**********************************Seeing as the Fourth of July is just round the corner, what better way to celebrate Independence than with a Red Velvet - a proper all-American Southern cake? Be that as it may, I did not quite have this in mind when I baked this cake. After all, my country's independence is in August, not July. And, truth be told, I don't need much persuasion at all to turn out a Red Velvet Cake. Just a couple of blocks of cream cheese and a carton of buttermilk in the fridge, and my mind will subconsciously incline itself towards this tender-crumbed buttermilk cake.
Add to that the fact that I am as much a fan of buttermilk cakes as I am a sucker for striking visuals. Which explains why after having (I believe) developed a more refined palate over the years I still find myself inexplicably giving in to the lure of the golden arches and all the empty calories it represents. So, much as I am aware that the cake owes it's glorious hue to Wilton's food colouring, I can't help but fall for the beautiful contrast of its bold, velvety red against the creamy white frosting. Good looking cakes just taste better. Just ask my Sugababes, who will eat almost anything heart-shaped and pink.
My favourite way to eat this cake is with lots of blueberries and raspberries heaped on top and sandwiched between its layers. Alternatively, you could eat it like a true Southerner, with a generous topping of flaked coconut.
The recipes for Red Velvet Cakes tend to be pretty standard, with some substituting vegetable oil for butter to produce a more tender crumb. I prefer however the full flavour of a butter cake. The recipe below produces a cake that is not only tender, but which also has an open fluffy texture from the dual leavening action of creaming butter and the reaction between buttermilk and baking soda.
Recipe for Red, White and Blue Velvet Cake
(adapted from Saveur and Bon Appetit)
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
2 heaped tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (shake well before using!)
1 tablespoon red food coloring (I used 2 tsp Wilton's Christmas Red colouring paste)
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
454 grams cream cheese, room temperature
113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp lemon zest