Wednesday, January 27, 2010

mental breakdown cake

Do you know what's funny? That in Melissa Gray's All Cakes Considered (previously discussed, now personally owned -- thank you Siri, dreams do come true) there is literally a song about how Dutch Process Cocoa Powder and Unprocessed Cocoa Powder are different, non-interchangeable ingredients. It appears on page 175, the page immediately preceding the recipe for "Dark-Chocolate Red Velvet Cake" and it goes like this:

"Come and listen to a story 'bout a
Red Velvet Cake
Made with Dutch process cocoa
man, it tasted really great!
Only one problem
The cake it would not rise..."

You get the picture. Regardless of the chorus, the point is that Melissa Gray went out of her way to try and ensure that chefs following the recipe on the very next page would not goof and substitute regular, unprocessed cocoa for Dutch process.


Second point: I had a mental break-down while making this cake. But I learned a LOT about the anatomy of a good Red Velvet and the science behind baking. Miss Gray says it better than I ever could:

"If you use Dutch process unsweetened cocoa in a cake recipe that doesn't include baking powder, you're going to get a flat, moist, dense -- yet awfully tasty -- cake. This goes back to our chemistry lesson on the reaction that makes cakes rise: the interaction between your leavening agent, moisutre, and heat. Regular unsweetened cocoa is acidic. The addition of baking soda, which is alkaline, reacts to that acidic property, enlarging all those air bubbles whipped into the batter during creaming, which when baked, result in a risen cake. Dutch process cocoa has an alkali already added to it to neutralize its acidic properities. Its like a big, heavy blanket over the bubble party. BUT, if you add baking powder, which has alkaline and acid properities that will react with each other when introduced to moisture and heat, well, party on, dude! Swimming pools! Movie stars!"

Gotta love it.

Two weeks later, while chatting with my pal Dave: "Let me ask you something," he said. "Just real quick." I looked up at him, innocently, clearing my mental slate so that it might be quickly populated with answers to whatever burning question could be forthcoming. Totally useless thing to do, of course, because Dave never asked a question. He just pointed to a large, obscenely red blotch of "?!?@!@#" crusted onto the outer fold of my scarf.


SO, FYI: Red velvet cake will get on EVERYTHING when you make this recipe. Be prepared to clean. But -- even better than that -- be prepared to feast, because this is a damn good cake.

The Mental Breakdown Dark-Chocolate Red Velvet "Happy Birthday Frankie" Cake

You Will Need:

Two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans

For Cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cus light brown sugar
6 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream /12 ounce red food coloring

For Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
Two 8-ounce pakcages cream cheese (at room temperature)
Two 16-ounce boxes confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(You can tell this is going to be good already)

To Make:

Position a rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Prepare the cake pans (I used oil and a dusting of flour)

Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed, then gradually add the sugars, beating well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition (a minute is good. trust me on this, it seems boring and long, but the consistency and quality of the finished batter is worth it). Add the vanilla extract and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking soda, cocoa, and baking powder together.

Add 1 cup of the floured cocoa mixture and 1/3 cup of sour cream alternately, beating well after each addition. Repeat until all the flour mixture and sour cream have been blended in.

Add the food coloring and beat well. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir up the batter at the bottom, then beat again.

Poor the batter into the prepared pans and place pans close to the center of the oven rack, but not touching. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake layers test done.

Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto cake racks to cool to room temperature.

For the frosting: Cream the butter and cream cheese together at medium speed. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated. Assemble and frost the layers, frosting the sides last, after the crown.


Ashley mo said...

Oh,I love Red velvet cake, Ymmy :)
and I see, how to make it, Thanks*

Mark Scarbrough said...

You're right: it's murder on the napkins. I grew up with this stuff. And with white napkins. Which means my mother was queen of the bleach. What a great recipe.

Suzy said...

this recipe is essentially my wet dream these days. two sticks of butter? SIX EGGS?!

oh, but i did make plantain pancakes the other day and ate them with peanut butter and maple syrup which i'm contemplating posting about even though i'm bored with my stupid blog. they were so so good. ok well now i have to post them.

Rachel S said...

uh what kind of cocoa powder again sorry

Anonymous said...

Ok, unconfuse me please...if you use Dutch process cocoa in a recipe without baking powder, you're going to get a flat cake. This recipe has no baking powder. Do you want the cake to rise or not? Did I miss something? Eh??

sweeetheartfever said...

plantain pancakes, suzy?! (my dream!)

rachel: i will smother you with snuggles.

jeff: look again :)

sweeetheartfever said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ha! That wasn't there yesterday!

sweeetheartfever said...

I know! I'm so sneaky!!!!

Anonymous said...

p.s. Will we see you in Hawaii? Please?????