Cakes & Bakes: Red velvet cake

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slice of red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

 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.

unpacking red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

When we were sent these heart-themed baking accessories by Meincupcake, I decided that the day had arrived for me to embark upon my red velvet cake challenge!

red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

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!

red velvet cake dry ingredients | H is for Home

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.

red velvet cake wet ingredients | H is for Home

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!

adding food colouring to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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!

adding buttermilk to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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.

folding in egg whites to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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.

folding in egg whites to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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.

red velvet cake batter in heart-shaped cake tins | H is for Home

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.

cooked red velvet cakes in heart-shaped cake tins | H is for Home

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.

making red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits | H is for Home

 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.

making cream cheese frosting | H is for Home

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.

frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

The resulting cake was so MASSIVE, we didn’t have a big enough plate to hold it!

detail of frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

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.
frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home
I’m really happy with my first attempt and can’t wait to have another go!

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Sweet potato cake
For the cake
  1. 350g plain flour
  2. ¼tsp ground cloves
  3. 2tsp ground cinnamon
  4. 1¼tsp ground ginger
  5. ½tsp ground nutmeg
  6. 1tsp baking powder
  7. 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  8. ½tsp salt
  9. 350g sweet potatoes, peeled & grated (about 3 small potatoes)
  10. 235ml vegetable oil
  11. 300g soft brown sugar
  12. 4 eggs
  13. 1tsp vanilla extract
  14. 100g chopped walnuts
For the frosting
  1. 225g cream cheese
  2. 115g butter, softened
  3. 175g icing sugar
  4. ½tsp vanilla extractHome-made hot cross loaf ingredients
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For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and grease a pair of 23cm/9-inch circular loose-bottomed cake tins
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour with the ground spices, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the grated sweet potato, vegetable oil and sugar and combine
  4. In a measuring jug lightly whisk the eggs before adding the vanilla extract. Stir to mix in
  5. Stir in the egg mixture to the sweet potato in 3 batches, stirring well after each addition
  6. Carefully fold the flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture
  7. Add the chopped walnuts and stir in so they're well dispersed through the batter
  8. Pour the batter equally between the two cake tins before baking for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven
  9. 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
  10. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before taking the cakes out of their tins
  11. Allow to cool completely (at least another hour). Make the frosting.
For the frosting
  1. Mix the cream cheese and softened butter until there are no lumps
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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You’re All Heart!

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selection of alternative Valentine's Day gifts | H is for Home

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!

  1. Sweetheart Shape Sugar – £6.95, Fortnum & Mason
  2. Personalised Carved Heart Engraved Wood Cutting Board – $45 USD, Etsy
  3. Heart Mirror – £12, Urban Outfitters
  4. Mulberry Valentines heart key ring £70, Selfridge’s
  5. “home is where the heart is” Mug – £9.50, Oliver Bonas
  6. Double Heart Silicone Mould – £3.99, Lakeland
  7. Diana F+ Love Letters with Flash – €99, Lomography
  8. Heart Snow Globe – £10, Paperchase
  9. Vitra Heart Cone Chair by Verner Panton – £1900.60, Heal’s
  10. 12 Mini Heart Silicone Cases – £5, Marks & Spencer