Better Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ambiguity. His clever, well-crafted emails arrive in her mailbox daily, sounding a bit flirty, yet remaining maddeningly ambiguous. Until she sees him again — wrapped in a young, blousy blonde, replete with pert, up-turned nose and sparkly cell phone case.

Now she knows. Ambiguous no more.

Ambiguity. She’s discussing red velvet cake with a coworker. Or, more precisely, red velvet cake doughnuts. She’s never understood the passion for the insipid flavor of red velvet anything. “Close your eyes,” she says, “and what do you really taste? It’s not chocolate; the cocoa powder is too minimal. It’s perhaps uniquely tart – but is that necessarily a good thing? What flavor makes it so adored?” Her coworker thinks it contains raspberries – no, the luxurious red comes from food coloring these days or beets, non-Dutched cocoa in the past. Not a berry to be found.

‘But couldn’t you,” he asked, “remake it in your style? With chocolate and raspberries and cream cheese frosting?”

Yes, she could. It wouldn’t be red velvet cake anymore, but something different, richer, more flavorful, and utterly her.

Her Red Velvet – ambiguous no more.


Raspberry Red Velvet Cake

  • Servings: One 8-inch Cake
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Whether this a truly a red velvet cake depends on what defines red velvet for you. This one contains rich, dark, moist chocolate cake with a hint of raspberry and lashings of cream cheese frosting and is anything but ambiguous with flavor.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1.2 oz. package freeze-dried raspberries, crushed to a powder (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red food coloring
  • Raspberry Jam
  • 4 oz. package frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment and dust with flour.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee, and salt. Stir in the dried raspberries (reserving a bit for decoration, if desired).
  3. Combine together water, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients (the mixture will be very wet).
  4. Working quickly, divide batter between pans and bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, invert onto cooling racks and cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make raspberry jam. Combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a deep-sided saucepan and bring to boil over a medium heat. When the sugar is melted, boil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool and set.
  6. To make frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until creamy.
  7. Sandwich cake with plenty of cream cheese frosting and raspberry jam. Cover top and sides with remaining frosting. Chill until ready to serve.

 

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Autumn Apple Cake

Apples, cinnamon and rum-soaked raisins capture autumn in this moist Bundt cake. Coffee cake? Snack cake? Impressive post-meal dessert? It works for all three – you decide.

Autumn Apple cake on a bed of fallen leaves

Autumn in L.A.

Feigning Hollywood starlet ennui, tanned summer leaves serenely suicide from weary trees, “Too hot,” they lament, “I cannot stay a moment longer.”  L.A. subtly shifts into autumn, leaving paroxysms of sunset hues to the other coast.


Autumn Apple Cake

Adapted from Richardson’s Canal House Inn apple raisin cake.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup dark spiced rum
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cut into ½” dice
  • Glaze and Icing
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan, knocking out excess flour. Combine golden raisins and rum in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside and let soak.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk together oil, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in apples and drained golden raisins. Spoon batter into pan.
  3. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 75 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar and honey and heat on medium until sugar is completely melted and glaze is thickened and bubbling. Brush over top and sides of cake. Combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a glaze and drizzle over cake. Serve plain of with sweetened whipped cream

Sliced Autumn Apple Cake

Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. Set this recipe aside for Easter or Mother’s Day.

A pink grapefruit tart with whipped cream and shaved white chocolate

If you want your tart a little more “pink” try adding a dash of red food coloring.  I kept mine au naturale.

What does one make for a football and dessert party? Considering the season, my schemings first turn to creamy pumpkin, crisp apple, or juicy pear – the fruits of the season. And spices…oh, there should be spices! Cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. Ah, gingerbread. Gingerbread…and pear. Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Cake, warm and comforting; a celebration of Autumn. YES!

How I got from those thoughts to a refreshingly light pink-grapefruit tart, I haven’t a clue. Oh, but I’m so glad I did!


Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. A press-in crust keeps the fuss-factor down.


Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pink grapefruit zest
  • ⅔ cup pink grapefruit juice
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and melted butter. Pat dough on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake about 20 minutes until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes.
  2. Beat together eggs, whipping cream, sugar, salt, grapefruit zest and grapefruit juice. Pour into tart shell and bake about 30 minutes or until filling jiggles only slightly in center.
  3. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes, transfer to refrigerator and cool completely. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

A bowl of Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
I’m celebrating a birthday this week. I remember this time last year, sequestering myself in a remote cabin in Sedona to figure out my life…all of it…over a brief seven days. I didn’t get very far, but I did decide that getting laid off would be a good thing (it was!) and that I needed to rekindle my dreams of inn ownership (I have!) and that “this” (whatever “this” was at the time) wasn’t enough for me (it’s not).

Another year wiser.

My co-worker, Dennis, also has a birthday this week. To celebrate, I made this bittersweet chocolate peanut butter ice-cream. We served scoops of it in crispy waffle cones, although I’ve decided it would even be better sandwiched between giant peanut butter cookies. Gilding the lily once again – some things never get old.


Dennis’s “You’ve got peanut butter in my chocolate” Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped (at least 60% cocoa), divided (5 oz. & 3 oz.)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Pinch off small bits of the peanut butter mixture and arrange on a dinner plate. Freeze plate of peanut butter bits until ready to use.
  2. Warm one cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, whisking the entire time, then remove from heat. Add the 5 oz. chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Set a strainer over the sauce pan and set aside.
  3. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in another medium sauce pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the yolks whisking constantly (to avoid scrambling eggs). Pour the entire mixture back into the sauce pan.
  4. Stir the custard mixture over a medium heat with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners as you stir, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon or spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla, and then cool completely by placing pan in an ice bath.
  5. Cover and chill the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. A few minutes before it’s finished, add the 3 oz. reserved chopped chocolate and frozen peanut butter bits.

Walnut Cake with Cherry Filling

Rich Walnut Cake with tart Morello cherries pair well in the layer cake for a special occasion.

Walnut Cake
With a natural design esthetic that falls along the line of Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch, it’s challenging to content myself with royal icing roses and buttercream doll cakes. I realize, however, as an utter decorating novice, I’m obliged to acquire the basic skills first. I’ll discover my particular decorating style once I’ve mastered gum paste pigs and delicate string work. Today, I’m struggling to learn a technique called “brush embroidery,” although the final product reminds me of porcelain rather than embroidery. I’ve learned much on my initial flawed attempt.

With my first cakes, I’ve been practicing rolled fondant. While I appreciate the smooth finish fondant delivers, I’m not an admirer of the lackluster, tooth-achingly sweet flavor. When served a slice of fondant-covered cake, I typically peel off the fondant before eating the naked cake. As a counterbalance to fondant’s sweetness, I came up with this minimally sweet walnut cake and tart Morello cherry filling; no fondant peeling needed.


Walnut Cake with Cherry Filling

Use your favorite vanilla buttercream recipe with this cake

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs beaten, room temp
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Vanilla Buttercream
  • 1 jar Morello cherries in light syrup (available at Trader Joe’s), drained and dried on paper towel.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9” round cake pans. Whisk together flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in the oil, buttermilk, water, vanilla and beaten eggs until no lumps remain (don’t overmix). Stir in walnuts.
  2. Pour batter evenly into pans.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a few moist crumbs cling to a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake. Cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn cakes onto racks and cool completely.
  3. Fill cake with buttercream and a layer of Morello cherries. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream. Cover in fondant, if desired.


Cake Decorating

Practicing “Brush Embroidery”