I’ve made & posted a version of red velvet cake on the blog before. Today, I’ve used an alternative recipe to produce a natural red velvet layer cake.
I’ve done a lot of research into getting that bright red colour naturally. Beetroot powder instead of red food colouring and un-dutched cocoa powder instead of the usual alkalised type found more usually in the shops.
You see, this cake is all about chemistry. It’s the pH magic that’s created when the acid of the non-alkaline cocoa powder, the buttermilk and the vinegar are introduced to the bicarbonate of soda. As an aside, our local supermarket was out of buttermilk so I had to make my own. It’s really simple and a good tip to remember. Add a tablespoonful of white vinegar or lemon juice to a cup (235ml/8⅓fl oz) of milk, allow to stand for 5 minutes – there’s your home-made buttermilk!
The cake wasn’t the radioactive shade of red that you get when using food colouring. I think I’d add a little bit more beetroot powder next time to get a slightly redder shade however – my natural red velvet recipe is work in progress! Some people comment on an ‘earthy’ taste to their cake when using beetroot, but I can’t say I noticed any. A delicious taste was detected that’s for sure!
- 200g/7oz unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 420g/15oz plain flour
- 75g/2¾oz cocoa powder
- 50g/1¾oz beetroot powder
- 375g/13oz golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1½tsp vanilla extract
- 335ml/11¾ fl oz buttermilk
- 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1½tsp white distilled vinegar
- 75g/2¾oz unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 450g/1lb icing sugar
- 190g/6¾oz full-fat cream cheese, chilled
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease 4 x 20cm sandwich tins and line with baking parchment
- Combine the flour, cocoa and beetroot powder in a large bowl and set aside
- In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together
- Slowly whisk in the beaten eggs, then the vanilla extract
- Start adding the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches, whisking well but slowly after each addition
- Add the buttermilk and stir until smooth
- Working quickly, combine the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in a small bowl, then fold it into the cake mixture
- Once incorporated, divide the batter between the prepared cake tins
- Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
- Remove and cool slightly in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely
- Trim the cakes so they're level
- Rub the butter into the icing sugar to resemble fine breadcrumbs
- Add the chilled cream cheese and beat until smooth
- Stir in the vanilla extract
- Fit a large piping bag with a plain nozzle and fill with the frosting
- Place the first cake on a cake stand or plate and pipe large pearls of frosting on the top, starting at the outside and working your way inwards
- Top with the next layer of cake and repeat until all the layers are lined up and the top is fully decorated with frosting
This will be my final recipe celebrating Sourdough September – fitting really, that it’s a recipe for a dessert – sourdough coffee chocolate cake. I’ve lifted the instructions from one of my new favourite websites – King Arthur Flour. Their recipes quick-convert between Imperial, metric and US cups – a really useful feature!
As well as Sourdough September, this cake also honours International Coffee Day which happens each year on 1st October… and while I’m at it, why not honour Chocolate Week which runs from 9th-15th October. There… I’ve covered all the bases and no one was left out!
Another good thing about this recipe is that it calls for ripe sourdough or discard. I love using up leftovers! It also lists espresso powder as an ingredient; I ground some espresso beans on the finest setting and that worked perfectly.
The resulting sourdough coffee chocolate cake is HUGE – almost a kilo of icing alone! You may want to halve the recipe. The two of us will be eating a slice every day for a week… not that I’m complaining. It’s soft, moist, sweet and gorgeous!
There are three separate parts to the process; the cake, the icing and the drizzle. If you don’t think you’ll have enough time in a single day to do all three, you can break it up into stages across two or even three days.
This would be a great one to make as a celebration cake. You could even divide the batter into two tins and make a layer cake if you prefer.
