Sunday, October 16, 2011

Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake

Everywhere I go these days online, there are discussions about Red Velvet Cake. I finally found what I believe to be the most acceptable truth about the origin of this controversial cake: -the-unknown-history-of-red-velvet-cake
I've recently gotten affirmation that the original frosting for the Red Velvet Cake was a cooked flour frosting:     

Cooked Frosting
3 tbsp. flour
1 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cook flour and milk together, stirring constantly until thick and then let cool. Mix in a bowl the remaining ingredients. Now add cooled flour mixture to this. Beat for 15 minutes with a mixer.

And here is my favorite variation recipe:

Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake
Makes 12 to 16 servings or 24 cupcakes
For the cake:
3 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (try to find Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa powder--rich!and helps the red be darker and richer)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Southern Comfort
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 (1-ounce) jar Wilton's "no-taste" red food coloring
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
For the frosting:
1 3/4 sticks butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Southern Comfort
Chopped toasted pecans, for garnish (optional)

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with butter, or spray them with nonstick spray. Dust them with flour and tap out the excess.
Whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, Southern Comfort, vanilla, vinegar, and food coloring.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack, and then remove them from the pans and cool completely.

To make the frosting: Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes. Add 6 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, the milk, and the Southern Comfort. Beat on low speed until creamy. Gradually add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, until the frosting has reached the desired consistency.
Place one cake layer on a plate and spread it with about one-third of the frosting. Top with the remaining cake layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the cake with chopped pecans, if using.

I made this cake in three tiers of two layers each--14"- 10"- and 6"x 4", each layer torted and brushed with Southern Comfort Simple Syrup (1 c sugar, 1 c water and 1/2 c Southern Comfort-boiled together till the sugar was dissolved), and filled with apricot preserves.   The recipe multiplied out nicely, and baked up nice and level, using Metal Flower Nails (the ones used to make buttercream roses) baked into the centers, points-up (you easily remove them when you invert the layers out of the pans).  Three in the largest layer and two in the next size up.  
Here's the wedding cake:
The decoration on the tiers was strips of fondant painted with red royal icing in the pattern from the invitations, the topper was pastillage,a full moon with the couple and palm trees from the save the date card.
The red flowers were red morning glories, inspired by the inside of the invitation. The separator was four ice cream sundae glasses with battery-operated led tea lights inside.

The Doctor Who TA.R.D.I.S. cake was the groom cake--stacked pineapple upside down cake with buttercream frosting and a flashing light on top.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Buttermilk is a fascinating ingredient.  Just the name pulls memories of my Dad and Grandma Ford, all the Southern things I learned form them.  Biscuits, pancakes, salad dressings, all made richer and better with Buttermilk.
From cooking at the monastery I learned a few Lituanian recipes, one of which was what I came to call "Pickle Soup" but what was actually a luscious Buttermilk and Beet soup.  Refreshing on a hot summer day.

So, with all this I wanted to buy some buttermilk recently and make some things, and it was $4.59 a quart!!  Geez!  I think they must be getting it from Golden Cows!
The solution is, of course, to make it myself!
There are lots of "recipes" that say add vinegar or lemon juice to milk to make "buttermilk" but that's just soured milk,  It works in recipes where you need an acidic ingredient to help the leaveners, but it's NOT BUTTERMILK!

Buttermilk is a cultured item, like yogurt or sour cream. In the US it's usually commercially made with skim milk--they have to do something with the stuff they get butter from after all.  Traditionally, I think that's where it originated, so its a good start.

I made some once with yogurt as the culture and it turned out pretty good.  The easiest way (though not the cheapest) is to get some commercially made buttermilk and use that for the culture on your new batch.  You can keep using the last little quarter cup to keep regenerating a quart of buttermilk practically forever--if you use it often enough, so it might be worth buying that first quart.  Just make sure it hasn't been Ultra-Pasteurized, and has Live Cultures otherwise you'll get warm milk as a result.

Homemade Cultured Buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk (storebought or leftover from your previously made batch)
  • 1 quarts skim,1%,  2%, or whole milk ( or from your own cows)
Also needed:
  • 1 clean, dry  half gallon glass canning jar, the kind with the sealing lid.
 Combine the buttermilk and plain milk in the jar and tighten the lid.  Shake it thoroughly for a full minute. If you warm them to about 80deg F  the process will start sooner.

Place in a warm room temperature, dark place--the inside of an unheated oven (no pilot light), or a kitchen cabinet is good--no hotter than about 85deg F.  Let it sit there for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened.  Refrigerate it when thick and use it within two weeks--saving the last 1/4 c for your next batch.
If you have big baking plans coming up, double r triple the recipe to have enough on hand a day or two before you need it.  

If you want to use yogurt, just combine the warm milk with a csmall, 6-8 oz container of live culture plain yogurt and follow the same instructions.  
If you're in an experimental mood, try live cultured sour cream, too.