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MotherBee's Red Velvet Cake: A Decadent Twist on a Classic Delight

Updated: Sep 17, 2023


Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cake

It’s February and there are so many things to celebrate and be thankful about. It is my birth month, Valentine's day and Chinese New Year! To celebrate these fabulous occasions, I would like to share with you all a very special recipe: Red Velvet Cake.

 

The color Red evokes feelings of happiness and symbolizes good fortune, joy, and love. Red Velvet cake has became very popular in our modern world of baking and has been reinvented in so many different forms. Now, the Red Velvet is a common concept used in many baked products ranging from cakes to cupcakes, donuts, candy bars, cookies, pies, desserts, beverages and anything else that a creative baker can imagine.  Looking back to where it really began, I have learnt that the Red Velvet cake’s origin is hardly known and does not have clear roots.

 

Food historians are only able to trace back its existence in written recipes to the 1800s. During that time, cakes were dense and dry, which led to the demand to create a cake that is lighter and smoother than all others. The first known version of such a cake includes cocoa to reduce the gluten content of the flour and in turn creates a lighter and more velvety texture. This led to the birth of the Mahogany Cake in which cocoa and coffee are the two main ingredients and cause for its rich mahogany colour and thus its name. The cocoa improves the texture due to its additional fat and it also reduces the protein content of the flour. These two ingredients alone improved the texture and more importantly taste.

 

The Cocoa Velvet cake was introduced in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, due to World War II sugar and butter, crucial baking ingredients were rationed and controlled. Bakers during that time had to reinvent the basics of their trade. One example of this was the idea of adding beets or beet juice into their cakes to improve the moistness and color. Therefore, we can safely say that the Red Velvet name derives from the Red Beets which improved the color of the cake and the Cocoa powder that lightened the texture.  

I seldom bake this cake due to the fact that the Modern Red Velvet cake relies heavily on red food coloring to create that iconic bright red color, especially if you are not able to get hold of the naturally processed cocoa. The most readily available cocoa in the market these days is the Dutch process cocoa. This cocoa has a reduced acidity and a higher pH level giving your cake a rich dark brown color. The Dutch process cocoa, when used in the Red Velvet Cake, requires a great amount of red food coloring to achieve the bright red color of the crumb. Adding a large amount of food coloring is not ideal as it is prone to creating a bitter aftertaste and can be harmful to your health. On the other hand, the natural process cocoa has a lower pH level and is more acidic. The acidity reacts with the buttermilk in the recipe creating the famous reddish color that gives the cake its name.

 

What is the chemistry behind the natural process cocoa and the buttermilk?

 

The reaction between the anthocyanin and the acid. Natural cocoa, which contains anthocyanin (an antioxidant that changes color in the presence of different pH levels) and acidic medium, which is in the form of buttermilk or vinegar added into the recipe creates that reddish color of the cake. The more acidic the batter or mix, the redder the pigmentation of the anthocyanin.

 

I have recreated this cake based on the historic facts and the characteristics of the modern red velvet. Here is the basis of this recipe:

 

Past historical facts:

  1. Natural process cocoa was added to the recipe to reduce gluten and improve the taste

  2. Beetroot juice was added as a natural food color and to add moistness

 

Modern facts:

  1. The cake should be bright red in color

  2. The cake uses cream cheese icing

  3. Dutch Cocoa or Natural Cocoa is used

  4. Fancy modern presentation of the final cake

 

Motherbee’s  Facts and Analysis

Texture:

The cake needs to be super light to align with its name  RED VELVET CAKE – this can be achieved by using the recipe used for Japanese Cotton Cheesecake.

The beets will also improve the moistness of the cake.

 

Color

The cake should be colored using a base of beets so you don’t have to add too much red food coloring. Red food coloring will be added but just to enhance the richness of color.

 

Taste/Flavor

The flavor of the cake is not strongly based on cocoa or chocolate, it has a light chocolate flavor with a mildly tangy and creamy taste due to the cream cheese icing – this can be achieved by not adding cocoa but by adding milk chocolate.  Not using cocoa will reduce the stress of looking for natural process cocoa but you will still be able to give a light chocolate taste to the cake. This also will help to achieve a better bright red color towards the finished product.

The taste of chocolate will be light but creamy. The tangy flavor will be achieved by making a light cream cheese filling then icing with Cream Cheese Icing.

 

 

The final cake achieved the Red color with a light and moist texture. It is a complex and creamy cake with a strong cream cheese taste (from cake to the icing),which justifies its name- The Red Velvet Cake.

 

Motherbee’s Red Velvet Cake Recipe

 

Cake base

Milk, liquid​​     84 grams

*Beetroot, puree​​     24 grams

Butter, salted​​     90 grams

Cream cheese​​   298 grams

*Milk chocolate, courvature    48 grams

Flour, all purose​​      98 grams

Starch, mazie/corn​      29 grams

Egg yolks, fresh​​    177 grams

Egg white, fresh​​    267 grams

*Juice, lemon​​      24 grams

Granulated sugar, white​    155 grams

Vanilla, extract​​         6 grams


Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 120oC. Put a larger pan in the middle rack of the oven and pour hot water into it at least 2-3 inches deep.

  2. Line two 9 inch cake pans with solid bottoms. Wrap the bottom of each of  the two cake pans with aluminium foil to prevent water from penetrating the cake.

  3. Put fresh milk, beetroot puree, butter and cream cheese in a thick bottom saucepan.

  4. Cook the mixture at a low heat while stirring continuosly until all of the butter and cream cheese is melted and reaches 65oC.

