This post is long. But as you’ll read, I’m a first timer on ALL of this. I have a lot to say too 😛
I shared this new blog with WF and he immediately had some requests. The first request is currently in the “research stage” and will be completed and blogged soon. WF’s second request is Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Honestly, I don’t think he cares much about the cake, it’s more the cream cheese frosting he likes. I’ve had Red Velvet Cake once and it was at his grandmother’s birthday and I think it was store bought. WF raves about the frosting. We bought a can of pre-made cream cheese frosting once (he was so excited) but of course the canned version seriously disappointed. So, since cream cheese frosting is traditionally paired with Red Velvet Cake (as far as I know, anyway), that is what I am making today.
I set out looking for a recipe and found a list of several here. A nice variety, but none that struck my Red Velvet fancy. Shortening, anyone? A further google search yielded this recipe from Joy of Baking.com
I have never made a cake from scratch so I was REALLY nervous and apparently unprepared. There were several ingredients in this recipe that I have never purchased let alone looked at in a grocery store. Let’s take cake flour. I didn’t know it existed until now. The first grocery store I tried had a million kinds of flour and cornmeal — who knew?! I usually go straight for the good ole’ all-purpose. What that means, I don’t know. But it worked in my cookies from the other day… so anyway, I found the cake flour and then went searching for the “Dutch-processed” cocoa powder — whatever THAT means. I bought some Southern Home brand naturally unsweetened Baking Cocoa. Now, I don’t know if the Dutch had anything to do with my baking cocoa, but being from the south, I am inclined to trust the Southern Home folks. Next I found the buttermilk and heavy whipping cream, but just barely. I took the last two 1/2 pints of the whipping cream and prayed that I correctly remembered a pint = 2 cups and not one. And then I finally found mascarpone cheese at the second grocery store I visited — apparently it’s not in high demand in Greer, SC and you have to drive the 5 extra minutes into the city limits of Greenville to find it. Anyway, I’m excited to use mascarpone because Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis use it all the time and I like to imagine Giada saying “mascarpone” in her overdone “Italian” accent and then make fun of her in my head. I mean, maybe that really is how they say it in Italy, but come on Giada, is it necessary? It’s not like you are speaking Italian for the rest of the show. Why not just say everything with an Italian accent since you’re so authentic. Let’s pick a language and an accent and stick with it okay? I love watching her show.
ANYWAY, back to the ingredient scavenger hunt. The last ingredient I needed to find proved to be the most difficult: LIQUID red food coloring. Apparently it doesn’t exist anymore. I felt sure I knew where to look in the store; on the baking aisle past the million types of flour and cornmeal and next to the boxed cake mixes. Food coloring was there, but only the gel kind. Gel food coloring? Never heard of it. I remember using liquid food coloring in my mom’s kitchen with my little brother like 15 years ago. We drip, drip, dripped that stuff into our own special concoctions that consisted of water, all-purpose flour, salt, any kind of spice we could fine, sugar (both granulated and brown). Gosh that stuff looked good, especially when we dripped some red, green, blue, and yellow coloring and turned it brown. Maybe there’s no more liquid food coloring in grocery store’s because my brother and I used the free world’s supply to make soupy mixtures that weren’t edible. Damn. Good times though. I bought this so-called food coloring in gel form, hoping and praying to the cake gods and God Himself that it would work.
Oh and did I mention that I didn’t have 2 9″ cake pans OR a cake stand? Well, I didn’t, until I went to Target. It kind of kills me a little to buy this stuff because WF and I registered for it all. We’re getting married in 3 months and I’m going to have three bridal showers and a couples party between now and then. I’m going to get this stuff, just not as soon as I now apparently need it. Oh well, I guess we’ll have 4 pans and 2 cake stands. That can’t be a bad thing, right?
Did I also mention I was very nervous about making this? There is so much precision needed when baking from scratch. It’s definitely not like baking from a box. Water, oil, eggs? Check. Stir it up and put in the pan? Check. No, baking from scratch requires real skill and I wasn’t sure I had it!
From the very begining I felt like I was gonna mess this up royally. The recipe calls for sifted cake flour. And then, you’re supposed to sift together the sifted cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Well, I don’t have a sifter… yet! (Come on registry gifts!)… so I didn’t really sift. I tried to sift the cake flour through a strainer type thing which kind of worked and I was able to see the effect of sifting but didn’t have the patience to ghetto-sift the rest of the stuff. It all went in and got stirred up.
Then, as usual (for me), the butter was not at room temperature. I’m just not a very good plan-aheader when it comes to baking. I like to just go in there and do it. So, as I usually do to make the butter “room temp”, I put the butter on the stove top of the preheating oven and let it warm up.
Luckily, the next steps in the recipe were easy. I did fight with the gel food coloring crap and again, prayed it would work. Then I read this “With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour”. Okay, does that mean half the flour, all of the food coloring and the rest of the flour? In retrospect, probably yes. But I got so nervous! And baking is so precise! And in my flustered, nervous state I didn’t do it that way. I added the stuff in, like, 7 additions. Why could you not just say “With the mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture, then add the buttermilk mixture, and finally add the remaining flour mixture”? That would really help the ‘cake-from-scratch-virgin’ feel a lot more comfortable with her first time!
Thankfully, after clearing the “alternating additions” hurdle, I got to do the cool baking soda and vinegar fizz thing and add that in to the red gooey mixture. All the beautiful mess went into 2 pans greased with butter and lined with – my favorite – parchment paper! I was so proud of myself too, because I got to use the cool trick of tracing the pan shape on the parchment first and then cutting it out so it fits perfectly. Thanks Food Network.
Then my handiwork went into the oven. Omg — it smelled so good while baking. I don’t know what it was, but it just smelled heavenly. I’ve never had that smell in my kitchen. It was better than any from the box cake! After cooking, I cooled them as directed and then did the other cool trick of placing the cooling rack on the cake pan and inverting. Another nod to Food Network. The cakes slid out nicely but I noticed a few possible flaws. There seemed to be some small dots of white around the edge — I guessed it was my unsifted dry ingredient mixture.
There was also a marbled effect on the bottom of the cakes, like my gel food coloring hadn’t exactly combined and now I was going to have some discoloration.
Only time would reveal the truth. And I would have to wait. The cakes are supposed to cool completely on the racks and then go into the freezer for about an hour. I was going to start the cream cheese frosting, but as you might guess, the cream and mascarpone cheeses were not at room temperature. I took them out of the fridge and waited.
When I couldn’t wait anymore, I starting mixing everything together. It was all pretty straight forward until I had to whip the whipping cream. It was cool to be doing something I’ve seen on the Food Network a million times, but I’m not sure I did it right. Take a look and someone please tell me, did I over-mix or under-mix?
After folding it all together, I had to wait – AGAIN. Apparently baking from scratch requires precision and patience. UGH
I was tired of waiting about an hour later and got to it. The icing probably needed to set a little longer, but by golly is it delicious anyway. I sliced through the cakes to make 4 layers. I think I did pretty good considering it was my first time. I also found that the possible issues from earlier (white dots and marbelization) really were no big deal.
One of the layers ended up with a hole somehow, but I just pushed the loose cake back in and started icing.
Not the prettiest job, but again, first timer!! I’m so proud of the way this whole thing came out. WF was totally impressed. He loved the cream cheese icing, and agreed with me that the cake was a little dry. All in all though, I’m very glad I took this on and very pleased with the results!