Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Tis the Season (for Red Velvet)

I can't think of a better time of year to make red velvet. If you're looking for some holiday baking inspiration, I've included links to some fun red velvet recipes. I haven't been able to try them all, but can certainly vouch for the sources: from Southern Living, Paula Deen and a few of my favorite baking bloggers. These recipes are sure to get you right into the holiday spirit:

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Buffy Hargett
Red Velvet Brownies
Red Velvet Bread Pudding
Red Velvet Soufflés w/ Whipped Sour Cream
Red Velvet Trifle
Red Velvet Torte w/ White Truffle Frosting
Red Velvet Cheesecake
Red Velvet Fudge
Red Velvet Peppermint Cake
Red Velvet Angel Food Cake

But say you don't feel like baking. How about cozying up next to the fire with a warm cup of Red Velvet Hot Cocoa?

Or maybe you're having guests over for breakfast and want to whip up a simple holiday inspired treat? Just make a batch of my red velvet pancakes and buy a few of these cute little mitten pancake molds from Crate&Barrel (for less than $5 each). Pipe some cream cheese frosting onto the bottom of the mittens, and voila: red velvet pancake mittens!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Baking Away the Calories (Plus a Giveaway)

Baked red velvet mini doughnuts by the Velveteen BakerIn what seems like eons ago in the blogosphere, I aksed my readers what I should bake next and red velvet donuts were the clear winner.

I started with these cute little mini donut pans from Amazon and figured that by using them I would avoid burning myself with grease (highly probable) and dodge any excess, unnecessary calories. I quickly learned, however, that the calories are in fact my favorite part of the donut.

So I am posting this recipe with a caveat: if you are really craving a donut, I suggest eating a real doughnut (yes, different spelling). Preferably one with actual dough that has been submerged and deep fat fried in a massive vat of grease. Yes, it won't be the healthiest thing, but it can't be much worse than eating 12 baked mini donuts in a single sitting. Right?

But now onto the fun stuff! To apologize for being such a slacker on my postings of late, I've decided to give away two brand-new mini donut pans so all you health conscious folks can make baked donuts of your own! To enter, simply comment on this post with the name of your favorite holiday dessert (and it doesn't have to be red velvet). Deadline to enter is 5pm EST on December 13th has passed. One lucky winner will be chosen at random using and announced on this post.

And the lucky winner is: Jainy! She was the third person to comment on this post with the name of her favorite holiday dessert. Jainy, please send an email to with your full name and mailing address.


Baked Red Velvet Donuts
Modified from Sprinkle Bakes

Donut batter:
2 c all purpose flour, sifted
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3/4 c buttermilk
1 t vanilla extract
1 t red food coloring
1 T natural cocoa powder, not dutch-processed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray donut pan with nonstick cooking spray. In large mixing bowl, sift together all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a paste with the cocoa and red food coloring. Add buttermilk, eggs, vanilla extract, butter and red paste mixture and beat until just combined.

Fill each donut cup approximately 3/4 of the way full. Bake 5-8 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched. Let cool in pan for 4–5 minutes before removing. Finish donuts with vanilla glaze. Donuts are best served fresh.

Vanilla glaze:
2 T hot water
2 c confectioner’ s sugar
1 T milk (I substituted buttermilk since it was all I had)
½ t vanilla extract

In small bowl, stir together all ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved. Use immediately to glaze donuts. You can either toss them in or dip just the tops. If the glaze starts to harden you can add more hot water.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Red Velvet Fever

DSCN0005, originally uploaded by Velveteen Baker.

At what point should I start worrying about my red velvet addiction? Truth be told, I actually considered buying two boxes of these.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"So My Chocolate Should Have a Temper???" And Other Baking Discoveries

I'm getting ready to leave for Cambodia in two weeks and promised some friends I would make them some more red velvet cake truffles before I left.
But wait, these cake truffles, well...they look just like your cake balls?
Ah, you are quite right! Needless to say, I was bringing said cake truffles to my production team at church. And although it may seem silly, I felt that cake 'truffles' were much more PC than cake 'balls'. Am I right?

