I love this chocolate cake for a kids’ party because it’s not overwhelmingly chocolatey, but is still rich and moist and has great flavor. As I said before, I used a basic ganache filling for the chocolate cake, and vanilla frosting, but the recipe in Rose’s book has it filled and frosted with a caramel ganache that sounds rich and delicious. I’m sure I’ll be making this cake again with the caramel ganache, and I’ll let you know how it is! The banana cake is not only delicious, but you can put the leftovers in the fridge and it still stays moist and tender because it has oil instead of butter in it.

Chocolate Layer Cake
from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa, sifted before measuring
1/2 cup (4 oz) boiling water
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp cake flour, sifted before measuring
1 cup superfine sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp canola or safflower oil, room temperature

Grease two 9″ round cake pans with shortening, line bottoms with parchment, then coat with baking spray and coat with flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. To speed cooling, place it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, the 3 tablespoons of water, and the vanilla just until lightly combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter, oil and cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. To prevent splitting, reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

adapted from Real Chocolate by Chantal Coady

Make several hours before using.

4 oz bittersweet chocolate (it must be good chocolate!)
4 oz (1/2 cup) heavy cream
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (optional)

Chop chocolate in food processor until very fine, then place in a small bowl. Scald the cream on the stove (heat over high heat until bubbles form around the edges). Whisk the cream into the chocolate a few tablespoons at a time, until all the cream is added and the mixture is smooth. Add the butter, and whisk until completely melted and smooth. (You can skip the butter for a classic ganache, but I saw this recipe in a book about chocolate and thought it sounded really good, and it turned out as good as it sounded.)

Vanilla Frosting
from Cook’s Illustrated

I had to use two recipes of this, for frosting the chocolate cake and then decorating both tiers.

2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
pinch table salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Stir the cream, vanilla, and salt together in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed until smooth, 30-60 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly add sugar, and beat until smooth, 2-5 minutes. Beat in the cream mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 4-8 minutes (the time depends on the strength of the mixer…with my KitchenAid it takes about 5 minutes or so).

Banana Refrigerator Cake
adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

2 large very ripe bananas, peeled and lightly mashed (1 cup)
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream (I used sour cream)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/2 cup canola or safflower oil, room temperature
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Coat  two 6″ round cake pans (see note below) with shortening, line bottom with parchment, and spray with baking spray and coat with flour. Preheat oven to 350.

In a food processor, process the bananas and creme fraiche until smooth, stopping the processor and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla and process until combined, about 10 seconds.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the banana mixture and sugar on medium speed for about one minute. Gradually add the oil, beating until it is thoroughly incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture into the egg mixture and beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the dry ingredients are completely moistened. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the surface evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. The cake should just start to shrink away from the sides of the pan. During baking it will rise to the top of the sides of the pan and a little higher in the middle.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Creamy Dreamy White Chocolate Frosting
from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

3 oz white chocolate containing cocoa butter, chopped
4 oz cream cheese, softened but still cool
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/2 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
1/8 tsp almond extract

Heat the chocolate until almost completely melted. Use a small microwaveable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or use the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often–do not let the bottom of the container touch the water). Remove the white chocolate from the heat and, with the silicone spatula, stir until fully melted. Allow it to cool until it is no longer warm to the touch but is still fluid.

In a food processor, process the cream cheese, butter, and creme fraiche for a few seconds until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides. Add the cooled melted white chocolate and pulse it in a few times until it is smoothly incorporated. Add the almond extract and pulse it in.

Constructing the Cake

Place one of the chocolate cake layers on a serving plate (I just used a cardboard cake serving round) and top with all of the chocolate ganache, spreading it out to 1/2″ from the edge. Top with the other chocolate cake layer. Frost the outsides and top of the chocolate cake with the un-dyed vanilla frosting (using about 2/3 of one recipe). Place one layer of the banana cake on top of the frosted chocolate cake. Top with about 1/2 cup of the white chocolate frosting, and then top with the second layer of cake. Place a wooden dowel (found at cake decorating stores or craft stores) down the center of the cakes in order to keep them in place.  You will probably need to cut the dowel (they’re usually 12″ long, and that is too long for this cake) so that it doesn’t stick out the top.  Frost the top and sides of the banana cake with the white chocolate frosting (it will be thin, but you’ll be adding a ton of vanilla frosting on top of it!).

Next, dye the rest of the vanilla frosting the colors you want, and decorate the cake!

Note:  The recipe for the banana cake in Rose’s book calls for it being baked in a single 9″ round cake pan, and frosted with the dreamy creamy white chocolate frosting on the top of the cake, not on the sides.  I baked it in two 6″ round cake pans in order to create my two tier cake, and it converts perfectly.

