I should really start this post with the disclaimer that there is not a single beet in this cake.
That may seem like superfluous information to some of you, like I'm just throwing out random tidbits of useless particulars. (So in that vein, for the record, it also contains not a leaf of swiss chard nor a floret of broccoli, regardless of how much that saddens my soul.)
But I had two people come up to me in lab inquiring about the root veggie-infusion status of it, so this is, like...a real thing.
After further investigation, I came into the knowledge that before the days when Paula Deen roamed the earth and felt like it was totally in her purview to tell the world that, not only is it okay to ingest four sticks of butter a day, but also that red velvet cake must be the most garish shade of crimson imaginable and so we all must lace our batters with at least a quarter cup of Red No. 40 (or else), probably before Red No. 40 even existed, tradition dictated that one use beets.
Sure, the color is more subtle. But you might even get some vitamin A out of the deal. (And be able to call it a breakfast food. Win/win.)
Anyways, I suppose that since my cake is more of a brick red than a firehouse red, it looks more like the beet version than any other. And while I have been known on occasion to put vegetables in my dessert (you can ask my brother about that, as he is still traumatized by a chocolate zucchini cake I made four years ago), I promise that is not the case here. I just used a tiny dollop of food gel as opposed to an entire bottle of food coloring. And since this particular batter has more cocoa powder than most that I've seen, the red is largely subdued.
Which, I pinky swear, does not make it any less delicious. It just means that you won't turn your entire digestive system hot pink after eating it. And that has to be a good thing.
Red velvet cake is not about the color, anyway, it's about the flavor. The hint of chocolate, the tang of buttermilk, the sweet tartness of cream cheese frosting...
...oh but wait, there's none of that in here either. What the WHAT?!?!?
I know, my bad. But here's the thing. Somehow when I combined low fat cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar in my mixing bowl, fully expecting it to turn into something thick and fluffy that I could for sure ice a cake with...I instead got soup. Cream cheese frosting soup. Soup that I then tried to thicken with cornstarch (since I had no more powdered sugar and had no desire of going to the supermarket. Again.). But to no avail. Still soup.
Non-ideal. But, because I'm not a quitter, I attempted to use it anyway because, you know, maybe that's just how it's supposed to be? Uh, not. All you'll get by doing that is a drippy weird looking mess. So then I scraped off as much as I could and made whipped cream (you know, if life gives you lemons...).
And, surprisingly, it worked. Between the cake itself and the cinnamon buttercream filling, the whole thing is quite rich, so the light barely-sweet whipped cream topping (with just a hint of cream cheese tang from the thin coating that was inevitably left on) was just perfect.
A tad bit nontraditional, perhaps. But perfect nonetheless.
One year ago...Risotto with Carrots and Feta
Two years ago...Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers
Three years ago...Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Four years ago...Spinach Artichoke Ravioli Lasagna
Red Velvet Cake
Makes 1 9" quadruple layer cake, adapted from Sweetapolita
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 oz liquid red food coloring OR 4 tbsp water and a dollop of red food gel (I used the latter)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350. Generously grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter or cooking spray. Line each greased pan with a greased piece of parchment paper.
- In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla extract, water, and food gel. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until soft. Add the sugar in a steady stream at the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time and beat 20 seconds after each addition.
- After the eggs are added, increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
- With the mixer on low add the flour in three equal portions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture. After completing the last addition of flour, stop the mixer and scrape the sides. Let the mixer run for 30 seconds on low.
- Divide the batter equally among the greased pans and lightly smooth the tops.
- Bake the cake layers for 20-30 minutes or until the top feels firm and gives slightly when touched. Let sit for 10 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding. Let cool completely before frosting/filling.
Whipped Cinnamon Filling
Makes enough to fill a 9", 4-layer cake, adapted from Sweetapolita
- 3 sticks + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
- 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp heavy cream
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Use right away.
Whipped Cream Frosting
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until it form soft peaks. Add in the sugar and whisk until it has a thick consistency but before it turns into butter.
To Assemble the Cake
- Using the dental floss method (I do this, minus the toothpicks) or using a long serrated knife, cut each cake into two layers so that you know have four layers.
- Spread a small dollop of the cinnamon frosting onto the cake plate or cake board on which you are going to construct your cake.
- Place one cake layer on this, cut side up. Place about 1 cup of the cinnamon frosting on it and spread evenly leaving a 1" unfrosted rim around the edges.
- Repeat with remaining layers until the final layer, which you will put cut side down.
- Pile a generous amount of the whipped cream frosting on top of the cake and use an offset spatula to spread it outward from the top center, down the sides. Using a 1M tip, swirl rosettes around the edges of the cake.