While my last recipe went over quite well, I didn't think the chocolate bark from Kroger was befitting of the title truffle, so I decided to use a higher quality chocolate. For this task, no 'chocolate flavored candy' would do.

Actually I just happened to have some bars of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate on hand, so I figured it couldn't be that complicated. And I was first. I used a double boiler and melted the chocolate bars (it took me a total of 8 bars). I pulled my red velvet cake balls out of the freezer, dipped each in the chocolate and then laid them gently onto a fresh sheet of parchment. Easy-peasy. The Ghirardelli chocolate made a marked improvement in the flavor and they looked pretty good too. I took them into church and to work the following Monday. They received rave reviews and a few people even expressed interest in buying some over the holidays and for a wedding.

The following morning however, I woke up and my beautiful cake balls, err, truffles looked like this (pictured below). I didn't refrigerate them and they were stored in a sealed container. What could I have done wrong?

These truffles had a bad temper!
As it turns out, chocolate should be tempered when used for coating or dipping. Yes, I had no idea what that meant until I Googled it. Those heinous looking spots are called fat blooms, and despite their appearance the chocolate is still fine to eat. Fat blooms are an accumulation of cocoa butter crystals on the chocolate's surface. One of the common causes is due to poor (or complete disregard of) tempering of the chocolate. If chocolate is properly tempered it will appear much more glossy and will form a crisp shell.

So there you have it. I guess some things are good with a little temper. Lesson learned for the Velveteen Baker. To avoid my little snafu, you can watch this video from Ghirardelli about how to properly temper chocolate.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Cupcakery Worthy of its Namesake?

When I first heard about Red Velvet Cupcakery in DC's Chinatown from my friends Marcy and Tia, it was like a beacon. For nights I dreamed about trying a red velvet cupcake worthy of naming a bakery after. Fortunately it would only be a number of days until I had to travel to Virginia for work, and I would be able to make my dreams a reality.

I was able to lure four of my colleagues to the cupcakery for a pre-dinner cupcake run. There were Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes...Cookies & Cream cupcakes....and alas, the Southern Belle. A signature red velvet that can "stand up to Grandma's" or so the menu says. At first glance I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. All of their red velvet cupcakes were a deep shade of mahogany and had a serious case of muffin top. But looks can always be deceiving, right?

Despite my initial hesitation, I went all out. I ordered the red velvet, a peanut butter cup and a soy milk to wash it all down. The frosting was a standard cream cheese with just the right amount of sweetness. The cake however, was a sure disappointment. My colleagues and I all agreed that the red velvet cake tasted dry and over-baked. The net of it: I wouldn't name my bakery after it.

I'm hoping this was just a fluke and maybe their Quality Control Manager was out sick that day. Have any of you been to Red Velvet Cupcakery in DC? How was your experience? Any other DC area bakeries you would recommend?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Same Same, But Different

I'm looking to my readers to see what I should bake next. There are so many red velvet variations on my list that I simply cannot choose. So far the contenders are:
  • Red wine velvet cake - A classic red velvet with a red wine reduction in the batter.
  • Red velvet cake donuts, frosted of course.
  • Gluten-free red velvet cupcakes - for all of you cupcake (but not gluten) lovers out there.
  • Red velvet cake with beets - A red velvet cake colored with beets instead of food dye.
  • Red velvet whoopie pies - Cream cheese frosting sandwiched between two cookie-sized rounds of red velvet cake.
You can vote in my comments section, on my Facebook page, or by using the poll to the right hand side of this post. I'll feature the winning recipe and photos in an upcoming post. Thanks for participating!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Much Ado About Cake Balls

Several weeks back I did a post on the JWT Atlanta blog called The Next Big Thing Could Actually be, Quite Small and asserted my prediction that cake balls were going to be all the rage. Well today I am here to tell you that they are.

Red Velvet Cake Balls w/ Milk ChocolateI was at first a skeptic, but after making some red velvet cake balls from scratch I was truly convinced. There is something so heavenly about homemade red velvet cake and cream cheese icing mixed together, blanked by a nice, rich coating of chocolate.

