We recently had yet another school holiday and during the half term BabyBear and I made the journey up to Cheshire to visit our Northern family. It had been my younger sisters birthday a few weeks earlier and as a late birthday cake she requested that I make her red velvet cupcakes.
I've had limited success with red velvet cakes before - I tried them once and while they tasted Ok I was distinctly underwhelmed - they turned out brown rather than the vivid RED! that they appear to be in pictures. So I did what any one would do and hit the internet to find out exactly where I went wrong. It turned out that the food colouring that you can buy in most supermarkets is unsuitable for red velvet cakes. The Hummingbird Bakery cook book specifically says to use Dr Oetkar red but since that was published the EU guide lines on food colouring have changed. Rather than the incredibly artificial colours that you used to be able to get most supermarkets stock 'natural' colours which just aren't strong enough.
I was knew that the best thing to do was use a gel rather than a liquid colouring but was unsure which one to go for (there are a bewildering amount of colours available) when I saw a tweet from Lorraine Pascale recommending Sugar Flair's Red Extra (available here from Amazon)
The first recipe I tried was from The Hummingbird Bakery's book and while I was happy with the results it didn't taste very chocolatey. The recipe called for 40ml of food colouring. Instead I used 1 teaspoon of gel and made it up to 40ml with extra water. If you have a particular red velvet recipe that you prefer then this technique should work.
the next recipe I tried was from Ed Kimbers book. This one was much more to my taste - it used more cocoa powder so actually tasted like a chocolate cake. It was incredibly moist and went beautifully with the cream cheese icing. I've now a red velvet convert and am very tempted to see if the same technique can be used to make diffent coloured cakes (I'm particularly tempted to make a pink velvet cake)
The Ed Kimber recipe was actually for a 3 layer cake but as I was making cupcakes I decided to reduce this by a third. This made way too much mix and we've been in the unfortunate situation of having too much cake! (a terrible situation to be in I know) The mix made 12 large cupcakes, 8 bite size ones that BabyBear has been taking to school with him in his lunch box and a loaf tin sized cake that I've frozen to make cake pops with in the future!
Red Velvet Cakes - makes a 2 layer cake or 24 cupcakes (ish) - from Ed Kimber's The Boy Who Bakes
150g softened butter
235g caster sugar
1 tsp red food gel
2tb boiling water
30g cocoa powder
235g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1 Pre-heat the oven to 170C and line your tins with cupcake cases or grease your cake tin.
2 In a jug mix together the boiling water, cocoa power, buttermilk and food colouring. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
3 Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mix and half the buttermilk mix to the creamed butter and sugar and mix thoroughly. Repeat until all the mix is added. Finally add the vinegar.
4 Spoon into your prepared tins/cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool before icing.
Cream Cheese Icing
160g unsalted butter, softened
330g icing sugar
260g cream cheese (not low fat, it goes really runny)
1 Beat the butter to soften it then add the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy. I find that putting the icing in the fridge for a little while before using makes icing the cakes a lot easier.