- 240g/8½oz sourdough starter, ripe or discard
- 225g/8oz whole or evaporated milk
- 240g/8½oz plain flour
- 300g/10½oz granulated sugar
- 200g/7oz vegetable oil
- 2tsp vanilla extract
- 1tsp salt
- 1½tsp baking soda
- 65g/2⅓oz unsweetened cocoa
- 1tsp espresso powder (optional)
- 2 large eggs
- 680g/24oz icing sugar
- 170g/6oz butter
- 115g/4oz plain yoghurt or buttermilk
- 1tbsp + 1½tsp espresso powder
- 15g/½oz hot water
- 50g/1¾oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 15g/½oz milk
- 20g/¾oz golden syrup
- Combine the starter, milk and flour in a large mixing bowl
- Cover and rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350°F/Gas mark 4
- Lightly grease a 23 x 33cm (9 x 13-inch) cake tin
- In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda, cocoa and espresso powder - the mixture will be grainy
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
- Gently combine the chocolate mixture with the starter/flour/milk mixture, stirring until smooth. It will be gloopy at first; however, the batter will become smoother as you continue to beat gently
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes away clean
- Remove the cake from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool while you make the icing
- Sift the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Set it aside
- In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and add the buttermilk/yoghurt
- Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water, add to the pan, and bring the mixture just to a boil
- Immediately pour the simmering liquid over the icing sugar in the bowl, and beat until smooth
- Pour the warm icing over the cake. If you wait too long and the icing stiffens up, just spread it over the cake with an offset spatula
- Combine the chocolate pieces, milk and golden syrup in a microwave-safe container. Microwave until the chocolate softens, then stir until smooth (a couple of 10-second bursts)
- Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the icing
When we did our Christmas shop, we picked up a bag of chestnuts – something you’d only really see in the shops around that time of year.
We had thoughts of a lovely Christmas lunch, followed by a walk in the snowy countryside and then coming home to roast the chestnuts in our wood-burner. Chance would be a fine thing! Three weeks on, the bag of chestnuts was still in our vegetable rack waiting for its big day.
I had a look through my cookbooks and online and came across a recipe for a chocolate caramel chestnut cake. The original recipe has a brandy syrup which I substituted with rum. It also calls for edible gold dust to brush on the chestnut garnish – not something I had to hand! It looks so pretty that I’d definitely plan ahead and order some if I was making the cake for Christmas or another special occasion.
This recipe looks like a big, time-consuming job but as its author, Dorie Greenspan, says:
“Because every element of the cake can be made ahead, you can work on it in stages. The filled and glazed cake can be kept in the refrigerator for a day, but add the chestnut garnish right before serving.”
“The ganache is best if refrigerated overnight. The glaze needs a 4-hour rest and the cake, if it’s been seriously chilled, needs some serious time on the counter to come to room temperature – serve it cold, and you won’t get the full measure of pleasure from the ganache so plan ahead.”
To roast the chestnuts (in an oven, if you don’t have the quintessential ‘open fire’), preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6. Mark a small cross on the flat side of each using a small sharp kitchen knife making sure you pierce the skin but not cut the nut inside. You could also pierce a few times with the fork. Put the nuts on a baking sheet, cut side up, and cook for about 10-20 minutes, turning a couple of times until the skins open. Peel while still warm.
The completed cake looks very impressive with it’s height, multiple layers and glossy finish. Tasty too – well worth the time and effort!
- 250g/9oz milk chocolate
- 85g/3oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 tbsp golden granulated sugar
- 2 tbs water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 275ml/10fl oz tablespoons whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 250g/9oz butter, softened
- 265g/9oz plain flour
- 35g/1oz cornflour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 225g/8oz butter, softened
- 250g/9oz golden granulated sugar, divided
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 250g/9oz sweetened chestnut spread with vanilla (not something in my store cupboard, but similar can be made with several cooked chestnuts puréed in a processor with 1tsp vanilla essence and 2tbs of caster sugar)
- 60ml/2fl oz milk
- 60ml/2fl oz rum
- 2 tbs golden caster sugar
- 12 roasted chestnuts, coarsely chopped
- 240ml/8½fl oz whipping cream
- 35g/1oz sugar
- 60ml/2fl oz water
- 225g/8oz dark chocolate, chopped
- 8 roasted chestnuts, whole
- edible gold dust (optional)
- Combine milk chocolate and dark chocolate in medium-sized bowl
