Experimental Food – My Red Velvet Cake Quest IV

IT IS RED!!! Ah – well – reddish at least!!! YAY!! It works. It is a little more subtle in colour than expected, but it works. YAY for trying out and getting a result!!! This is part IV of the quest and as always, the ‘final’ recipe will come when the trial phase is over. The base recipe experimental stage is again posted at the end of this post, with the icing recipes mentioned just below.

Red Velvet Cake Trial IV

In my previous posts My Red Velvet Cake Quest I, Quest II and Quest III, I explored if the rumours/legend is true that unprocessed Raw Cacao produces a red tinge in the cake even without food colouring, given an acidic environment. This has proven to be true, albeit ‘tinge’ is absolutely the right word. It gets nowhere near the deep-rich redness that artificial food colouring gives. Just to give it extra weight, I’d be curious, if Joe Pastry would try this out and confirm (or not) it with his cacao in the U.S.? I have also found that beetroot powder (fresh or canned beetroot may turn out differently), while nicely dying the cake red when unbaked, leaves a funny smell and turns GREENISH, when baked in this recipe (it may not do that in other ingredient combinations). Weirdo food chemistry 🙂 Furthermore I have found that a less intense cacao taste actually improves the taste of the cake (for me) with the given sugar, with some brown sugar giving it a very nice and ‘character-forming’ caramel note. I am yet to bake the low cacao concentration together with brown sugar – stay tuned for that 😉 However, with the huge set of muffins/cupcakes from the previous triyl, I have tried out four different icings and had them tested by friends (oh my trusted friends!).

Trial III Red Velvet Cake Baked Cut I

Trial III Red Velvet Cake Baked Cut I

As a reminder, see in the picture what the red velvet cakes looked like, when I took them out. I want an icing that complements the cake or as another option, contrasts the cake in a way that both, cake and icing, separately or together have a nice taste, a character, stick out. I want the cake as a whole to have a distinguishable ‘character’ and not be blant, tasting-of-flour-and-sugar cakes or reminding you of a packet-mix. I have planned to try four types of icing. Firstly, the Ermine icing I found on Brooklyn Homemaker, which had a fatty, warm margarine texture last time. I give it another shot, since I had a lumpy roux and maybe, just maybe it was also too hot for such an icing and it was much colder on the testing day. Secondly, I wanted to produce the same icing using cream instead of most of the butter for this, which should make a huge difference in the texture. I really like the idea of this icing. I do! I’m not sure how this will turn out, since that is something I made up in my brain (it may exist, not sure, but I haven’t seen it in a recipe just yet).

Here the recipes for the icings. Making all four was a bit of a challenge and took 3 hours all up 😉

#1 Ermine Icing for the Cake (from Brooklyn Homemaker)

  • 55 g flour
  • 360 mL milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 340 g butter
  • 200 g sugar (for now I reduced it from 300 g, since it was way too sweet for my taste)

Mix the sugar, milk and flour, make sure you whisk it right after you add the flour. Heat the flour-milk mix in a pot while stirring and heat until you get a really thick mixture. Let cool. Cream the butter with the vanilla, until a foamy homogenous mass forms. Then add flour-milk mix with vanilla and mix until combined to form a roux icing.

#2 Cream Ermine Icing (adapted from above) Follow the recipe for the Ermine Icing, but reduce the butter to 100 g and whip 240 mL of cream until stiff. Once the butter has incorporated into the roux, fold the whipped cream in.

For an alternative icing, I wanted to try cream cheese icings, which are the other very popular icings on red velvet cakes. I found one that apparently tastes of cream cheese on OurBestBites, which I would like to test out, and I will use a cream cheese vanilla slice filling I already adore from a recipe of a friend of mine.

#3 Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting (from OurBestBites)

  • 450 g cream cheese (cool, not quite room temperature)
  • 115 g butter (cool, not quite room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond flavour
  • 250 g icing sugar

Whip cream cheese together with butter and vanilla until a smooth cream forms. Add the icing sugar and mix until well incorporated.

#4 Cream Cheese Vanilla Slice ‘Frosting’ (from a cream cheese vanilla slice recipe)

  • 125 g cream cheese (cool, not quite room temperature)
  • 125 g butter (cool, not quite room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 125 g sugar

Whip cream cheese until smooth. Whip butter with sugar and vanilla. Mix both together and whip until combined.

The Verdict

All icings were good. However, I still found the Ermine icing a tiny tad to greasy for this cake – it was way improved to previously though and may go very well with other cakes. I really think it’s a winter icing (it just may get too hot here in summer)!

The icing testing had 5 testers – two from Canberra, two Germans and me *hehe. We tested the icings with the low cacao concentration which had the red tinge, but also with the darker versions. We all are not experienced Red Velvet Cake connoisseurs, but contributed with our own personal tastes.
The results were as follows in order of best suited to least suited:

  • Tester 1: 4, 2, 1, 3
  • Tester 2: 1, 4, 2, 3
  • Tester 3: 2, 4, 1+3 (liked about the same)
  • Tester 4: 2, 3+4 (liked about the same), 1
  • Tester 5: 4, 2, 1+3 (liked about the same)

I did not take any pictures, since the icings were gone by the time I thought of it *whoops. They also looked very similar if not llooked at it from very close, albeit different in taste.
On average, for the red tinge (Red Velvet) cake, the #2 Cream Ermine icing and the #4 Cream Cheese Vanilla Slice icing ranked best, with both getting two first, two second and two third positions (with one on par with #3 Perfect Cream Cheese Icing). The same was true for the brown sugar cakes, which opens up the possibility for a caramel velvet cake which I may explore in the future. The general agreement was, that the stronger flavours, being it butter or cream cheese, were perceived too intense for the rather subtle chocolate flavour. One rated the #1 Ermine Icing best as well, reflecting different tastes. However, with the darker cakes, the stronger icings, in particular icing 3, but also 4 and 1 would make a brilliant combination.

Altogether, I personally would advise to decide whether you like a cream cheese taste in icing and based on this, let the type of cake decide as well. I will bake 3 full cakes in the future, one Caramel Velvet, just for the fun of it, one with very dark chocolate using the Perfect Cream Cheese icing #3, and a red tinge velvet, using the #2 Cream Ermine icing on one layer of the filling and the #4 Cream Cheese Vanilla Slice icing on another layer and then compare those again.

Stay tuned for more cake!!!

The current state of the experimental recipe I used a Rose’s White Velvet Cake recipe as a base, but tweaked it a fair bit, to get the without-added-colour ‘red’ velvet tinge going.

Ingredients for the Cake

  • 240 mL milk
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice (I may switch back to buttermilk and vinegar, but find the buttermilk here bitter)
  • 1 vanilla bean scraping
  • 170 mL oil, sunflower or other low taste
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 50 g potato starch
  • 360 g sugar (white)
  • 6 g baking soda
  • 6 tsp RAW cacao powder, NOT dutch processed, (or various amounts, depending on the trial)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 5 egg whites

Sift and mix all dry ingredients VERY well apart from the salt. Then mix the milk with the lemon juice (to produce ‘sour milk’) and let it set for about 5 min. Next, I mix all the liquid ingredients well apart from the egg whites. Beat the egg whites with the salt until very stiff. After mixing the dry with the wet ingredients well, fold the beaten egg whites into the mix. Baked at 170 °C for about 30 min until a skewer comes out clean.

Icings – see above

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