Thursday, March 31, 2011

Red Velvet & Coconut Love

After bringing home my new KitchenAid mixer, I had to immediately take it for a test spin. For the mixer's inaugural cake, I chose to make red velvet.

Red velvet is one of those recipes that people tend to have a strong opinion about.There are those that are of the mind that red velvet is a rich devil's food cake tinted red. Then there are those that believe red velvet cake is neither a vanilla nor a chocolate cake, but a moist buttermilk cake with a hint of cocoa and a bright red color.

I fall into the latter category, which is why I love Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet recipe (recipe courtesy of The Food Network).

Even though I really like this recipe, I do increase the cocoa powder to 1 Tablespoon (vs the 1 teaspoon called for by Cake Man Raven). While I don't think red velvet should taste like a chocolate cake, I do think there should be hint of it, which I don't think the scant1 teaspoon of cocoa powder provides. But I don't like to increase it past that because it starts to taste too "chocolatey" and also dulls the bright red color. Recipes that call for more chocolate tend to also use more red food coloring and I prefer to use the lesser amount called for in the Cake Man's version.

There is also debate about what the proper frosting for red velvet is. The most popular I think is cream cheese frosting. Some would argue and say that a 7-Minute Vanilla Frosting is the authentic one. But I went against both traditions for this cake. I've really been wanting to make a coconut frosting so that's what I did...using a super delicious Italian Meringue Buttercream.

If you aren't familiar with this style of frosting, it is silky smooth and less sweet than the powdered sugar type buttercreams you may be used to. It can seem intimidating to make since it requires boiling sugar and whipping egg whites, but I promise you it is actually pretty simple and the results are completely worth it!

The recipe I have been using is from Warren Brown of Cake Love, his famous bakery where he prides himself on fantastic from-scratch recipes. You can find the complete recipe here at  Warren Brown also has a great tutorial on YouTube that is very helpful in learning how to master this incredible frosting. He is very knowledgeable about cake making and fun to watch. You can watch the video below.

To make my coconut version of Italian Meringue Buttercream, I used a teaspoon of coconut extract and 3 Tablespoons of cream of coconut. This gave the frosting a definite coconut flavor without being overpowering. It was a complete experiment and it turned out yummy! I had way more "test tastes" than was necessary, but I couldn't stop myself.

The great thing about Italian Meringue Buttercream is that it is so versatile and you can use it as a base for many different flavors. It spreads onto your cake smoothly and pipes onto cupcakes beautifully! Whip up a batch and discover the deliciousness for yourself!

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