- Stir sugar, 2 tbs water, and cinnamon stick in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 6 minutes (time will vary depending on size of pan). Add cream and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Bring caramel to boil, whisking until smooth and caramel bits dissolve, about 1 minute. Discard cinnamon stick
- Pour the hot caramel over chocolate; stir until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth
- Let stand until completely cool, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy
- Beat in the chocolate mixture in 4 additions
- Cover and refrigerate the ganache overnight
- Preheat oven to 175ºC/350°F/gas mark 4
- Grease 4 rectangular 18cm x 9cm 450g/1lb loaf tins before lining the bottoms with parchment paper. (If you don't have this number of tins, you can cook the cakes one by one)
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornflower, baking powder and salt
- In another bowl and using an electric mixer, beat the butter until pale & fluffy
- Add 200g/7oz of the sugar, egg yolks and vanilla extract and combine well
- Add the chestnut spread, then the milk and combine well
- Sift the dry ingredients over and carefully mix together
- In another large bowl, and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites into soft peaks
- Add the remaining 50g/1¾oz sugar and beat until stiff but not dry
- Fold the egg whites into the batter in 3 additions
- Transfer batter equally across the prepared cake tin(s) (kitchen scales can be useful for this - I made it about 325g per tin)
- Bake the cakes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes away clean (about 25-30 minutes)
- Allow to cool completely in the pan(s) on a wire rack
- Stir the rum and brown sugar in small bowl until the sugar completely dissolves
- Turn cakes out onto work surface and peel off the parchment
- Place one of the cakes, bottom side up, on a clean piece of parchment
- Brush the cake layer with ¼ of the rum syrup
- Spread with ¼ of the ganache and sprinkle with ¼ of the chopped chestnuts
- Top with second cake layer, bottom side up
- Repeat this twice - ¼ rum syrup, ¼ ganache, and ¼ chopped chestnuts
- Top with the fourth, final cake layer, bottom side up
- Spread the remaining ¼ of the ganache over the top and sides of the cake
- Place cake rack on sheet of foil; place assembled cake on rack
- Chill while you prepare glaze
- Bring cream, sugar, and 60ml/2fl oz water to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves
- Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and the glaze is smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pourable
- Pour glaze over the top of the cake, spreading evenly over the sides
- Chill until the glaze sets
- Brush the top of the whole chestnuts with the edible gold dust (optional)
- Arrange the chestnuts across top of cake
- Serve at room temperature
For ages I’ve admired all the images of red velvet cakes that show up in my Pinterest stream. The cakes, which are an American phenomenon, look amazing but I had no idea what they tasted like.
As far as I could tell from the photos I’d seen, most red velvet cakes adhere to certain rules; layers, cream cheese frosting and a propensity towards flamboyance!
I need to point out, I used the Rowntree cocoa that I already happened to have in the store cupboard. It was Dutch processed, meaning that during production, it has been ‘alkalised’ to give it a smoother flavour. I could tell by looking at it that it had been processed because it’s quite dark brown. Unprocessed cocoa is often referred to as cacao and is much lighter in colour.
Unprocessed cocoa is called for in the recipe (although it’s not absolutely necessary) as all kinds of alchemy are involved in the making of the cake! The cocoa, buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar all commingle to produce the most moist, light, heavenly cake you’ve ever tasted – with the brightest, reddest crumb!
Now that I’ve got the Dutched versus un-Dutched details out of the way, let’s get on to the business of cake-making!
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of science involved in making red velvet so the order in which the ingredients get added really makes a difference.
The buttermilk and the vinegar add acidity to the mix producing a bubbly chemical reaction with the alkaline baking powder and helping make the red colour really bright.
The eggs are separated and the egg whites whipped into peaks and folded in gently at the end to add even more lightness to the sponge.
I think I mentioned previously that big cakes are just too much for just the two of us (even with me being a greedy cake eater!). So, instead of making a 4-tiered cake, I made a large 2-tier and a smaller 2-tier cake, giving one of the cakes away to friends.
I wanted to use both my newly-acquired accessories in this recipe, so I thought I’d use the pastry cutters to make red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits to adorn the cake.
I love cream cheese frosting, especially on carrot cake. Next time though, I’ll tweak the recipe so the mixture is firmer and less runny.
It’s delicious either way, but when it’s firmer you’re able to pipe the frosting on the top and have a thicker layer of it in the middle.
The resulting cake was so MASSIVE, we didn’t have a big enough plate to hold it!
