How to make red velvet cake (and how to store cakes!)

Ah, the pressure of the first post is intenseeee! I’ve saved a draft of another one, but it took a lot of ”research” and translating, so I left it for what it was for now. I figured it’s best to share slices of cake, uh I mean, of life as they come along! A friend of a friend regularly says ”shrug, no regrets’, so I’m shrugging away my own and your expectations of what a first post should be like and what I should(n)’t post on this blog and without regrets I will start off by sharing the recipe for a *famous* red velvet cake. The cake was devoured, it was really that good. Which is also why I don’t have any pictures of it. It is beginner friendly, because it was the first time I made it and it turned out great. In fact, I’d say it’s a piece of cake *sorry, not sorry* (disclaimer: ”forward to 4.12 for the recipe”).

So, the recipe doesn’t come from my great-great-grandmother. My mom didn’t know what a red velvet cake was until I made it last week for my sister’s graduation party and we had this conversation:

mom: did they make the red dye with the blood of crushed bugs?
me: no, mom. It’s made (looks it up after saying no and having to use it that day) artificially (phew)
mom: but why do you have to make the cake red in the first place?
me: because otherwise it won’t be a red cake (yes, I see the flaw) *pretends to be too busy for the actual answer*

I’ll confess that I had thought of that question too (because the dye is quite expensive and it’s not like it changes the flavour (unless you count in the fact that we eat with our eyes too and that the colour is why I fell in love with it in the first place). So the reason is ”highly” scientific: the batter contains vinegar, cocoa powder and baking soda and these ingredients react to create a red-brownish hue. Though the cake has more chemistry than I have with people, the colour it creates is nowhere near the colour that draws vampires from their coffins (or is it caves? or castles? or graveyards? twilight maybe?), which is why nowadays we use highly pigmented (artificial or crushed bug) red dye.

Now, I have had a red velvet cake and I ate it too before I made it. It was in a bakery and I have fond memories of that place, the friends that were with me and the delicious cake and it’s frosting. So, I wanted bakery quality, or sell-able quality red velvet cake and I promise you that that’s exactly what you’ll get. One of our guests came up to me and said that it tasted just like it does in a bakery (not the one with my fond memories, but I’ll take that compliment). You might think, well, I can’t do that. Well, fret not my friend! It is super easy and the cake is ready in like an hour! You have two bowls, one with wet ingredients and one with dry ingredients and you mix them and then pour them into the pans and it’s done! Ofcourse, then you have to make the frosting, but that is done in a jiffy too. (Do I sound old? Is jiffy an uncool word? *shrugs*)

So in order to get that bakery quality, I went on a recipe hunt. There is this geophysicist who frequently bakes a lot of recipes for the same cake and compares them (check out: red velvet cake taste-off). His or her co-workers, amongst others I believe, were the lucky ones who could taste all of them and then passed their judgement. This led me to ”extensive” research on the winner of that test, which is the incredible and famous Cake Man Raven (I looked it up a couple of days later and had forgotten about the name, so I googled Cave Man Red Velvet Cake woops). Which brings us to the recipe link.

So, you’ve finally made it to ”4.12”. Here’s the link to the recipe: the famous Cake Man Raven’s famous Red Velvet Cake and they have a video too! Nothing as annoying as written instructions I tell ya. Are cookbooks still a thing y’all? (how?!) Here I’ll just tell you about the tweaks I made and some tips on what you could do to prevent the mistakes I made make the cake better!

First of all, you want to have everything ready. Your oven pre-heated, your cake pans oiled and lightly floured and all of your ingredients and appliances ready to go. It makes cooking and baking sooo much easier, in fact you should mise en place your whole life.

About the batter: don’t whisk the batter too much after you’ve combined the wet and dry ingredients. Not that the cake will rise a lot (since you put in oil instead of butter), but still you don’t want to kill the chemistry entirely. Also, use a gel dye or any dye that is very very pigmented or you will have a pink princess cake or something in between that makes you wonder, why did you have to make the cake red in the first place…? That’s all, the recipe speaks for itself on the rest of the things you should do. Also, word of caution: the red dye might get all over the place. My hands looked as if though I had used henna.

About the pans: the smaller they are, the more layers you get! I used quite large tins, so I had two layers, but I didn’t have any expectations about the presentation this time anyway. If you use small enough pans, eventually you’ll have cup-cakes. And if you decide to tear the cake apart into crumbs, you could also make cake-pops! Ve-ry versatile, though not as much as potatoes.

About the frosting: Make the frosting at least a day before using it, so it can cool completely (and won’t droop off of your cake). The frosting that I had tasted at the bakery had stiff peaks and tasted a little chocolate-y. So I made the recipe as mentioned in the link, but I added 300 gr of white chocolate. You really have to taste the frosting and trust your own taste (and check your health) and add more or less powdered sugar according to it. I would add less next time. Also, I didn’t add the pecans. Like, why would you? But then again, I haven’t tasted it together, the added bite might be nice and perhaps the flavours go better together than they do in my head. I mean, Cake Man Raven is more of an authority on RVC’s than I am (I baked HIS recipe ONCE, so yeah) and he has actually tasted the pecans with the cake.

About saving the cake: if you have left-over cake or if you want to make the cake ahead of time: whatever you do, DO NOT PUT THIS CAKE OR ANY CAKE IN THE FRIDGE UNCOVERED. That’s an amateur mistake I made, but luckily it was just one piece of cake and we had stuffed us with the rest already, so it wasn’t destined for our bellies anyway. Still, the hard, stale cake broke my heart like a brick would do (even the colours are the same gosh) and I decided, NEVER again and that was why I did more research and one day I’ll get my cake degree)(do cake graduates bake their own cakes to celebrate?)(do barbers cut their own hair?).

I stumbled upon this witty and informative piece of information you should definitely read, but here’s a summary:
1. You can store cakes outside; they won’t go moldy and you can save them for a few days.
2. Do not refrigerate your cake.
3. You can make your cake way ahead and store it in a freezer with a crumb coating of frosting. Then you let it thaw 3 days before you want to use it and do the filling and decorating 2 days before.
4. if you must put it in the fridge, then you have to cover the cake with maximum security so the cake doesn’t lose any moisture and stays tender, soft and non-brick like.

To finish this post, I have another pro-tip for you: what do you say to someone who’s graduated? ”ConGRADuationsssss!”

Hope I could help figure out which recipe to use, what you should avoid doing and what variations there are. And perhaps I could make you smile, I sure hope so 🙂



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