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.

Red Velvet w/ Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Icing No. 3The Winner: Circa 2007 Cake (pictured bottom left)
The younger cake was adapted from The Confetti Cakes Cookbook by Elisa Strauss and published on February 14, 2007. The accompanying icing was adapted from The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook. This recipe is for a three layer cake, but I forced it into two pans with 2" sides and used heating cores to compensate. The recipe creates a lot of batter, so I'd recommend making three layers, but a really thick two layer cake can be done. Overall I felt the cake had too much cocoa powder (1/2 cup), but several of the testers seemed to prefer it. If you're going for a more traditional red velvet, I think you could easily reduce the cocoa anywhere from 2 to 4 tablespoons.

See the detailed recipes below, along with a nifty bar chart that makes my study appear entirely more official.

The Cake:

1/2 cup white shortening (consider replacing with 1c veg oil)
1 1/2 cups sugar

2 egg
2 to 4 tablespoons cocoa
 (I used 2)
1/4 cup red food coloring (I used 2 fl oz instead)

1 teaspoon salt
1 c buttermilk
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
 (I used cake flour instead of APF and added 5T to compensate)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the shortening and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat one minute on medium speed.

  3. Blend the cooca and red food coloring (the amount of coloring may be reduced but the cake will not have its traditional vivid red color) and make a paste. Add this and the salt to the creamed mixture. Blend the vanilla and buttermilk. Alternately add this and the flour to the creamed mixture, beating constantly. Blend the vinegar and soda and beat this in.

  4. Meanwhile, butter and flour two nine-inch cake pans. Shake out the excess flour. Add the cake, batter to each pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes.

  5. Remove the cake layers and let cool on a rack. Turn out.
Ermine Frosting:
1 1/2 cups cold milk
7 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons sifted cake flour (measure after sifting)
2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Mix milk and flour in a saucepan; simmer over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly.
  2. Pour into a bowl. Chill until cool to the touch. 
  3. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. 
  4. Add in chilled milk mixture, and beat until smooth and fluffy.

Red Velvet Cake:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3½ cups cake flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa (I'd reduce this to 2-4T)
1½ teaspoons salt

2 cups canola oil

2¼ cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring
 (I used 2 ounces instead)

1½ teaspoons vanilla

1¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2½ teaspoons white vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.
  2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
  3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
  4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
  5. Divide batter among three 9" pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Icing w/ Mascarpone:
2 cups heavy cream, cold
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
12 ounces mascarpone
½ teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  1. Softly whip cream by hand, in electric mixer or in food processor. Cover in bowl and refrigerate.
  2. Blend cream cheese and mascarpone in food processor or electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, pulse briefly, and add confectioners’ sugar. Blend well.
  3. Transfer cream cheese mixture to bowl; fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate until needed.

1 comment:

  1. Age discrimination runs rampant in the ad industry, at least with regard to baked goods! Attorney's for the older cake will be contacting you shortly. :-)


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