Does the colour of the batter give away what I made not once, but twice this week?

That’s right, Red Velvet Cake.
Oh I had an epiphany about Red Velvet Cake. I never really was a fan. I mean, all that makes up this name comes from a little bit of food colouring added to devil’s food cake. But I remember, this time last year, my Epiphany group was at the NYU music practice rooms when Betty told me she had baked a Red Velvet for her roomie’s birthday and saved me a slice. I remember: a wedge of acid red with white slathered on top sitting in a tupperware box. And for some reason, it was the best Red Velvet I had ever tasted.

Hazy sunsets, unfinished red velvet

I guess it doesn’t help that Pixels, my Small Group, last year consisted of a lot of Red Velvet fans. Stacy I remember, telling me about her cupcake escapades and who had the best Red Velvet cupcake. Personally I love Amy’s Bread Red Velvet the most. I remember seeing an episode of ‘The City’ where whats-her-name was gossiping in Amy’s Bread and in the backdrop, you could see a very blurry Red Velvet cake. And that’s all I could think and see on TV. Red Velvet Cake. Thus, I dedicate this post to my Small Group, Pixels, for showing me the love of Red Velvet cake. XD

So using Amy’s Bread Red Velvet as the bar I set to achieve, I made the cake twice this week. Previously when I lived in NYC, I attempted to make it twice and both times were a failure.  I learned, when it comes to Red Velvet, you cannot have healthy ingredients as substitutes. I used organic whole wheat unbleached flour and all natural food colouring which resulted in a brown loaf of bread.

So when I got to HK, I was determined to revisit the Red Velvet arena, and make  it right. Using the flagrant delicia recipe, I made the original Red Velvet recipe. I’m not sue why I’ve had so many problems making it considering I’ve done a wine pear tart, but it’s been the hardest thing to make for me. What is Red Velvet? Basically Devil’s Food Cake dyed red. Nice and arbitrary. 😛 For those who aren’t familiar with it, you may come across a conversation like one I had with my colleague,
June: So why is it red?
Me: Because it’s dyed devil’s food cake.
June: But.. why can’t you remove the red coloring then?
Me: Because… then it wouldn’t be called Red Velvet?

Making the Original Red Velvet Icing.The two top imgs shows the skin you must create and remove once cooled.

Attempt 1 HK/ Round 3

Reflections on the Red Velvet:
1. Buttermilk: I couldn’t find buttermilk which was the BIGGEST problem and the reason why my first cake failed. I heard you can mix a tablespoon of vinegar into plain milk to get the same effect (a spoonful of lies!). Buttermilk helps to create a fluffy texture so if you compare my first and second cake, the first is a dense, ‘paste’-like texture. Luckily, my aunt found it one of the Western supermarkets. With buttermilk, my cake rose an inch higher with a drier, fluffy texture that crumbled nicely.

2. Food Coloring: At all costs, get the most unnatural hue of red because when it bakes, it will dull. MY second cake ‘failed’ because I used natural food coloring (why didn’t I learn from my first two cakes I made in NYC…) which turned into a brick red and not that lovely shade of artificial scarlet that is so desired. American=unhealthy so you might as well go all out. The stupid thing was, I bought orange instead of red (another reason why I must work on my Chinese). The second time around, I went hunting for it at a Western supermarket.  As Iwas looking I read the labels: ‘pink, green,blue, yellow, cochineal… what the heck is cochineal.’ I quickly called up my aunt to wiki it, only it find it said ” strong red color made from an insect.” GREAT. Why can’t you just label it ‘red’?? So take your pick: insect-based coloring or weak sauce natural food coloring. There is no in win-win situation.

3. Frosting: I failed the first time because I boiled it too quickly which resulted in a lot of lumps. And with a lot of lumps, the  milk didn’t form the ‘skin’ that I had to remove after it cooled down. Thus the frosting was too buttery the first time… Second time was a success when I lowered the heat and removed the skin to form a creamier, lighter frosting.

So after four Red Velvet cakes split up between NYC and HK, I have still not achieved the perfect one yet. As you can see,  am no pro baker, after my multiple failures. But you learn (the problem is finding cake eaters to eat my failures… everyone around me has been up to ears in Red Velvet this past week). I guess I will save that for this Saturday as I try to yet again, hopefully this final one will be just like the ones I loved in NYC.

Notice the height difference?