Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reeeeeed Velvet!

Red Velvet - a cake that has puzzled me since the famous bleeding armadillo groom's cake in the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias. What is it exactly? Why is it red? And why is it so darn good?!

Well it's red because of the heaps of food coloring added to the batter and the addition of cocoa powder to a basic cake recipe means that red velvet is actually a chocolate cake, but as for its popularity - I can't explain it. Maybe it has to do with the 1 1/2 cups of oil in the batter that leads to a decadently moist (and fattening) cake. Or the heavy handed application of cream cheese frosting that perfectly compliments each bite with a bit of creaminess. Or it may be that having a dessert so unnaturally red is just cool.

This morning I decided to try out Paula Dean's recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (who else to go to for something so quintessentially southern?) which calls for heaps of oil, butter, and everything else that makes me feel guilty enough to do an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical. I went with cupcakes instead of a layered cake to make them easier to carry (and eat) on the way to the Cape.

Paula Dean's Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

TIP: I suggest you wear an apron or a long shirt you don't mind getting dirty because you could possible end up with red food coloring and/or powdered sugar all over your front.

The recipe was very straight forward: sift dry ingredients together in one bowl and mix wet ingredients in another. Then gradually add the dry to the wet. If you do not have a sifter (like me) then just use a whisk to combine the flour, sugar, salt, etc to get rid of any clumps. Once your batter is together, simply ladle it into cupcake cups and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes.

The frosting was even simpler... whisk together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth, then add the powdered sugar gradually. TIP: Set the packets of butter and cream cheese on the stove while the oven is heating to soften them - this will make whisking a lot easier.

Spread the cream cheese frosting generously on the cupcakes and maybe top with some chopped walnuts or other nuts you like.


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