Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hey Guys!  Only two more days of my first Back to Basics series!  I hope you’ve been enjoying the lessons so far.  What have your favorite points been so far?  Earlier this week I talked all about Layer Cakes.  If you couldn’t tell already, my love for layer cakes runs pretty deep.  I got so carried away with my post that I decided to separate the recipe for this Red Velvet Cake and let it have its own spotlight (it’s that good!).  Tomorrow I will be announcing the giveaway winner, so make sure to tune in. Jump down to the bottom of this post to enter!

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
RedVelvet07.jpg
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

In my research for Layered, I found all sorts of interesting tidbits about classic layer cakes, including Red Velvet Cake.  For example, this widely considered southern dessert was actually first served at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC!  It was originally paired with a cooked-flour frosting or “Heritage” icing, but today you’ll most likely find the bright red layers slathered in whipped cream cheese frosting (like with this recipe).  Who would have thought, right?

Other layer cakes throughout history include:
Boston Cream Pie– Parker House Hotel, Boston; 1856: luscious pastry cream sandwiched between two layers of vanilla sponge and topped with chocolate.

Black Forest Cake – Germany; 1915:  layers of kirsch-soaked chocolate cake slathered in whipped cream and stuffed with cherries from the Black Forest region in Germany that is known for producing the cherry liqueur. 

Brooklyn Blackout – Brooklyn, NY: layers of chocolate cake filled and frosting with chocolate custard and topped with cake crumbles.  It was named after the World War 2 blackout drills and was made famous by Ebinger’s Bakery (1898 to 1972).

Hummingbird Cake – Jamaica, 1979: this southern classic actually dates back to Jamaica.  Named after the Jamaican nation fowl or “doctor bird,” it is a pineapple-banana cake with either pecans or walnuts and smothered in cream cheese icing.

Opera Cake – Paris; Early 20th century: meticulously layered almond sponge soaked with espresso, ganache, and coffee buttercream cut into precise portions.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pretty interesting, right?  Or at least is it to me.  I could go on, but let’s get back to the Red Velvet.  I feel like people are very divided over red velvet cake.  Either you love it or hate it.  Years ago, you probably would have found me closer to hate.  Honestly, I just didn't understand the appeal.  Artificially dyed cake slathered in sickly sweet frosting?  No thanks.  Overtime, I had so many clients request the classic at my bakery that I ended up giving in and became determined to create a red velvet that I could be confident in.

Take the color out of the equation, and it is a delicious buttermilk cake with a hint of cocoa and whipped cream cheese.  Okay, now we are getting places.  Naturally, there is a bit of a red hue when the acidic properties in natural cocoa powder reacts with the vinegar and buttermilk. The velvet part?  This refers to the texture of the moist and tight crumb of the cake.  You can certainly still make this cake without the food coloring or use a natural substitute, like beet!

 

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cake
2 ¼ cup cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 ½ sticks)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
red food coloring (optional)
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low, add in the cocoa, vanilla, red coloring, and eggs – one at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on low, add in half of the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk and vinegar.  Add the second half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting
12 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 to 5 cups confectioners sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  With the mixer on low, mix in the remaining ingredients until just combined.  Once incorporated, turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy.  Adjust the sugar and milk until your desired consistency in achieved.

Once the cakes are completely cool, place the bottom layer on a cake plate or serving.  Spread about 1 cup of frosting on top.  Invert the second cake and place upside on top of the frosting.  Crumb coat the cake then fully frost.  Serve at room temperature.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Peppermint Mac Pops!

Peppermint-Mac-Pops3
I really wanted to do something fun and whimsical for the upcoming holidays.  I tend to lean towards simple and modern, but not today!  I wanted to take traditional desserts and flavors to a new level.  As the popularity of the cupcake continues, I wanted to dress them up with a new twist.  And since French macarons are one of my favorite desserts and my dedication to mastering the method of baking them is finally paying off, I needed to share them somehow.  So, why not combine the two?  The result: Macaron Pop Cupcakes.  Traditional Red Velvet cupcakes are paired with Peppermint buttercream for the holiday season.  The sparkly swirls and "pop-factor" make the sophisticated French macaron fun and approachable.  They are filled with a peppermint ganche that easily pairs with the cupcakes flavors.
Peppermint-Mac-Pops
Red Velvet Cupcakes:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powders
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 Tablespoon Red Velvet Emulsion or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 ounce red gel food coloring
Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Sift together dry ingredients- set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter for about 2 minutes.  Add sugar and continue to mix until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, sour cream, an flavoring.  With the mixer on low, slowly alternate dry ingredients and milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
Using a large cookie scoop or disher, evenly distribute batter into prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until done.
Peppermint Buttercream
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
6 ounces egg white
6 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1-2 teaspoon peppermint extract (to taste)
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and place on a stovetop.  Stir slightly to combine.  Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil.  Using a candy thermometer (this is a must), heat until the sugar syrup reaches 238 degrees, or softball stage.

Meanwhile, place the egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer.  Be sure that the bowl and whisk are completely dry and free from any moisture and oil.  With a whisk attachment, beat the egg white on high until stiff peaks form.  This should take about 7 minutes.  If started just after the sugar mixture is placed on the stove, both steps should be ready at about the same time.

Once the sugar syrup reached 238 degrees, remove from heat.  Let the syrup rest about 30 seconds to let the bubbles settle.  While the mixer is still on high, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites.  Continue mixing on high until the meringue comes to room temperature.  The outside of the bowl will no longer be warm to the touch.

Switch the mixer off and remove the whisk attachment.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and replace with a paddle attachment.  With the mixer on medium, gradually add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time.  Pour in vanilla extract.  At this point, the mixture might look soupy or separated.  Don’t give up!  Continue to mix on medium-high until the mixture comes together.  This may take up to about 3-5 until the buttercream becomes smooth.  Use immediately, flavor, or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

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Peppermint Chocolate Ganche
16 ounces chocolate (60-70% cacao), chopped
8 ounces heavy cream
3/4 - 1 teaspoon peppermint extract (to taste)
Finely shop chocolate and set aside in a heat resistant bowl.  Over medium heat, place the heavy cream in a saucepan.  Making sure not to burn the cream, heat slowly until it comes to a low boil.  Once it starts to bubble, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let the cream sit for a few minuted before stirring.  Add in the extract, and continue to stir until the chocolate has melted and the texture is silky smooth.  Let cool to room temperature, stirring every once in a while.  The mixture will thicken as it cools, until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
To use as a filling, spread or pipe cooled ganache onto half of a macaron cookie.  Insert a lollipop stick into the ganache and seal with another macaron shell.  Continue to let them cool to secure the stick.
Macaron Shells:
I use a variation of the method by Brave Tart here: http://bravetart.com/recipes/Macarons
The instructions get a little lengthy, so let me know if you'd like my to type them up in my own words.
For the swirl, I just piped glitter gel icing (could use any icing or buttercream) then sprinkled with sanding sugar.  I was able to gently shake off any excess sugar crystals.