I'm not going to lie, these little beauties are pretty labor intensive if you make them from scratch. As a matter of fact, you may start to hate me half way through this process and wonder why you ever decided to make these. But this is when you must press on. I assure you that all of your frustration will be worth its weight in gold once you bite into one of these.

Should you choose to make these, here are a few pointers I'd like to offer:
- Find a Kroger and buy a package of their white or dark chocolate bark. You can also use candy melts, but I found them much more difficult to work with.
- Invest in a candy dipping fork or set like this one. Spend a few more dollars on the metal dipping fork, as I rendered my plastic set useless trying to make these.
- You can use any red velvet cake and frosting recipe, but the following is one of my own. If you use another recipe you will need a 9x13 cake, about 2 cups of frosting and 1 or 2 packages of chocolate bark (depending on how much of a perfectionist you are).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cupcake Critique: Matty Cakes (Atlanta, GA)

Nice texture and crumb, but the icing didn't blow me away.
So I've driven by Matty Cakes hundreds of times, but had yet to try out this Best of Atlanta bakery. Finally on one of my tasting spree Saturdays (sure beats the gym folks), I was able to stop in. While intent on trying their red velvet, I found myself completely awestruck by a designer purse cake they were making. These fondant covered cakes looked better than some of the bags I've seen on Canal Street. As tempted as I was to order a $140 purse made out of cake, I had to remind myself that I was there just to try their red velvet.

The one thing I like about Matty Cakes is that their prices are super reasonable. Their large cupcake is ginormous and only $2.95. To give you an idea of scale, I took a picture of it on top of a quart of paint, and as you can see, it takes up the majority of its surface area. What they call their "mini" cupcake, is in fact a regular sized cupcake that sells for $1.95.

Now for the red velvet. The cake itself was quite good - the flavor was nice, the texture was moist and the color was a beautiful shade of crimson. I found myself a little disappointed however with the icing. It had a very light whipped cream cheese flavor. It would've been fabulous atop a strawberry shortcake, but it didn't quite stand up to the red velvet for me.

Red Velvet Cupcakes @ Matty Cakes No. 7
A large cupcake from Matty Cakes is almost equivalent
to the circumference of a quart of BEHR paint.
Red Velvet Cupcakes @ Matty Cakes No. 4
What I consider to be the ideal color for red velvet.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Waiting for Gâteau

Remember that book Waiting for Godot that many of us had to read in high school? Well I'm sure none of you felt like Vladimir and Estragon, eagerly awaiting my next post about gâteau (that's French for cake), but I'm here to assure you that I have several new reviews, recipes and stories to share.

In the last two weeks alone, I've done tastings in New Orleans and DC, as well as baked (and blogged about) the yummy cake balls pictured below. It's all coming soon, so don't forget to subscribe to my posts (top right under subscribe). You can also follow my updates on twitter or like The Velveteen Baker on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Red Velvet: Tastes Like Chicken?

From bacon cake to bacon chocolate chip cookies, I've been seeing a lot of interesting meat-infused desserts lately, but this one takes the cake...and far too literally at that.

A San Francisco-based chef has invented red velvet fried chicken. Shocking, I know. And with cream cheese infused, garlic mashed potatoes nonetheless. Why I hesitate to understand this odd pairing is that you can't just make something red velvet.

See, red velvet is as much about texture as it is about flavor. Without its velvety, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, red velvet cake would simply be cake with an excessive amount of food dye. However you spin it - drenching and frying in red velvet - or tar and feathering in red velvet, does not a red velvet make.

