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Red Velvet Cakes

Today Hubs leaves a company he’s been with since he graduated and is heading to the big smoke of Derby to be a big, bossy, managerial engineer kind of thing. His current workmates have been testers for my baking experiments over the years from the Beetle Cakes (that left some horrified) to not so successful bakes that, because they are blokes, were still politely inhaled.

As part of his leaving day I promised to bake anything they requested and that meant Red Velvet and Lardy Cake. Two bakes that I’ve never made, let alone tasted. While Red Velvet cake is a big trend at the moment it’s yet to hit the rolling hills of Derbyshire. The Lardy Cake disturbed me. During baking stage the lard, of which I hate the smell of in the first place, leeches out of the bread and essentially fries the bottom of the bread. Then when it’s cooling in the tin the bread soaks it back up again.

After asking twitter as to the best Red Velvet recipe around it was interesting hearing so many conflicting opinions on the cake and recipes. I settled for the contentious Hummingbird recipe. I don’t own the Hummingbird cookbook but their recipes leave many people divided and the original print was apparently littered with errors meaning lots of failed cakes throughout the land. This led to Hummingbird Bakery issuing correction sheets and baking tips. There could be a good, genuine reason for the reason some recipes don’t work for some people. Some recipes don’t take too well to being scaled down and domestic ovens can be far more temperamental than commercial ovens. To increase your chance of baking successful cakes read my last blog.

Make sure your butter is soft at room temperature. Mine wasn’t quite soft enough meaning there was slightly lumps in the frosting, but it was too late to start again. Remember people, embellishments can hide a multitude of sins hence why these cakes are sprinkled with lustre. Blind them with glitter and they’ll never notice the flaws. They may be blokey engineers but they were getting the sparkly treatment. I was piping the icing at 10.30pm after getting in from teaching my evening class, so I admit the piping isn’t the best.

It feels wrong saying this, but don’t use natural food colouring as it just won’t work. Natural food colourings have a tendency to fade when baking. The best to use are the gels by Wilton or Sugarflair. They are very concentrated and really work. However even with the gels you need quite a bit to get the vivid colour which can make it quite a costly cake to make.

Before they went in the oven I was a bit unsure if they would work. The batter smelt a bit odd, almost savoury. However when they came out of the oven they absolutely fine. One thing I will say is that these cakes rise more than conventional cakes. I only filled the liners 2/3 but nearly lost a few cakes to batter overflow. Next time I make them I’ll only fill liners 1/2 full. This recipe seems to work for some people and not others. Don’t blame me, blame Hummingbird if they don’t work for you!

It’s fair to say my kitchen looked like a bloodbath after making these crimson cakes. The recipe does make lovely fluffy cakes and I will make them again if requested, but I don’t think I’ll make them for us again as I (personally) think there is nicer cakes out there. Yes I’m a messy cook but the red batter pushed even my high tolerance levels.

Red Velvet Cakes
Makes 18 fairycakes or 12 cupcakes
From Hummingbird Bakery

60 butter, softened

150g caster sugar

1 egg

10g cocoa powder

20ml of red food colouring or 1.5 tsp red food gel colouring

½ tsp vanilla extract

120ml buttermilk (or 120ml milk with a dash of lemon juice)

150g plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 ½ tsp white wine/cider vinegar

For the frosting

50g unsalted butter, softened

300g icing sugar

125g cream cheese

1) Preheat oven to 170°c.

2) Using an electric whisk or mixer beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then mix in the egg.

3) In a separate bowl mix together the food colouring, cocoa and vanilla. If you are using gel for colour add a small amount of mix to help turn it into a paste. Add the paste to the butter mixture and stir until throughly mixed.

4) Add half of the buttermilk, stir. Add half of the flour and stir. Add the remaining buttermilk and flour and stir until well combined.

5) Add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Put the mixer on slow and mix for 5 minutes.

6) Spoon the mixture into a bun tin lined with paper cases and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 min (20-25 min for cupcakes) until they are cooked through and springy to touch. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

7) To make the cream cheese frosting beat together the icing sugar and butter. Make sure the butter is sufficiently softened before adding it to the icing sugar or you will struggle to combine it. Add the cream cheese and continue to beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Be careful not to over beat it or the frosting will turn to liquid consistency.

8) Once the cakes have chilled pipe or spoon the mixture on to the cakes.

About the author


Freelance food geek who's passionate about food education.

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