Sunday, January 9, 2011

What the eff is Red Velvet anyways?

Seems like Red Velvet flavored anything is all the rage these days. I know I got sucked into it when Coffee Bean Tea Leaf featured their Red Velvet Cocoa. I couldn't explain the flavor to you other than tasting really sugary and artificial, but I was hooked. Leaving Austin and visiting Tucson, where there are no Coffee Beans, I was having Red Velvet Cocoa withdrawals. The dessert hangout, Something Sweet, had a red velvet cake to offer...and even in shake form (they make a shake combining the cake with ice cream and milk, or something to that effect). I went with the plain ole cake.

Even with the cake, I can't tell you what it actually tastes like. Most red velvet cake I've experienced has been dense, dry, and tasting of red food coloring. I think I keep trying it everywhere in some sort of search for the Holy Grail of Red Velvet. Somewhere out there has to be the most delicious Red Velvet Cake that will extinguish any thought of this cake being anything but delightful!

So, when a friend's birthday party came up and the request was for red velvet cake, I thought it was fantastic! Immediately, I started looking up recipes online. I couldn't find one that didn't have at least 2 tbsp of red food coloring, and I didn't want that taste. Finally, I remembered I had a cupcake book, Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski, that was gifted to me from Mrs. B, and I wanted to try the Red Velvet Cupcake recipe that it had.
Her description of Red Velvet Cupcakes is as follows:

"The origins of red velvet cake are a little hazy, but it's widely recognized as a Southern creation. The cupcake version of the extra-mild chocolate cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that's laced with buttered pecans, a decidedly Southern ingredient."

Ok, so the flavor is supposed to be extra-mild chocolate? I suppose I could buy that, seeing that cocoa is one of the ingredients.

As far as the color, red food coloring is added, although in this particular recipe it didn't have me adding two bottles of red food coloring - Thank Goodness! According to some article on the internet (so surely, it must be true right? ;-) ), the red colored cakes were due to a chemical reaction between unprocessed cocoa and the acid in the sour milk. I think if I were to have left out the red food coloring, the cakes would have come out a lighter chocolate color.

Anyhow, the recipe was fairly easy to put together, three bowls of ingredients, and by the power of the mixer, the batter was formed. I was a little put off by the batter, as it seemed awfully thick. Loaded up the cupcake liners, and to my dismay, the recipe that claimed to make 12 cupcakes only yielded 8. Not a problem, doubled the recipe and finished off my cupcakes.

Taking them out of the pan to put on the cooling rack, these things felt like bricks. Very dense. My panic mode ensued. What else could I do? Try another recipe and make more cupcakes? Run to Hey Cupcake and buy a dozen? Then the words, or word, of my Grandmother hit me..."whatever!"

The Cream Cheese Frosting recipe came from the same book, and it was an absolute hit!
The cakes did come out a little dense, but they did have a nice "extra-mild" chocolate flavor. The color was more of a rosy pink rather than the traditional bleeding red. Overall, it was an ok recipe...and our birthday guests of honor seemed happy.

Now that I have a small idea of what Red Velvet is...I might have to experiment more to find the damn Holy Grail of Red Velvet.

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