March 9, 2010

To Be or Not to be......a Chocolate Cake??

When I originally decided to start blogging, I told myself that I would blog at least once a day. I have to admit, that I haven't been living up to that commitment. As a new blogger, the hardest thing about blogging, is coming up with something of interest. These days millions of people blog and with the threat of sounding ubiquitously redundant, I have to blog in a way that offers unique perspective and insight. With that being said, I hope you find my blogs both interesting, insightful, and fun.

I made these Red Velvet cupcakes last weekend for fundraising event at my church . It always blows my mind how often people think of the red velvet cake as a devil's food or chocolate cake with red food coloring added to it. This discussion was prompted by my original post on facebook, when I simply uploaded my pictures. Now, if you've ever had a "real" red velvet cake (not a chocolate or white boxed cake mix with red food coloring added), then you would understand that it hardly taste of anything chocolate, but I guess that would depend on who's making it. If you have ever made a red velvet cake, then you would realize that it is deliciously in a category all of its own. So then why do most people think that it's a "light" chocolate cake? The most intelligent answer, because it contains chocolate, more specifically, cocoa powder. I've seen RV cake recipes that contain anywhere from a teaspoon cocoa, to 1/2 cup cocoa powder. If any single RV cake recipe contains more than 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, then it is clearly a "light" chocolate cake. That's simply my opinion.

So let's talk about the flavor. Most red velvet cake recipes contain: cocoa powder(dutch process or natural), pure vanilla extract (pure), buttermilk (I use sour cream), red food color, and vinegar. Of course we have the dry ingredients: flour, salt, leavening and sugar. Before I came up with my own recipe, I tried several different ones and in every one, the most interesting ingredient that I found was vinegar. I asked myself why in the heck would anyone put vinegar in a cake? Then I thought to myself, vinegar is an acid and the RV cake contains baking soda that would react with the acid and help with the leavening. Then I thought, RV cake also contains buttermilk and cocoa powder (if you're using natural), which are also acidic and should make the batter's Ph acidic enough, to react in the same way. So why then, would you add vinegar to the cake at all? What I found in most recipes, is that we do what's traditional and not what's always discerningly practical. There are different schools of thought on why there is vinegar present in the cake, but that topic is outside the scope of this discussion. I do know that adding the right amount of vinegar gives the red velvet cake a flavor (combined with the other ingredients), that's nothing like a regular chocolate cake. I also noticed that some recipes require that you add the vinegar and buttermilk together and add them at the end of the mixing process, while other recipes state to add the vinegar last. I got mixed results with this step. I add the baking soda with the dry ingredients and I fold the vinegar into the final batter. I choose sour cream to buttermilk for velvety texture and richness and I added an extra amount of pure vanilla extract (as I always do).
Red food coloring "could" also contribute to taste. Most people find that in excess, it can taste quite bitter which is true. However, in the right amounts, it might lend it's own uniqueness to the cake. I can't comment on this since I've never tasted food coloring by itself and I don't plan to. So then how do we classify a red velvet cake? If you asked me, in a class of it's own. I'll invited you to try mines if you are anywhere near Los Angeles, CA and be blown away. What are your thoughts on the subject? Happy Baking!

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