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buttermilk

I Heart Thee - Couple's Velvet Cake {Valentine's Day Post}

Couple's Velvet Cake

YAY! This cake got voted to FoodBuzz Top 9 on 14 Feb 2010. Thanks for all the LOVE!!


With Valentine's day just a couple of days away, the blogosphere is filled with yummy things Red and lovely. It isn't surprising that the spirit carried over to the Twitter World. What with mouth watering posts popping up all over from tweet friends, it was only inevitable that one starts thinking up stuff for the cause, even though Mr. FSK and I do not observe the "day" (that is only 'coz our anniversary is a few days earlier! :)).

So when Aparna asked me if I wanted to bake a red velvet cake in time for V-day with fellow Velveteers, Pam and Alessio, I jumped on it. Truth be told, I have not found the cake very appealing primarily because of the amount of artificial coloring that goes into it. Somehow, the idea of making it red by adding a poundful of color just didn't seem right. But, I remembered the history of the cake and the color from a Throwdown episode I had seen a while back and I wanted to try my hand at some of this practical chemistry (it was one of favorite subjects in school.. Loved organic chemistry, not so much inorganic).

The original cake made eons ago, relied on the reaction between the buttermilk and vinegar in combination with the chocolate to produce the reddish tinge that gave the cake the name. I wanted to have some fun with food chemistry and the rule to NOT use artificial coloring for baking with these awesome bloggers was just the right motivation.

So, I did research. I found out that to have any chance of the natural reaction, I needed to use regular cocoa and not the Dutch processed (which is usually coveted) because of the latter's alkaline nature. Fortunately, that was the cocoa I had at home. Then I learnt that the cultured buttermilk that you get in the stores are pretty tame pH wise to cause a pop. So, I decided to make my own buttermilk...

Velvet cake sliced
Clearly I have quite a ways to go on piping frosting prettily!


I remember my mom used to skim the cream off the boiled milk everyday and store it in a jar till there was enough to make butter. Then she would churn it by hand to separate the butter and buttermilk. A major portion of that butter would then be converted to ghee. It all seemed a long, tedious process to me and I was a bit deflated, at first, when I realised I had to make buttermilk.

Glory to Google, it wasn't to be so bad! This day and age, all you do is add heavy cream to the blender and whip at high speed, till the butter separates out. It was such a cool feeling!! The nice part is you can use the butter and the buttermilk you make in this cake. Now, nothing can beat all that homemade LOVE!!! :))

So, I was set and ready to bake. I whisked the buttermilk and vinegar, but, nothing seemed to happen, even after upping the amount of vinegar. I proceeded anyway and made the batter which was not quite the chocolate cake color but a duller brown, with a very very slight slant to red (or perhaps that was just me hoping!). Anyway, I wanted something red in it, so I added a couple of tablespoons of mashed thawed raspberries. They didn't do much to the overall color, just a few flecks of red here and there but I think they added to the moisture of the cake.

Now for the decoration. Typical frosting for red velvet cake is cream cheese based. But, I am not a big fan of it because cream cheese has a pronounced tang which needs a ton of sugar to make sweet. So I decided to go with a whipped cream frosting which is way lighter as well and lends better to delicate flavors.


Slice and sliced cake

Since it was a chocolate cake of sorts, I made the inside filling of chocolate & rum whipped cream and the outer frosting of rose whipped cream; rose being the symbolism for the day and all. Besides, I like rose flavor (love rose milk!). And, since I am mischievious by nature, I decided to go over the top and decorate with mini-hearts made of strawberry gelee. LOL..

Alhtough the cake did not come out red, it sure was velvety. The texture was serious melt-in-your-mouth. I think the buttermilk adds to the nice texture (Check out Alessio's post for an actual lesson in food chemistry.. fantastic!). There was just a hint of chocolate, which I didn't mind at all. And I loved the cream frosting; it was light, airy and mild (oh and rum soaked..haha). This is now my favorite cake recipe.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed working with the cake and giving in to some whimsical fancies, even if I failed at the chemistry (hey! it's all about the learning, not the grades, right?!).