I think I remained very restrained with my cake embellishments – I was considering red edible glitter, hundreds & thousands… in the end, I just studded it with a few little chocolate beans.
I’m really happy with my first attempt and can’t wait to have another go!
- 475ml/16fl oz vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1½tsp vanilla essence
- 6tbs red food colouring
- 450g/15½oz granulated sugar
- 440g/15½oz self raising flour
- 60g/2oz cocoa powder (preferably not Dutch processed)
- 1½ tsp salt
- 250g buttermilk
- 2tsp baking soda
- 2½tsp white vinegar
- 280g/10oz cream cheese
- 125g/4½oz butter, softened
- 250g/9oz icing sugar (sifted to remove any lumps)
- 2tsp vanilla essence
- 125g/4oz butter
- 55g/2oz caster sugar
- 180g/6oz plain flour
- 1tsp red food colouring
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease cake tins well (I used the 25½cm/10-inch and 30½/12-inch heart-shaped cake tins)
- Separate the eggs and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the vegetable oil and sugar until dissolved
- Mix in the egg yolks before carefully adding the food colouring (you don't want to splash red all over yourself!)
- In another mixing bowl, combine the flour cocoa powder and salt
- Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two batches, alternating with adding the buttermilk
- Using an electric mixer in yet another mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside
- In a small bowl or teacup, mix the baking powder and vinegar
- Add to the batter
- Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter
- Divide the batter between the cake tins
- Bake for 40-50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes away clean
- Allow to cool completely in the tins
- Carefully remove from the tins and slice each cake in half horizontally using a large serrated knife (like a bread knife)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese
- Gradually add the icing sugar until completely mixed in
- Cover with cling-film and keep refrigerated until you're ready to use
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar and food colouring together until smooth
- Add the flour and mix until the the colour is uniform and the dough comes together into a large ball
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently roll out thinly until the mixture is about ½cm/⅕in thick
- Form into shapes (I used the smallest size heart-shaped pastry cutter) and place onto a greased baking sheet
- Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar before chilling in the fridge for about 20 minutes
- Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until pale pink
- Allow to cool on a wire rack
This double chocolate stout cake was a resounding hit this week! I’ve used stout to make bread before, but this is the first time that I’ve used it as a cake ingredient.
It was moist, dense and dark with the stout giving the chocolate a greater depth of flavour. The was pretty tasty too!
Here’s the recipe – based on the one I found in The Delia Collection: Chocolate…
A new cake has been made for the tin by the kettle – a rather nice chocolate sponge cake with a coconut chocolate topping.
The recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Cookery Course Part Two book. It’s based on her quick & easy ‘All-in-one sponge’ recipe:
- 4oz/110g self raising flour, sifted
- 1tsp baking powder
- 4oz/110g soft margarine, at room temperature
- 4oz/110g caster sugar
- 2tbs cocoa powder
- 2 large eggs
- 2-3 drops vanilla essence
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3/325ºF/170ºC
Lightly grease a 7-inch/18 cm sponge tin and line its base with greaseproof paper (also greased) or silicone paper.
Take a large, roomy mixing bowl, and sift flour and baking powder into it, holding the sieve high to give the flour a good airing. Then simply add all the other ingredients to the bowl, and whisk them – preferably with an electric hand whisk – till thoroughly combined. If the mixture doesn’t drop off a wooden spoon easily when tapped on the side of the bowl, then add 1 or 2 teaspoonfuls of tap-warm water, and whisk again.
Add to the prepared tin, level off and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes. When cooked, leave it in the tin for only about 30 seconds, then loosen the edge by sliding a palette knife all round and turn it out onto a wire cooling rack.
Melt 100 g milk chocolate in a bowl over hot water (bain marie). Add 1 tbs dessicated coconut to the chocolate and spread over the top. Finish with a further sprinkle.
It can be tweaked with all kinds of other flavours, fillings & toppings – vanilla, ginger, dried fruit etc. We also like the look of this new version that Delia has on her own website
If you prefer a thicker cake with a middle layer of butter cream, jam etc, just double the quantities, and use two tins.
It’s delicious – give it a go next time you have a few minutes to spare – and enjoy it with a nice cuppa!
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