Monthly Archives: April 2009

Red Velvet Cake

It was a year ago that I embarked on a very special relationship. It has, at times, been hard work. And, other times, very rewarding.

Yes, that’s right. It’s my first blogiversary. Yay!

I felt the best way to celebrate was to take another stab at a Red Velvet Cake. The first attempt was, well, less than stellar. And my fascination with this southern U.S. specialty hasn’t waned in the intervening months. Plus, there is something so appealing about ritual, no?

Red Velvet Slice III

There are about 800 million different red velvet cake recipes on the Internet.* (*Slight exaggeration possible.) And I have a collection of about seven that I’m slowly working my way through. One day I will find the perfect recipe. This one is certainly a step closer.

Take two was far and away better than my first attempt, though, troublingly, not perfect. Friends disagreed. Of course, when you layer that much cream cheese icing on anything it’s going to taste good.

Red Velvet Slice IV

Even though I created a paste using the liquid food colouring and cocoa, I still got faint chocolate-coloured swirls in the batter. I suspect I was overly cautious when it came to mixing the paste in. But this time was definitely more red than the hot pink version from last year. Still, not quite the deep red I was looking for.

I also, decadently, decided to go with a triple layer cake instead of the usual double. (Anything to acquire new baking equipment; I am the worst when it comes to wanting new kitchen things. Single handedly fighting through the recession with baked goods and the stuff in which they are baked!)

And I ate the first piece with a lovely antique silver fork I bought a few days earlier during an antiquing trip with my friend Sherri Zickefoose to Nanton — a little town about an hour south of Calgary that has a handful of very fine shops. Because, when it is a celebration, even if you are alone, it should be done right.

Red Velvet Slice II

Red Velvet Slice

The next day I took the rest of the cake into work. So, on a Sunday morning, three of us sat around listening to the police scanner eating cake with plastic forks at our desks, hours before noon. A rather decadent weekend shift, to be sure.

Lining the cake pans

Cocoa and colouring

Cocoa and colouring

Empty bottle

Batter stained

Cake batter

Dye spot

Icing dollop

Icing the layers

All iced up

Red Velvet Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 oz. red food colouring (I used two bottles, which I think were 1 oz. each)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter and flour three 8″ cake pans. (Or, butter and line base with parchment.) Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt in bowl, then set aside. In a small bowl, mix food colouring and cocoa powder until there are no lumps. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and cocoa-colouring mix. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter, beat well, then add half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mix. Beat until just combined, making sure to scrape down the sides.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda, then add straight to cake batter and stir well. Quickly divide batter between three pans and put in oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cakes are baked when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and let them cool completely. Frost with cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt

Using a mixer, blend cream cheese and butter until smooth. Blend in salt, vanilla and then powdered sugar. Beat until light and fluffy and then ice cake.

Potato Pizza with Rosemary

I love the French word for potato: pomme de terre.

Apple of the earth.

It’s so evocative. It speaks of wholesomeness and simplicity. The dusty rows in farmer’s fields, the pockmarked tubers hidden under clumps of dirt and the round potatoes that tumble out when finally unearthed.
Also, it’s a damn tasty vegetable.

Potato Pizza with Rosemary I

My love of potatoes goes back to childhood. At one time I even had a potato scrapbook. I’m not kidding.

In the ’80s, the potato farmers in the U.S. had a big ad campaign to try to convince Americans that potatoes were vegetables. One was a photo of a big baker potato with a big daub of green paint on it, next to a jar of paint and dripping brush. Underneath was a caption that read something like, “What do we have to do to show it’s a vegetable?”

And, while the scrapbook has disappeared from my life, my love of potatoes remains.

I was so excited a couple of weeks ago to spy a massive (read: too big for a single person) bag of multi-coloured baby potatoes at Costco. I rooted through to find one that had a high proportion of purple potatoes. These things rock. I love their vibrant colour! Am tempted to boil and squash up the next batch for a little violet-coloured mash….

Purple Potato

So, I knew they would be perfect for this potato pizza. This recipe would have Atkins rolling over in his grave. A carb base, topped with carbs. Mmmm!

But, damn it, sometimes a girl just needs her potatoes.

Pizza dough rising

Sliced potatoes

Pizza for the oven

Potato Pizza with Rosemary II

Potato Pizza with Rosemary III

I apologize. I have no idea where this recipe came from originally. Something I found years ago, cut and paste into a plain document and then printed…. Even then, it’s been slightly adapted, of course.

Potato Pizza with Rosemary

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • Olive oil for bowl and pan
  • thinly sliced potatoes (2 or 3 large potatoes, 10 or more baby potatoes)
  • 1/4 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl, then slowly add water. Mix with spoon until ingredients start to come together, then using dough hook on a mixer, knead/mix for another 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in oiled bowl and let rise for two or more hours. (Note: mine didn’t rise quite as much. Unsure why, but ended up with pretty thin crust as a result.)

Using a mandoline or a knife, thinly slice potatoes. (The recipe then calls for the potatoes to be soaked in several changes of water. I didn’t do this because I was worried what would happen to the purple potatoes. Still tasted fine to me, so….?) Combine potatoes with pinch or two of salt, rosemary and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 425. Spread thin layer of olive oil on rimmed baking sheet. Stretch dough out on pan until it reaches the edges. Evenly layer potatoes over dough, then drizzle on three tablespoons olive oil, along with sea salt and chopped rosemary.

Bake about 20 minutes until bottom is golden. Let cool slightly before cutting, then serve. Also good at room temperature.