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!
- 350g plain flour
- ¼tsp ground cloves
- 2tsp ground cinnamon
- 1¼tsp ground ginger
- ½tsp ground nutmeg
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½tsp salt
- 350g sweet potatoes, peeled & grated (about 3 small potatoes)
- 235ml vegetable oil
- 300g soft brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 100g chopped walnuts
- 225g cream cheese
- 115g butter, softened
- 175g icing sugar
- ½tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and grease a pair of 23cm/9-inch circular loose-bottomed cake tins
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour with the ground spices, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt
- In a large mixing bowl, add the grated sweet potato, vegetable oil and sugar and combine
- In a measuring jug lightly whisk the eggs before adding the vanilla extract. Stir to mix in
- Stir in the egg mixture to the sweet potato in 3 batches, stirring well after each addition
- Carefully fold the flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture
- Add the chopped walnuts and stir in so they're well dispersed through the batter
- Pour the batter equally between the two cake tins before baking for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven
- After the 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2 and cook for a further 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake come out clean
- Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before taking the cakes out of their tins
- Allow to cool completely (at least another hour). Make the frosting.
- Mix the cream cheese and softened butter until there are no lumps
- Add the vanilla essence and icing sugar (sieve the sugar first if there are any lumps) and mix thoroughly. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge until the cakes have cooled and are ready to frost
- Once cooled, turn one of the cakes over so that the top is face down on a serving plate. Cover the top generously with frosting.
- Place the second cake on the first, with the top facing up. Cover the top generously with frosting. Serve. The cake will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
I’ve never really been into Valentine’s Day – unimaginative boxes of chocolates, flowers and lacy undies… and all those tables of two, elbow-to-elbow, in jam packed restaurants.
Here’s my top ten selection of things that could get me into the Valentine’s swing of things!
- Sweetheart Shape Sugar – £6.95, Fortnum & Mason
- Personalised Carved Heart Engraved Wood Cutting Board – $45 USD, Etsy
- Heart Mirror – £12, Urban Outfitters
- Mulberry Valentines heart key ring £70, Selfridge’s
- “home is where the heart is” Mug – £9.50, Oliver Bonas
- Double Heart Silicone Mould – £3.99, Lakeland
- Diana F+ Love Letters with Flash – €99, Lomography
- Heart Snow Globe – £10, Paperchase
- Vitra Heart Cone Chair by Verner Panton – £1900.60, Heal’s
- 12 Mini Heart Silicone Cases – £5, Marks & Spencer