Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Taking the Cake/updated

Apparantly, the Red Velvet Cake has quite a history...full of intrigue and steeped in Urban Legend.

I had no idea.

You see, sometime in the 40's or so a lady enjoyed a slice of Red Velvet Cake at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. After doing so, she asked the hotel for the recipe. They obliged her request, and charged her somewhere between $25-500 (depending on which story you read) for doing so. Outraged, this vengeful woman circulated the spendy, albeit delicious recipe along with the story to bakers far and wide.

Wasn't there a Nordstroms Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe story like this???

Taking all of this into consideration, I am left with the question: "Does this cake have Southern Roots or is it a City-Slicker NYC cake?" I'd always thought of it as a tradition in the South - a cake for special occasions. Remember Steel Magnolias?

The Armadillo Grooms Cake?

Sure, the historical context is intriguing but it has nothing to do with why I gave myself the challenge of perfecting the red velvet cake. Red happens to be my favorite color, the cake looks very cool when you cut into it, I enjoy random family traditions and thought that this would be a fun one...and because, to me, the celebratory color symbolizes strength and love.

Happy. Red. Cake.

Once I announced to friends, family and blog-buds that I was planning this - the recipes started rolling in. They are all similar with interesting little nuances. Some use buttermilk, others add in vinegar or use cream cheese frosting vs. "mystery" frosting. Due to the wide range of differing formulas, I thought it wise to start with the original and chose the Waldorf-Astoria Red Velvet Cake Recipe for my maiden voyage.

Two important ingredients - cake flour (sifted THREE times, thankyouverymuch) and red food coloring.

The original recipe called for "3 bottles of red food color". All that I had was one fancy FRENCH bottle of "gel" food color that measured about .75 ounces. As I looked at other recipes, they seemed to call for 2 ounces...3 bottles...2 tablespoons. Hey, my bottle was from FRANCE and had a designer color name to it. It had to be enough, right? Who needs THREE bottles of Safeway red food color, really?

Before adding fancy, FRENCH, gelee food colour:

And, after:

Honestly, I was worried that this would turn out to be more of a Orangey-Pink Velvet Cake.

Good news is that once it was cooked, it looked more red than pink:


I've been struggling with naming the shade of red that my cake turned out to be. For now, I've decided to call it Carmine. Future cakes I will be shooting for more of a Crimson or Ruby.

Yeah, Ruby. Ruby is really what I'm shooting for.

**Updated to add**
2/11/07 - I was so consumed with the color aspect of my first cake that I forgot to say anything about how it tasted.

It was a'ight.

Not bad, but not as good as I wanted it to be. I wanted for it to be slightly jaw-dropping. As striking in taste as it is in color, I suppose. The cake was a bit on the dryish side and the frosting was sorta so-so. All the taste-testers liked it, so that is good. But, there is still cake left - a week later. Not the best sign. Next time, I'll try a recipe with oil vs. butter perhaps...or a "3-egg" cake that is described in my old skool Betty Crocker cookbook.

If anyone has any ideas, or well-loved recipes let me know. I'm taking the test kitchen seriously on this one. XO


Natalee said...

I like mine to be deep red w/cream cheese frosting.

I always thought it was just a "southern" thing, too, but perhaps I'm wrong?

Jonni said...

You so ROCK! The cake looks awesome! I know it was yummy. Thanks for stopping by my blog, John and I are so excited to visit San Fran. We are headed there from March 17th - March 23rd. I would absolutely love to do lunch while we are there if you have time. Thanks for asking. I just checked out bloglines. What a cool website. It really has everything. Have a great weekend!


new girl said...

But how did it taste!!! I prefer the ones with non-cream cheese frosting. I never even knew they existed until about 6 or 7 years ago, but oh how I love them now.

Stephanie said...

WOW, that's like SHOCKING red! Love the mixer (kitchenaid is my favorite)!

Melissa O said...

That's the brightest cake I've ever seen! How did it taste? I'm curious about the frosting in the Waldorf recipe. I think I've only ever had it with the cream-cheese variety, which is a favorite of mine anyway.

Mark & Michelle said...

Up until I read it on your blog, I had never even heard of red velvet cake. It looks very cool - but as 'new girl' asked - how did it taste?

You too have a cool oven!

Donna said...

It's definitely red!!! Would love to know how it tastes.

Shannon S said...

Carmine--isn't that Shirley's boyfriend on Laverne & Shirley?! Your cake, ruby or not, looks divine!

Mamacita said...

OMG, I am totally salivating right now. So, you didn't even SAY how it tasted?

C.J. said...

I thought it was southern.

So, how did it taste???

walternatives said...

Sifted three times? Egads. Any other special ingredients or is it the sadistic sifting that makes it velvet? Thanks for including pics.

Joannah said...

You've inspired me. I'm trying to set up a baking day with a friend of mine to back a RVC!

Shandra said...

Looks yummy! I would love to see the rec.

Michele and Chuck said...

As a long time cake decorator, I know that this recipe has been around for a long time and it is wonderful. It is always so much fun to surprise someone when they cut into it. It is also very good with a creamy buttercream icing or a decadent whipped cream one.

SBird said...

Okay, I could so discuss the color thing with you all day long...but you definitely nailed it...this one is carmine!!!

I love it. Now, did you locate any info about the difference between red velvet and devil's food cakes? Is it that one is a white cake and one is a chocolate cake (but both have red food coloring?)...?

a&mg said...

Looks great! My mom's favorite cake in the world is red velvet.

Mariah said...

Looks yummy...I loved Steel Magnolia's when the Dad gave Weezer the Armadillo's behind and she said something like...I always love a good piece of 'arse'! LOL

Irena said...

Nice. Looking forward to the Ruby update. ;-)

Stacy said...

Red Cake is Ryan's favorite. His mom makes him one every year for his birthday. My aunt from Kentucky was the first to start the tradition on my side of the family.

The recipe my MIL and I both use calls for cocoa powder mixed in with the food coloring. There is also vinegar and baking soda mixed together.

It will be fun to watch your 'testing'. :)

atomic mama said...

Hmmm, I dunno. I'm not so good with the baked goods, but yes, moist is good. It sure looks fantastic, though! Yum.

Beth said...

I think the cake looks yummy. Anything sweet is good and you are becoming quite the baker. Buttercup is going to have the best birthday cakes ever.

Barb said...

Looks great. Using Fannie's recipe of one bottle of Safeway food coloring I got that Ruby red I think you're looking for. Also, because of the altitude here, I always need to add a little moisture and used some sour cream (don't know exactly how much, but probably 1/2-3/4 c.) - that may make yours a little too dense, but here it made the texture just right.
Carry on with this experimentation and keep us all posted.

Barb said...

PS. Grandma Fannie also had a recipe for a "Million Dollar Cake" that was a light chocolate cake that also had the urban myth of asking for the recipe and being charged mega bucks for it - hence the name...
I think I've heard it surrounding the Nordstrom's cookies, too.

Avery's Mom & Dad said...

I use to have a great friend in my early single days that loved RVC, and I would make one for him for his b-day each year that happened to be on Valentines day!! I am anxious to have you share with us which recipe earns the #1 blue ribbon in your taste test.

By the way I thought the cake looked delish, but I am salivating over your oven!!!