Saturday, December 29, 2007

In search of red velvet perfection

Growing up in Pennsylvania in a Pennsylvania Dutch family I had never eaten or even seen, that I recall, Red Velvet cake. I'm sure it was out there, somewhere, but no where in my world. Then we moved to the South. Here in Lower Alabama Red Velvet cake is practically a staple food item. It shows up everywhere and is always greeted with delight. I remember the first time I tasted Red Velvet cake. I was about ten years old, and it was a discovery of pure delight! I loved everything about it. The cake was impressively tall, at least three layers, and moist with cream cheese icing full of pecans. And the color... vibrant Christmas red. I was instantly in love! My mother however, did not share these sentiments. We rarely, almost never, had any foods with food coloring in them, much less a cake made with a whole bottle of the stuff. Mom never made it for us, but I knew the cake would be a part of any gathering we went to, especially any church function. As an adult, I out grew of my love for the red confection and had never made the cake myself. I was recently asked to make cupcakes for a Christmas party. I wanted to make something festive and thought how cute red velvet cupcakes would be. Having never made the cake myself, I didn't have a tried and true recipe of my own. My back up plan is usually to call Mom. That was out in this case. So I searched my cookbooks and the internet. I first tried a recipe from the Joy of Cooking. It was pretty good, but not as moist as I would have liked. I thought this may be becuase I was using a cake recipe and need to use a recipe that stayed moister for cupcakes. On my second attempt, I almost made Paula Deen's recipe for but was a bit put off by the 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil. I was hoping to find a recipe using butter. I came across this recipe on recipezaar. It used butter instead of oil, so I decided to give it a try. However, I gasped in horror at the 2 ounces of red food coloring. That's two whole bottle's of red dye...Yikes!!! So instead I used 2 TBL of food coloring. It seemed like plenty to me. The batter was very red. These cupcakes were pretty good as well but not as flavorful as I would have liked. Maybe all that food coloring is the key?!
The cream cheese frosting however, was great. I made it in the food processor. It's a super quick and really good recipe from The Joy of Cooking. It's great for decorating with although it does get a bit soft and needs to be put back in the fridge to set up again. I had fun decorating the cupcakes and used them for several parties I catered during the holidays.

But I'm still searching for that red velvet cake I remember from my youth. Next time I may give Paula Deen's recipe a try, after all she's the grande dame of Southern cooking.
Cream cheese frosting recipe
Food processor method:
8 ounces cold cream cheese
6 TBL unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups confectioner's sugar
Combine in food processor and pulse just until smooth and creamy.


Gigi said...

Beautiful cupcakes! I love all the piping you did, very festive!

Jerry said...

Your cupcakes are beautiful. I can't imagine how much work the decorating was.

eatme_delicious said...

Beautiful cupcake decorating!

Nora B. said...

Beautiful piping! My hands is still not steady enough, but I will keep practising.

As for a red velvet cake recipe, the Daring Bakers made it in March. You can have a look at Helene of Tartlette's version here:

Hope that helps.

Happy new year!


Cynthia said...

Beautiful cakes!

Happy new year!

teeth whitening said...
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Tartelette said...

I would hesitate eating them they are so pretty. Oh heck, what am I talking about? I would eat them after telling you how pretty they are! Happy New Year!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Red velvet cake a staple in North Carolina too, where I had it for the first time at a wedding! It was so Steel Magnolias and outrageously delicious. Your decorative icing is sensational!

Bits and Pieces of Me said...

Your decorations are beautiful!!!

I actually have tried the Paula Dean recipe. I want to find the perfect one also but after I made Paula Dean's (with one modification) and shared with co-workers, I have only gotten raves & raves & several requests for more! I was put off by the oil also, and some of the negative comments but the cupcake was so moist! I added more cocoa powder-4 tsp and may increase more for more flavor. Good luck!

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tricia said...

your cupcakes are gorgeous. i love that you didn't do only one design. do you think you could use food coloring paste instead of so much of the liquid stuff? i know paste goes much further color-wise. maybe i'll have to try it...

Colleen said...

If you don't want to use dye, try beets or beet juice.