Thursday, July 10, 2014

Red Velvet Cake; It's All About the Frosting!

Since I was a young boy, my Aunt Edna would make me a 4 layer Red Velvet cake on my birthday.  It was exquisite and awesome, and I blame dear Edna for introducing me to "high class" desserts long before I should have been.  I rarely ever saw Red Velvet Cake during my teen and adult years because it wasn't exactly "in fashion" and as Edna would tell you, "It ain't easy to make, kid!"  Today, you can't walk down the street without tripping over a Red Velvet cake, cupcake, ice cream bar, or even an M&M!

This makes me incredibly sad.  Why sad?  Because the popular "take" on RVC is miles away from the original.  The first RVC in America was created by the head pastry chef at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in NYC.  Recipes for the cake differ widely in ingredients (some even call for "Beet Juice" to color the cake, first introduced when food was rationed during WWII), but the frosting is what makes this cake extra special.

This is where I take issue!  The "Convenient" way to make anything "Red Velvet" today is to dump a bunch of Cream Cheese frosting on it.  WRONG!  Worse, they use CHEAP Cream Cheese frosting, loaded with high-fructose corn syrup or other ridiculous 5 syllable ingredients....NO!


Personally, I don't care how you build your Red Velvet Cake.  Buy it in a box, google it, whatever.  What I care about, and I care about it deeply, is the frosting.  I care deeply enough to reject a RVC that you might bring me on my birthday if not done correctly (sorry).

Edna was kind enough to give me the faded blue index card that had her RVC recipe on it and you can pry it away from me when I'm dead and gone.  Edna is gone now (bless her heart and soul) and I would not dishonor her by giving you all her cake recipe (it's stupendous and I plan to win a gold medal at the fair someday with it).  I will, however, give you the frosting recipe, since it's all that is right and good and pure and righteous when it comes to RVC.

Do *NOT* make substitutions with this recipe.  Do it right, or don't do it at all:

You Will Need:
  • 3 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Tsp good vanilla
  • 1 Cup butter, softened (must be butter)
Add the milk to the flour slowly, using a whisk.  It's helpful to have a 2nd helper to sprinkle the flour in while you do the whisking.  This will avoid lumps.  You're making a French Bechemel sauce, which is a base to most French sauces and is used in everything from cheese fondue, to... well, cake frosting.  

Cook the flour/milk mixture slowly over medium heat until very thick, stirring constantly.  You'll be tempted to put the whisk down and to walk away.  Don't do it!  That's when it will grab the bottom of the pan, burn, and crawl up and over the sides.  Use a double-boiler if you have one.

When it's good and thick, take it off the heat and allow it to cool completely, to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cream the sugar, butter and vanilla together with an electric mixer until it's fluffy.  Then, slowly add it to the cooked mixture with a rubber spatula.  Now, put the whole mix back under the electric mixer and kick it into high gear until it's all fluffy and ready to frost a cake.

Keep any leftover frosting (yeah, right... like there's gonna be leftovers.  Please.). in the refrigerator.  Also, keep the RVC in the fridge after you frost it!!  The frosting is little more than a sweetened "sauce" and it will break down on you at room temperature.  In fact, you may want to cool it down significantly before you frost the cake!

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