Check out what the other Velveteers have created, all naturally colored -

Aparna - Eggless Red Velvet Cake
Pam - Red Velvet Cake (with beetroot juice)
Alessio - Raspberries Red Velvet Cake




Velvet Cake For Two

** Since it's for a couple, I sized it accordingly, you can triple portions for a 9 inch cake.

I was generous with the alcohol given the occasion. For a kid-friendly version, skip the alcohol**

Cake:
(Recipe adapted from Epicurious)

3/4 cup sifted cake flour (or 3/4 minus 2 T cup AP flour plus 2 T corn starch)
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not Dutch processed)
1/3 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
2 T mashed, thawed raspberries

5 T rum
5 T water
1 T sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 5inch by 3 inch cake pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, and extract in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Add the egg, beating until well blended. Add in dry ingredients alternating with the buttermilk mixture starting and ending with the dry. Beat in the mashed raspberries.

Pour batter into the pan (there may be a bit more than can fit. Don't over stuff). Bake for 30-35 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely. Meanwhile, mix together the water, rum and sugar and set to cool.

Using a cake knife cut the cake into two horizontally (you can also bake in two pans. I only have one). Pour the rum mixture evenly on both halves and let it soak in. Generously spread the chocolate cream onto the base layer making it slightly thicker in the center as it will spread when the second layer is placed. Gently place the top layer and coat with a thick layer of the rose cream frosting. Decorate with strawberry hearts.

Frosting:

Chocolate and Rum Cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup + 2 T powdered sugar
2 T rum

Add the cocoa and rum to the cream and set aside for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. Start whipping at low speed and increase to the highest speed on your mixer. When it has doubled in volume, add the sugar slowly. Continue whipping until soft peaks form. Cool for atleast 15 minutes before spreading on cake.

Rose Cream
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 T rose water

Use same procedure as above

Strawberry gelee hearts

1/4 cup strawberry puree
1/4 cup water
1-1/4 tsp gelatin

Bring the puree and water to a boil. Off the heat, add gelatin, whisk to incorporate completely. Cool to room temperature and then cool in fridge till it is just starting to set is fluid enough to pipe.

Pour into a ziplock bag. Make a tiny cut and pipe hearts onto a silpat sheet. Cool overnight to set. Peel off the hearts and place on frosting.


No-sweat dessert - Buttermilk Panna Cotta


Summer is slowly ebbing away in the Northern hemisphere and the cool of fall and winter later (brrr!!) is setting in. I know I should have written about this perfect summer dessert earlier, but, I was bit distracted with travel et all. But, here it is, now, just in time to squeeze it into your menu before the warmth runs away to vacation in the South (those South of Equator, What perfect timing!, you say, surely).

So, why is it perfect? Simple; It is light, refreshing, served cold, and needs no oven to set; a real no-sweat dessert! It all started with a craving for panna cotta on a hot summer day. I did not have cream at home and did not feel like stepping out into the humidity to get a carton. But I did have buttermilk, which, got me thinking. Soon enough (well... not counting the overnight gelatinizing) I made myself a nice dessert.

Even the husband was impressed! To put that in context, he doesn't much like buttermilk in anything other than biscuits. I, however, can drink it straight with a just a bit of salt. Have you tried that?! No? You must. It is incredibly refreshing! It cools you system and helps your digestion too. Back to the panna cotta now; so while he wasn't exactly thrilled about the concept when I mentioned it, he definitely devoured the end result pretty greedily!! LOL...

I made simple vanilla flavored panna cotta this time. But, I imagine this will pair beautifully with citrus flavors as well. The buttermilk makes the panna cotta not too sweet, so something sweet on top works nicely with it. I served it with some chunky blueberry coulis I had made earlier (chunky because I like the texture of cooked blueberries and so decided to not strain the coulis. But, if you don't swing that way, feel free to go traditional). Honey or warm apricot jelly would pair well as well.


Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Chunky Blueberry Coulis
(4 servings)

Panna Cotta:

1 T water
3/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small cup sprinkle gelatin over the water and set aside for about 10 minutes to let the gelatin soften.

Meanwhile, heat milk and sugar in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring just to low boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Cool the mixture to lukewarm. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Divide the mixture among four 4 oz ramekins. Refrigerate atleast 5 hours; overnight is better.

When you are ready to serve, dip each ramekin into hot water to loosed the panna cotta. Using small sharp knife, cut around panna cotta in each ramekin. Invert the panna cotta on to the dessert plate. Top with coulis/honey/warm jelly and serve alongside summer fruits.

Blueberry Coulis:

1 pint blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 T honey
1/4 cup water
2 tsp lemon juice
2 T rum

In a small saucepan, mix the berries, water, sugar and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and stir in the lemon juice. Let the mixture simmer for 6 -7 minutes and let it thicken a bit. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.

At this point, you can leave it chunky like I did, or strain out the syrup.
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