Regardless of how jaded I may sound, I would like to commend American Cupcake with their creativity, and I am quite curious to hear any reviews of said red velvet fried chicken. If any of my ten whole visitors from the greater San Francisco area decide to check it out, please let me know. Heck, it may even be pretty good. But good, bad or indifferent, you can count on the Velveteen Baker for keeping the poultry out of her baked goods.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Red Velvet: It's Not Just for Dessert Anymore

So my first attempt at red velvet pancakes (technically my first attempt at pancakes, ever) and they were actually quite successful. I started with two different recipes, but thought they had too much cocoa and not enough buttermilk, so I ended up just scrapping both and winging it. I was pleasantly surprised that they turned out and were actually really good. Fluffy with a nice velvety texture and not too sweet. Next time I'll probably add some cream cheese to the topping (in lieu of the creme fraiche), but was a little too impatient to wait for it to soften. Try them out and let me know what you think.

Teen's Red Velvet Pancakes No. 5

Teen's Red Velvet Pancakes No. 6

Teen's Red Velvet Pancakes
Yields about 16 pancakes

For the Red Velvet Pancakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted twice after measuring
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup creme fraiche
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts (or pecans), toasted

For the Mascarpone Topping:
1/3 cup softened mascarpone
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cook walnuts in a skillet at medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, creme fraiche, melted butter, red food coloring and vanilla extract. Add in the dry ingredients and walnuts (reserve some for garnish) and whisk until combined. The batter will have a thick consistency.

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Add butter to grease, followed by a small scoop of the batter. Wait for the pancakes to bubble, flip and cook for another minute or two. Meanwhile, mix all of the ingredients for the mascarpone topping together and garnish along with maple syrup and remaining walnuts.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Red Velvet Meets Breakfast, Lives Happily Ever After

You have to imagine my surprise when I discovered this whole red velvet pancake phenomenon. I mean, how could I not see this one coming? They have so much in common that one day they were just destined to meet and hit it off, right?

Well, it sounds like a viable reason to bake again this weekend. Red velvet flapjacks anyone?

 Red Velvet Pancakes with Mascarpone;
Red Velvet Pancakes from
With Whipped Cream Cheese & Butter Pecan Syrup;

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Give More, Save More (Calories)

Stephanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake™ #5After my last post I was overwhelmed with guilt. Even in the name of National Cheesecake Day, how could I possibly attempt to endorse something I hadn't yet tried myself? So off to The Cheesecake Factory I went for a slice of Stephanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake.

I found it rather annoying that their Any Slice, Half Price offer was only good for those dining in (go figure), but after going through the trouble of getting there and parking after 5pm on a Friday, I figured my dignity was well worth a $9 slice of cheesecake.

So how did it fare? While the layers of red velvet were relatively bland, being sandwiched between cheesecake and cream cheese icing certainly made the cake. Overall it was pretty good. Worth trying, but don't go expecting it will blow your mind.

I do think its great that they donate part of their proceeds to Feeding America, but you too directly through their site. Every dollar you donate helps provide 9 pounds of food and grocery products to men, women and children facing hunger in our country. So in lieu of buying a slice that translates to only 2.25 pounds of food, you can donate your $9 to Feeding America instead, which would provide 81 pounds of food.

Much better for the waistline, and for those in need.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Celebrate Cheesecake, Eat Red Velvet

In case you weren't aware, today is National Cheesecake Day. And what better way to celebrate cheesecake than by eating red velvet!

If you head over to The Cheesecake Factory today you can try their Stephanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake™ for half-off with their Any Slice, Half Price promotion. While I haven't had an opportunity to sample their red velvet rendition, how could Cheesecake Factory's original cheesecake, layered with red velvet cake and topped with cream cheese frosting not be good?

In case that isn't reason enough, 25¢ from the sale of each red velvet slice will be donated to Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity.

National Cheesecake Day is only once a year, so go out and celebrate! You can afford the extra calories.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Study Shows Ad Execs Prefer Younger Cakes

Red Velvet w/ Ermine Icing No. 3
For my latest baking adventure I decided to pit two recipes against each other. Both were featured in the New York Times, but published 30 years apart. I wanted to see if people preferred the younger, more contemporary cake (circa 2007) to the older, more traditional one (circa 1977).

As prefaced in an earlier post, today I brought both cakes into my office to conduct a 'taste' study. As part of the survey, I asked that all participants taste both cakes and rate them on a scale of 1-10. Of the 35 advertising executives included in this study, the vast majority preferred the younger (2007) version.

