Friday, June 6, 2014

Poppin' my Red Velvet cherry

I don't know which one is weirder - my family wanting to give an American dessert a try, or a rabid foodie like me having somehow overlooked such a pearl as Red Velvet cake. 

This is how it went. 

I was having lunch with my parents last Sunday - something I have to do occasionally, although it never fails to put lots of strain on my nerves - and some baking-related reality was droning on in the background, like Cake Boss or something. And my family was all, "Americans eat shite, trash food and greasy hamburgers is all they can manage, they have no taste all, they just can't compare with our culinary tradition, and all those fancy designer cakes they're so fond of doing taste like crap anyway". (Do they know baking said cakes is my pride and joy? You bet.)
Then, out of the blue, my brother - who's something of a food snob as well, mind you - chimes in: "I wouldn't mind trying Red Velvet cake. I hear it's not super sweet, and more on the tangy side".
Woot, my chance! 

And now's when I spit out the ugly truth: I myself am not sure how Red Velvet cake is supposed to taste! Because yes, I've had a couple Red Velvet cupcakes in my town but, of course, there is now way I can ascertain how close they were to the real thing. 
In comes the Internet ofc... and, following some frantic browsing, I got a fairly precise idea of what Red Velvet should look, feel, and taste like. 

I rounded up the top Google search results, discarded right away those recipes that would have given me anything else than the Platonic idea I had by then formed in my mind, and finally went for one that not only looked spot on, but is from my fave food blogger ever: Aikko of Bake Happy... who is - please allow me to refresh your memory on this point - the very same gal who's responsible for the banana bread I've been making non-stop for more than two years OMG. I could think of no better references, really!

 So... go have a look at Aikko's Red VelvIet cake recipe, then hop back here. We have some baking to do!

The recipe lists quite a few easily found ingredients you could substitute buttermilk with, but since this is my very first attempt at Red Velvet (and its outcome will shape my view of said cake forever and ever), I went all gung-ho about getting the original stuff. Thus, actual buttermilk it was. 
One thing I did my own way, though: I swapped the red food colouring for an equal amount of LorAnn's Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion I had bought online on a whim ages ago, and that had been biding its time in my pantry ever since. It looks like thick, honey-like red gunk... but once whisked into your liquid ingredients, it not only imparts them a beautiful, vibrant red shade, but also acts as flavouring. Good stuff!

I got two 6 in. cakes out of the given doses, which was just the perfect size for this. 
Only as you hopefully can see from the (fuzzy, blurry, smartphone-made) pic above, both of them domed quite much, which meant I had to cut what amounted to more than 1/3 from each base. And yes, of course the scraps won't go to waste, still I think I'll try lowering the oven temperature one notch next time I bake this into silicone moulds. 

Right. Onward to the filling & frosting step!

Notwithstanding the heat, I opted for a traditional cream cheese frosting - because yay authenticity, remember? 
I know it's nowhere as stable as buttercream (or even cream cheese buttercream) but in the end, my brother wanted tangy, so he's in for the full experience!

By the way, I used Austrian Quark as my cream cheese, instead of the ubiquitous Philadelphia... which is creamy and fresh and absolutelt delightful in many ways, but no tangy at all. 
Again, I've never sampled real cream cheese in America, but judging from online descriptions of its texture and flavour, what I got here must be pretty darn close!  

Aikko covered her cake with crumbs all over, but I wasn't really sold on the idea. So I simply picked the biggest closed star tip in my collection and piped random rosette-like swirls all over the place. It looks impressive enough IMHO. 
(Plus, who am I kidding? My brother will scarf the whole thing down with barely a glance at my mad piping skillz...)

Waiting for him to come and collect his cake right now. Will it be enough to convert my family to the delights of American desserts? I wonder...


EDIT AT 20.14 - I just spoke with my mother, and she said the cake's almost gone already. They loved it! Woot! (/does Snoopy happy dance)

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