  5. Remove mixture from the heat then immediately add the sifted all purpose flour and cornstarch. Mix vigorously while the milk and cream cheese mixture is still hot. The mixture will be thick. Continue mixing until it becomes smooth with no lumps.

  6. Add egg yolks and continue mixing until smooth, set aside to cool down. The consistency should be a smooth pourable custard sauce.

  7. In a clean bowl add egg whites and lemon juice together then whisk at medium speed until foamy.

  8. Add white sugar and vanilla then continue mixing for 2 minutes at medium speed.

  9. Increase to the highest speed, continue mixing until medium peaks form.

  10. Fold 1/3 of the meringue to the egg yolk mixture until everything is incorporated completely.

  11. Add the 2nd 1/3 part of the meringue until well incorporated.

  12. Fold the last 1/3 part of the meringue until all of the meringue is properly combined with the egg yolk mixture.

  13. Deposit batter into the two 9 inch lined pans (bottom lined with baking paper but sides are not greased or lined).

  14. Tap the pan several times to remove bubbles.

  15. Bake for 20 minutes at 120oC then increase temperature to 150oC for another 15 minutes.

  16. Open the door of the oven for 15 seconds to reduce the temperature to 100oC then bake the cake for another 45 to 50 minutes.

  17. Leave the cake in the oven for 1 minute while the door is open.

  18. Remove from the oven, de-tin the cake and let it cool down.

  19. Slice into two to get 4 slices from the 2 pans.

  20. Pipe buttercream around the edges of each slice, chill to firm up the buttercream.

  21. Fill the middle of each slice with cream cheese filling up to the level of the piped buttercream.

  22. Assemble the cake 1 layer on top of each other forming four layers of cake.

  23. Chill the assembled cake for an hour.

  24. Crumb coat with buttercream to seal the crumb. Chill for 30 minutes.

  25. Finally, ice the cake with buttercream and create a smooth and sharp edge cake.

  26. Decorate with chocolates, dragees or flowers.

 

Author’s notes - the cake’s texture is very light and moist due to the following reasons:

 

  • The addition of starch into the all-purpose flour lowers the protein in the recipe, which reduces the chances of excessive gluten forming that can result in a heavier texture.

  • The process of cooking the flour and starch with the heat off while the milk, butter, and cream cheese mixture is still warm will partially swell the starch but not enough to set the protein. It results in a slightly thick mixture but after the addition of the egg yolks, the temperature is reduced and will produce a thick sauce consistency custard.

  • Achieving a thick but pourable custard sauce with partially set protein and swelled starch,incorporates the custard and meringue better.

  • Cooking the starch in the above-mentioned process stabilizes the batter and it also allows more liquidto be mixed into the cake recipe. It also helps the egg proteins slowly set during the steam baking allowing a more flexible outer crumb that supports the swelling of other starches and the slow expansion of the egg protein as the pressure is slowly built up.

 

Cream Cheese Filling

Butter, salted​​250 grams

Cream cheese​​250 grams

*Juice, lemon​​     1 lemon

*Sugar, powdered​200 grams

 

Procedure

  1. Cut butter and cream cheese into cubes.

  2. Beat cream cheese until fluffy and smooth.

  3. Add butter and continue beating until the two ingredients have totally combined and the mixture is smooth.

  4. Add sifted icing sugar and continue mixing at the slowest speed for at least a minute or until all sugar has been absorbed.

  5. Continue beating at medium speed for another minute.

  6. Add lemon juice slowly and continue mixing for another minute.

  7. Use as a filling of the cake.

 

Icing

Granulated sugar, white​400 grams

Water​​​120 grams

Egg white, fresh​​200 grams

Butter, salted​​400 grams

Cream cheese​​100 grams

Vanilla​​​    3 grams

*Juice, lemon​​  10 grams

 

Procedure

  1. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, salt, and sugar. Place the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bowl.

  2. Continue to whisk until sugar has dissolved (you can check by rubbing a bit of the mixture between your fingers; the mixture should not feel grainy). The temperature should reach 64oC for 3 minutes then remove from heat.

  3. Beat the warm mixture until the meringue holds stiff peaks and has cooled to room temperature.

  4. Add the chilled butter one cube at a time, beating well with the electric mixer after each addition and scrape the sides occasionally.

  5. Continue mixing until the color is pale yellow and the texture is fluffy and light and the volume has doubled.

  6. Add vanilla and lemon juice, then continue mixing for another 1-2 minutes.  

 

Ingredient notes and substitution:

*Beetroot, puree – can be substituted with strawberry puree or raspberry puree or any fruits or vegetable with intense natural red color.

*Milk chocolate, curvature – can be substituted with compound milk chocolate.

*Juice, lemon – can be substituted with vinegar or calamansi juice or dalandan juice or lime juice.

*Sugar, powdered – it is the same as icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar.

 

Notes on Shelf life

Un-iced cake

The cake base without icing can be chilled and will last up to 7 days properly packed in food packaging that prevents the cake from drying out. It can also be frozen and will last up to 3 months as long as it is properly wrapped and sealed in a plastic bag with proper product labels.

 

Iced cake and decorated

When the cake is already iced and decorated, it can be chilled and properly packed in a cake box and will last up to 7 days. *if the cake is already sliced - cover the exposed part with baking paper to prevent the crumb from drying out.

 

Left over filling or icing

Store in a clean container, tightly sealed and keep refrigerated. The filling and icing will last up to 5 days inside the refrigerator. You can also freeze it and will last up to 3 months. Thaw the filling or icing in the refrigerator then re-whip it until light and fluffy, then use as usual.



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