First Runner Up: Circa 1977 Cake (pictured top left)
The older cake hailed from Alabama and was published on April 25, 1977 in an article entitled Red Velvet Cake Returns, Tomato Paste Lingers On (I assure you the recipe has nothing to do with tomato paste). The icing called for a very unique frosting made of butter, sugar, egg yolks, chopped pecans or walnuts, raisins and bourbon or rum. While I planned to make this frosting all along, I hesitated to remember buying bourbon until Sunday. At that point, no matter how good my intentions, Georgia state law simply wouldn't allow me to make this frosting. So I opted for a more traditional ermine (boiled milk) frosting. Overall feedback was that this cake wasn't as moist as the 2007 cake, but still very tasty. This is not surprising considering the 2007 cake had 2 cups of oil, while this one only called for a 1/2 cup of shortening. Next time I'll probably increase it to a full cup of shortening, or replace it with a cup of vegetable oil. And while I do like the ermine frosting, I would opt for a nice cream cheese frosting (like the one in my first recipe) instead.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Better with Age?

I simply couldn't decide on a single recipe for my next baking challenge, so instead I chose two.

Since many of the contemporary red velvet recipes differ by only a few ingredients, I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose it with an older, and hopefully more traditional recipe.

I went to the New York Times archives to do some digging, which by the way, is an amazing resource for baking cakes. Not only are their cake recipes some of the most popular, but you can search their archives back to 1851. You won't have any luck finding red velvet until the 20th century, but a good resource nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cupcake Critique: Gigi's Cupcakes

Gigi's: Scarlett's Red Velvet 4Today at lunch I ran over to Gigi's Cupcakes for my first of many cupcake critiques around Atlanta. Gigi's is a chain, so right off the bat I had some preconceived notions. They have a wide variety of cupcakes from Italian Cream Wedding Cake, Peach Cobbler and Cherry Cordial, but I of course was interested in none other than Scarlett's Red Velvet.

The ECD (that's Executive Creative Director for the non-ad folks) at my agency @carlrwarner said to me that Gigi's has the perfect icing-to-cupcake ratio, but I respectfully must disagree. If there is enough icing on one cupcake to wallpaper a 10'x12' bedroom, that is too much. Surely from looking at the pictures it may seem I'm exaggerating, but keep in mind this cupcake suffered quite a bit of shrinkage on the ride home in this Atlanta heat.

In critiquing this cupcake I examined several key factors: appearance, flavor, texture and color.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cake Balls Anyone?

Although I wish people would call them 'cake truffles' it appears that cake balls are all the rage. I found these beautiful red velvet cake balls on Flickr, but after doing some more research, discovered a cult following for various cake balls and pops. I don't know who started the whole cake ball fad (certainly popularized by Bakerella), but they are really starting to catch on.

The image pictured here is from My Flour Garden in Southern California. I also found a place in Austin that specializes in cake balls, appropriately called Austin Cake Ball. I'll have to check it out next time I go visit my friends Mo and Jordan.

If you're interested in making said cake balls, Bakerella has a really easy recipe using a mix. I'll be making them soon with a variation on one of my scratch recipes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rose Cupcakes

Rose Cupcakes, originally uploaded by J-Lynne (Flutterby Cakes).

How cute are these? I think I may have to try decorating a batch of red velvet with these fabulous little roses.

A Quest for Perfection

This is my first documented attempt along a journey to create the perfect recipe for red velvet cake. I'm starting with what I know, but plan to venture way back to explore the history of this elusive cake including its boiled icing and beetroot ancestors.

My first recipe has been adapted from Paula Dean's, but I've modified the flour, cocoa and icing, as well as tweaked some of the directions. I received a lot of good feedback from my test subjects (ie work colleagues), and especially on the icing. The cake itself had a nice scarlet color and a good velvety texture, but was still light - a perfect complement to the sweetness of the icing. I find that these cupcakes are usually more moist the following day, so I'd bake them ahead of time and then ice them before you are ready to serve. Try it out and let me know what you think.