Sunday, January 29, 2012

(Red) Velvet Cake

I've always been confused by the appeal of red velvet cake.  It's not chocolate cake, it's not vanilla cake, and it's not strawberry/raspberry/some other "red" flavored cake; no, it's just cake with a hint of chocolate flavor and red food coloring.  Nonetheless, I decided to try out a recipe for red velvet cake with buttercream frosting tonight.  I left out the red food coloring so it's more of just a velvet cake, but I'll still include the coloring in the recipe for those who don't want to part with it.

(Red) Velvet Cake with Buttercream Frosting--it's surprisingly red!
(Red) Velvet Cake
  • 2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or, more all-purpose flour)
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups organic soymilk
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons red food coloring, if desired
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Buttercream Frosting
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons organic soymilk or water 
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly oil two 8-inch cake pans.

To prepare the cake batter, combine the first six (dry) cake ingredients in a large bowl.  Then create a well in the center, add the remaining (wet) cake ingredients, and mix until thoroughly combined.  Divide the cake batter between the two prepared pans and bake for about 35 minutes, rotating the pans 45 degrees halfway through.  The cakes are ready when the cake pulls away from the side of the pans and a toothpick comes cleanly out of the center of the cakes.  Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans.  Then run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes, flip each cake over onto a plate to remove from the pans, and revert each cake onto a cooling rack.  Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

To prepare the frosting, first beat the butter until smooth and fluffy with an electric mixer.  Add the powdered sugar, beat on low to combine, and beat on high for another minute or two.  Then add the vanilla and soymilk, mix on low until combined, and beat on high until frosting is light and fluffy (at least 4 minutes).  Cover the frosting until ready to use, and re-whip before using. 

Once the cakes are cool, frost one of the cakes first.  Then place the other cake on top of the first and frost the rest of the cake with the rest of the frosting. 

Cover and store in the refrigerator.  Yields 8-10 servings.  



While this cake had a good springy texture, I would make two major changes to the recipe.  First, I would replace the whole wheat pastry flour with all-purpose flour, meaning that the only flour in the recipe would be 3.5 cups all-purpose flour.  The whole wheat pastry flour was noticeable in the cake, adding an overpowering, wheaty flavor that I wasn't looking for in a cake.  Second, the frosting was a bit too liquidy upon adding a full 2 tablespoons soymilk.  I would recommend starting with 1.5 tablespoons soymilk in the frosting and then adding more, if necessary, to achieve a good consistency.  I think these two changes would bring this mediocre cake up to par. 
The ingredients in this cake are reasonably priced and easy to find.  If you aren't a regular baker you'll need to make a few purchases, but I was able to make this without any special purchases.  
Ease of Preparation:   
This is a pretty simple cake recipe.  It takes a fair amount of time to make from start to finish, including baking and cooling time, but that's true of all cakes.     
Non-vegan friendliness:   
This cake was fine for a Sunday night treat at home, but I would be hesitant to serve this cake to a group of non-vegans as a representative vegan baked good.  I do believe that this recipe could be a lot better with the above changes, though, so I'll definitely try it again.  For the record, Simon was disappointed by the cake's flavor (probably due to the whole wheat flavor) while Rachel liked it.   

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