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, blowsy 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
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.
- 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
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment and dust with flour.
- Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee, and salt. Stir in the dried raspberries (reserving a bit for decoration, if desired).
- Combine together water, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients (the mixture will be very wet).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sandwich cake with plenty of cream cheese frosting and raspberry jam. Cover top and sides with remaining frosting. Chill until ready to serve.
It’s 9:00 p.m. on a quiet Wednesday night. The dishes are drying in the sink, the floors have been swept and there’s nothing but re-runs on television. My mind begins pondering other things…naughty things. I switch on my iPad and begin surfing Google images. After a few attempts, I hit the jackpot. My iPad and I make our way into the other room. I adjust the lights, setting the mood, slip into something more comfortable and then…
I preheat the oven to 350 degrees, un-nest my mixing bowls and get right to it. Carrot Apple Oat Muffins – oh yes, baby, YES! What did you think I was talking about?
At the point I added cream cheese frosting, I think these stopped being muffins and moved into cupcake territory.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Quaker oats
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 Granny Smith Apples, grated
- 2 carrots, grated
- ½ cup currants, softened in boiling water
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup molasses
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or use papers. Combine flour, oats, , sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Add apples, carrots and currants and stir until they are coated in flour. Beat together eggs, buttermilk, oil, molasses and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Do not over-mix.
- Fill each muffin cup ¾ full. Baked for 15-20 minutes and until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.
To gild the lily: Frost cooled muffins with cream cheese frosting.
Originally posted July 2015
“Don’t you want what I have?” she asks, feigning innocence. Her eyes say, “I am better than you.” I hesitate, not shameful, but convinced she couldn’t understand. “What you have is banal, unremarkable. I yearn for the exalted, more than I deserve, beyond your comprehension. I will endure rather than choose less.” I profess contentment, yet possess the greatest of restlessness. I’m content in this restlessness, perhaps.
I take a bite of my onion tart. Don’t you want what I have?
Zwiebelkuchen – Alsatian Onion Tart
A savory tart for the Alsace Lorraine region – richer than quiche. I expect nothing less from my Alsatian heritage. To gild the lily, cubed bacon can be sprinkled over the tart before baking. Adapted from Andre Soltner.
- 1 9” tart crust recipe (pâte brisée or premade refrigerated shell)
- 2 onions cut lengthwise and thinly sliced (with mandolin, if possible)
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- pinch salt
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated Muenster cheese
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9” tart pan with dough and dock using a fork. Freeze for 30 minutes.
- Sauté onions in a large skillet with butter and salt until they are golden and tender, 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, cover tart shell with parchment paper and fill with rice, beans, or pie weights. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove parchment and rice and bake another 5 minutes until sides of tart are barely starting to color. Remove from oven.
- In a bowl, whisk together egg, heavy cream, Muenster cheese, thyme, nutmeg, and pepper. Add egg mixture to cooled onion mixture, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan. Pour onion mixture into tart shell and spread evenly.
- Bake 25 – 30 minutes until filling and golden brown and set. If the edges brown too quickly, cover edges with foil. Cool 10 minutes and serve hot.