Red Velvet Cake - au natural

A new desert store opened up in the neighborhood and the best they had was a red velvet cupcake. Then the email thread started about what makes it red. Turns out that before Dutch processed cocoa became widely available the reaction of acidic vinegar with the butter milk would tend to turn the cocoa a reddish color. Most people now use food coloring or beets. The challenge then was to make it without coloration and see what you get.
Turns out is is a reddish brown in the end - but not crazy blood red like you see in the pictures surfing for this one. Takes under two hours including the trip to the store. I recommend starting the icing early so that it's first step can cool while you work, and do the cupcakes 'cause they're just the right size.

3 or 4 tlbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 or 2 ounces red food coloring (left this out - man that is a LOT OF COLOR!!!)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt (sea salt preferred)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup oil (I used sesame)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs (large)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (I did not sift, I am lazy. Used 2cups and stopped when it looked a PDGC or pretty darned good consistency)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp white vinegar

Grease two 9 inch round pans (I made 21 paper cupcakes)
preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring (I just looked at the cocoa and thought RED)
set aside

Combine the buttermilk, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a large bowl, cream together the oil and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy (by hand!)
Beat in the eggs one at a time. then stir in the cocoa mixture
Beat in the buttermilk mixture alternately with the flour, mixing just until incorporated. (you'll be tired if you do this by hand and won't over mix)
Stir together baking soda and vinegar (separate from anything else because its like those volcano experiments you do with your kids) then gently fold into the cake batter
Pour the batter into prepared pans (cupcake tins for us, don't fill over 3/4 or 7/8 of the cupcake papers as there is about 40% rise)
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes (cupcakes you better check at 15 - mine tool 18 and I know our oven is old and slow) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean
Allow to cool completely before frosting (cause it would just melt all over!)
Refrigerate until ready to serve (we ate ours in the first 10 minutes)

1 cup milk
5 tbls all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the milk and 5 tbls flour (that I did not use in the batter above cause I didn't really measure)
cook over low hear, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (it will flip over suddenly then you will need to take it off the heat and keep stirring until the pan your using cools - that can still burn it)
Set aside to cool completely (refrigerators work well for this)
Cream together butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy (or your arms fall off)
stir in the cooled milk and flour mixture, beating until icing reaches spreading consistency (which doesn't take long)

I don't have the original source recipe location. If you recognize it let me know and I will cite it appropriately.

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