February 12, 2020 10:48:52 AM
I have a vivid childhood memory of my mother making beautiful red velvet cakes every Valentine's Day. I can remember opening the refrigerator door just to get a peek at it, heart-shaped and covered in a fluffy white icing.
In my imagination, she made this cake every year, and every year I would peek longingly at it for hours before it was to be cut. It was tender and sweet -- but not sickeningly so -- and, of course, moist. Don't come at me with a dry cake, my people.
Problem is, I am not sure how accurate my memory is. Mama stopped making the cake when I was older and eventually lost the recipe. Did she ever make it annually? Maybe not ... maybe it was only for a year or two, but I was so excited by it that it seemed longer.
As an adult, I was ecstatic when the People of the Internet (not an official name but probably should be) began to extoll the virtues of red velvet cake. Finally, I thought, I'd be able to get her recipe.
But of course I was wrong then, too. For one thing, it seems no one on the internet who falls in love with a food trend falls in love with the actual, original food ... so if the People of the Internet really like red velvet cake, you won't find three million recipes for red velvet cake. Instead, you'll find recipes for red velvet s'mores and red velvet whoopie pie and red velvet milkshakes and red velvet cake pops shaped into tiny Easter bunnies with candy tails.
And when I did find recipes, it seemed like every recipe I tried tasted ... wrong. Not bad. Just wrong. It had an odd whang to it.
It took me years of poking around to discover that older recipes for red velvet cake do not call for cream cheese frosting. That was the difference, as it turns out: the cake of my imagination was frosted with a light, whipped frosting, not the heavier, tangy cream cheese frosting that is currently in favor.
The recipes below are an amalgamation of two I found: the red velvet cake recipe is courtesy of McCormick, and the frosting recipe is a doubled version of one I have made many times from the blog "Our Best Bites." I hope you enjoy both.
Amelia Plair is a mom and high school teacher in Starkville. Email reaches her at [email protected]
FLUFFY WHITE ICING
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
(If you'd like to look up other methods for this same recipe, this frosting is frequently called ermine icing or boiled icing. Some people cook the sugar in with the flour and milk; this step can reduce the time spent beating the mixture at the end. I have not tried that method, however, so I cannot vouch for it.)
RED VELVET CAKE
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 bottle (1-ounce) red food color
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make a heart-shaped cake, cut round cake in half. Place half circles on adjacent sides of the square cake to create a heart shape. Use frosting to "glue" the pieces together, and then frost as usual.