Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tufted Tiers

Cupcakes are my thing.  Anyone who knows me can vouch for this.  But this week I got a wild hair and wanted to make a full on cake.  And the name?  Red Velvet.  You know it, you love it, and you know you want to have some. RIGHT. NOW.  And I'm going to give it to you, darlings, in the only way I know how.

Red Velvet To End All Red Velvet

2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted (after many tests, I recommend you sift, THEN measure - just put back what you don't use)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz red food coloring (two of those bottles that come in a box - yes:  all of it, kids)
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (I stuck it on the windowsill when I got home, which worked nicely)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature (put them on the windowsill with the butter and you'll be golden)
2 tsp vanilla extract (none of that imitation stuff)
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (I totally cheated and used 1 cup whole milk with 1 tbsp white vinegar - no joke... I always forget something at the grocery store, and this time it was the freggin' buttermilk)
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

*preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prep your two 9 inch round cake pans with butter and flour to prevent future (inevitable) sticking.

1. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Set it aside for now.  In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring and the cocoa powder until there absolutely NO lumps and it is the color of blood you see in Tim Burton's movies.  Set this aside as well.
2. In your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until it's really fluffy - about three minutes on high speed.  Beat in your eggs, one at a time, the vanilla, and the red cocoa mixture.  Bask in the glory of the color in your bowl.  Call a friend in to look at it because it is just. that. awesome.
3. Now put in a third of the flour mixture, mix in on low, then half the buttermilk until just blended.  Put in another third of the flour mixture, mix, and the rest of the buttermilk and blend in again.  Add the final third of the flour mixture and mix on low until smooth.  Scrape down your bowl and mix again.  Doesn't that look awesome?

*Have your two prepped cake pans at the ready, as this next part will go kind of quickly.  
4. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and the baking soda (yes... just like in science class, it will fizz and look cool).  Quickly add this to the cake batter and mix until smooth again.  IMMEDIATELY divide evenly into your two cake pans and put on the middle rack in your oven to bake for 25-30 minutes.  Check early (at the 25 minute mark) to make sure a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out clean (it'll be red for sure, but you just don't want wet cake batter-ness on there).
5. Once cakes are done, set them on wire racks in their cake pans for ten minutes, then invert out of their pans and put back on wire racks until completely cool.  Your house will smell amazing and they will look like giant garnet jewels of goodness on your counters.  Promise.
6. Once completely cool, frost with the following recipe (or your favorite frosting recipe, I really don't care).

A Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

16 oz (two boxes) cream cheese, room temperature (same windowsill trick will work just fine)
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, room temperature (ditto...)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (just like the cake flour: sift, THEN measure)
a pinch of salt

1. In your newly-cleaned electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Feel free to whip the snot out of it on high.  Turn the mixer down to low and then add in the vanilla and salt.
2. When you go to add your powdered sugar, make sure you have the mixer's plastic shield on the bowl - sh*t's about to get messy.  Add it in thirds, mixing on low and stopping the mixer completely when you add each third.  Otherwise you'll have sugar EVERYWHERE.  Once all the sugar has just blended, crank 'er up to high and beat until super fluffy, at least 5 minutes.  If you beat more than 8 minutes, you'll risk liquefying the cream cheese.  I'm serious.  It's weird.
3. Now you're ready to frost.  If you're like me and are not good at frosting cakes in the more traditional way, get out your frosting tips, a pastry bag (or go ghetto and use a ziplock bag with the end snipped off), and only frost the layer in between the cakes and the top of the second layer.  I decided to make it look more "deconstructed", which turned out to be quite elegant (except for the weird little "dollop" I thought would be cool in the middle of the top layer... don't do that. It looks dumb).

*Remember:  with cream cheese frosting, you need to keep it refrigerated - definitely not a cake you can just leave out all day.

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