American Red Velvet cake dates back to the late 1800’s. First called “Mahogany Cakes” because of their brownish colour – created by the reaction of the pigment in cocoa with the acids in buttermilk and vinegar.
The red colour we know and love today is purely the result of red food colouring.
In spite of Red Dye #40 (or perhaps because of it) red velvet cake has achieved superstar status. A short internet search reveals red velvet Oreos, candles, protein powders, air fresheners, teas, pancake mixes, doughnuts, hot chocolate, cocktails and vodka.
We’re going back to the begining this Valentine’s Day with this recipe that’s close to the original that began the whole craze. It was developed by the Adams Extract Company in the 1940s, and we can’t wait to dig in.
Happy Valentine’s day from Mrs Robinson!
Red Velvet Cake/NYT Cooking
½ cup /113 grams butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons to prepare pans
3 tablespoons/22 grams cocoa powder, divided
1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
2 teaspoons/10 milliliters vanilla
2 tablespoons/30 milliliters red food coloring
1 teaspoon/6 grams salt
1 teaspoon/5 grams baking soda
2 ½ cups/250 grams flour, sifted
1 cup/236 milliliters whole buttermilk
1 tablespoon/15 milliliters vinegar
Ermine icing (see recipe), or other fluffy white icing
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by buttering lightly and sprinkling with 1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder, tapping pans to coat and discarding extra cocoa.
Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
In a separate bowl, make a paste of the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa and the food coloring. Blend into butter mixture.
Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.
Divide batter among 3 pans and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack completely. (Can also be made in 2 cake pans.)
To assemble, remove 1 cake from its pan and place flat side down on a serving platter. Drop about 1 cup of icing onto cake and, using a flat spatula, spread evenly over top. Remove the second cake from its pan. Place flat side down on top of first layer. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake.
Measurements for dry ingredients are given by weight for greater accuracy. The equivalent measurements by volume are approximate.
Adapted from the original Adams Extract company recipe
For the Ermine Icing recipe, click here.
Photo: Rikki Snyder/New York Times