Friday, April 1, 2011

Stop 7: New York Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake is one of the desserts Warren Brown designates as being from New York (the other is cheesecake).  I was surprised to read this since I always associated red velvet with the south.  In his explanation, Brown says that there is a well-known debate whether the cake originated in the 1920's in NYC or before that in the South.  Brown gives it to NYC because of a story in which a woman had to pay $100 to get the recipe from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and was so outraged over it that she then spread around the recipe to as many people as possible - for free.  

I was also under the impression that I didn't like red velvet cake.  I think what I've discovered is that I didn't like other people's red velvet cake.  I LIKE this red velvet cake.  

A few things to mention before we get to the pictures.

1. This cake recipe has surprisingly little chocolate in it.  With only two tablespoons of cocoa powder in the whole batter, it's a very small percentage.  That being said, I am surprised by how much the flavor comes through.  There's a hint of chocolate that almost makes you do a double take to try to figure out what the surprise flavor is.

2. Brown says that in most of his recipes he likes to keep things as natural as possible, but in this one, there is simply no substitute for artificial food dye.  He says he's tried all the natural dyes he could find, but that none of them do the job, and just to leave it out if you care less about color than chemicals.  I will say that using that Wilton's food color sure did the trick.  Check out the color of the batter and the baked cake below.

3. This cake was made with the same old-fashioned milk buttercream that went on the election cakes in Connecticut.  Brown says that while cream cheese frosting is the icing commonly associated with red velvet cake, this is more likely what they used back in the day.  Again, the icing whipped up well and came together nicely.  I even piped with it this time and it was lovely.

4. Speaking of piping, I think I am finally learning that less is more when it comes to cakes.  The pictures below, with just a few red M&Ms as decoration, were round two of decorating.  The first try involved scrolls on the bottom and florettes on the top.  It was just too much.  The icing lays so smoothly that it seemed like a waste not to take advantage of it and the embellishment seemed over-the-top.

5. In the book, Brown shows pictures of red velvet cupcakes.  I decided to do a cake because, well, quite honestly, I made cupcakes last and wanted to do something different.  This cake is being brought to work and given to a colleague who has been having a rough time of it and just completed a daunting task.  I hope she'll at least share a piece or two.

Pictures, pictures, pictures!
This is the batter after half an ounce of wilton Spiderman Red and half a tube of Easter egg dye.

See, less is more.

This is my artistic shot.  Insert oohs and ahhs here.
It was cut at work and met with great satisfaction.  Here are what the pieces looked like.
Next Stop: We are jumping to Arkansas for a homemade dirt cake.  This was as per the request of a birthday boy.  From the recipe, this cake's going to be a real pain in the butt, but I'm sure it'll be worth it.


  1. I wish we had talked about this before my terrible red velvet cupcakes last week. They mostly seemed to taste like vegetable oil.

  2. I'm sorry we didn't talk about this as well because these were very tasty. Did yours actually have vegetable oil in them, or was it some sort of weird fluke?

  3. Hannah requested red velvet cake for her birthday, and based on your raves here I ordered the book right away.

    It's in the oven now, and I'm about to embark on the frosting.

  4. That's awesome Jenn! I hope it comes out well.