Friday, December 14, 2012

Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

Kid sister: "Jie (elder sis in Mandarin), I want red velvet cake with cream cheese topping similar like the red velvet cupcakes you made the last time."

Me: "hmm, ok. Sounds good."

Kid sister: "But I want the texture of the cake to be as dense as those. Yet frosting you can make it as light as that butter cupcake with orange frosting. But overall, I love your cakes a whole lot better now. Much better than before."

Me: (thinking aloud) "sounds complex"

What a nice affirmation from the kid sister! That means my baking skills are improving? No? Haha of course I would like to think so. Nevertheless, thanks for everyone's support to be my guinea pig at some point or other. All comments are definitely welcome, good or bad. Afterall, that is how we improve, isn't it?

Ok, back to our red velvet cake. Yes, before we begin, I believe we should care for a little history of how the red velvet cake derived from. I promise I'll be short and sweet about it because history does bore at times ;P

According to James Beard who was an established chef and food writer, there were different variations of red velvet cake where all variations used red food colouring (Beard, J. 1972). However, one of the more prominent ones that use acidic vinegar and buttermilk reacted to bring out the red pigments in cocoa which gives the red velvet cake its name. 

For many of you who have heard of beetroot powder or boiled beets, this would probably bring you back to World War II where food has been rationed and boiled beets were used in cakes to enhance the colour and also, to retain moisture in the cakes. 

Honestly, at this part of the world, beetroots are not that common or even if it is attainable, it would be much more expensive than the usual tropical fruits we have here. So hence, I decided to forego using beetroot for my red velvet cake (let's call it RVC for short to simplify things).
As we all know, RVC has been one of the cake trends for a good few years now. Do not ask me why although I do suspect I might know why. I have done quite a fair bit of googling, peeping into books on the much-talked about RVC. Yes, you are right, so manyyyyyyyyy recipes pop up and many say Recipe A is good, not so dry and moist whereas some say Recipe B is much better, more crumbly, etc. Oh well, obviously everyone will say one recipe is better than the other but for simplicity, I have finally decided on one RVC recipe which I believe will be pretty good.

It will be from 'Vintage Cakes' by Julie Richardson. For me, there were 2 deciding factors - fats and vinegar. For one, I have realised that for most of my cakes made out of canola oil seem to taste more moist and less dry instead of using butter, be it melted or not. As for vinegar, this was what turned me off. The last I tried to bake the RVC cupcakes, I had to use vinegar for the first time in my recipe and the fizzling of vinegar reacting with the baking soda totally turned me off. At that moment, I was wondering, golly, is this chemical reaction bad for our health? A good thing it was edible but a mental note, not to make a cake or bake anything that reacts like that. So hence, upon realisation that Julie's RVC uses buttermilk, I decided it should be good :)
A little sneak peek on my red velvet cupcakes as above. Seems that in the midst of trying to get the lumps out of my batter, I might have overmixed the batter @@ Nevertheless, it just needs a little 'pruning' with some decorations to look all pretty.

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