Margaux says…

My good friend Anne’s birthday was this week, and of course I had to make her a cake.  I’ve been wanting to make this cake for awhile…ever since the cookbook its in, “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” by Rose Levy Beranbaum, was open to its page on the counter of my pastry-chef friend Misa’s kitchen.  The cookbook is gorgeous…Rose’s cakes are stunning, and the other ones I’ve made so far are delicious.  But this particular recipe intrigued me, mainly because I think it’s fun making cakes with unlikely ingredients, like one of my favorites, chocolate Guinness cake.  Because there’s a million other cakes on my “must make” list, it took me awhile to get around to it.  But Anne asked for chocolate, and this cake immediately came to mind.

The cake is rich and dense, with a unique tangy flavor from the soup.  The ganache frosting was my favorite part about it though…very decadent.  And I had to decorate it just like the photo in the book!  I know that’s very unimaginative of me, but its just too cute to pass up.

Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache

from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

~~~Be sure to make the ganache plenty of time beforehand…it takes several hours to set!~~~

1 cup plus 2 tbsp sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1 can (1 cup) Campbell’s Tomato Soup
4 large eggs, room temp (3/4 cup)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups plus 2 tbsp sifted cake flour
2 cups superfine sugar**
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

Coat two 9×2″ round cake pans with shortening, then line with parchment paper, then coat with baking spray, and dust with flour. (FYI-I actually just line with parchment rounds, then coat the rounds and sides of the pans with shortening, and that always works just fine). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set oven rack in lower third of the oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa, tomato soup, eggs and vanilla until smooth. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and half the cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to me3dium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Starting on medium-low speed, with the mixer off between additions, add the remaining cocoa mixture in two parts. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pans, being sure to press the thick and fluffy batter against the sides of the pans, and smooth the surfaces evenly.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (check a little early…mine was done in 29 minutes), or until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cakes, pressing firmly against the pans, and invert the cakes onto wire racks that have been coated lightly with cooking spray. Re-invert them right side up to prevent splitting. Cool completely.

Mystery Ganache

12 oz. dark chocolate, 60%-62% cacao, chopped
12 oz. (almost 1 1/2 cups) heavy cream
1/4 cup Campbell’s Tomato Soup
1 tube red tinted buttercream (it’s fine to use the Wilton tubed variety) (optional)
2 cans 4″ Pirouette Rolled Wafer Cookies, preferably Pepperidge Farms (optional)

In a food processor, process the chocolate until very fine. In a 4 cup or larger microwaveable cup with a spout (or in a medium saucepan, stirring often), whisk together the cream and tomato soup and scald it (heat it to boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery).

With the motor of a food processor running, pour the cream mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few se3conds until smooth. Scrape the ganache into a glass bowl and allow it to sit for 1 hour. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to cool at room temperature for several hours, or until the mixture reaches frosting consistency (I finally stuck it in the fridge for a few hours…just make sure you check it every once in awhile so it doesn’t get too thick!). The ganache keeps for 3 days at room temperature, for 3 weeks refrigerated, and for 6 months frozen.

Compose the cake:
When the cakes are completely cool, spread a little ganache on a serving plate and set the first layer on top. Slide a few wide strips of wax paper or parchment under the cake to keep the rim of the plate clean. Spread about 1 cup of the ganache over the layer. Place the second layer on top and use the remainder to frost the top and sides. With the tip of a 1 1/4″ wide metal spatula, make wavy lines through the ganache on top of the cake. Slowly slide the paper strips from under the cake. If storing the cake under a cake dome, allow the ganache to set for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight before applying the Pirouettes or the moisture from the ganache will soften them.

To surround the cake with the Pirouettes, you may first have to trim them to 4 inches (I didn’t, and I wish I would have), using a small serrated knife. Repair any broken ones using ganache and press them gently against the sides of the cake. The ganache will hold them in place. If desired, pipe little flames of red buttercream on top of each Pirouette.

**My cakes would sometimes (a lot of times, actually) be really dense at the bottom, and light at the top, and wouldn’t be as high as they should have been. I started looking into it, and learned that sugar actually varies by region; some places coarser than others. If your sugar is too coarse, it will cause the cake to fall, creating a dense, sort of custardy cake. I guess I live in a coarse sugar region. So the solve is to either process your sugar in a blender (not a food processor) for a few pulses until it’s finer (but be careful not to do too many pulses, because it will start to turn into powdered sugar), or buy superfine sugar, available at most grocery stores.