When my gym buddy Ruby announced she was moving back to Hong Kong a Ruby Red leaving do was in order so I took it upon myself to organise the bash...held at Cafe Rouge of course. As well as imposing a strict 'you must wear red....even if it's just a coat of lippy' dress code (luckily my hair was all I needed so I wore my new green dress from Brick Lane Vintage market) and sprinkling shiny red hearts every where, it gave me the perfect excuse to finally try the Red Velvet cake recipe from The legendary Hummingbird Cook Book.
Hummingbird Bakery are an American cup cake chain who pretty much revived the Cupcake obsession in the UK. These days you can't go anywhere without seeing a cupcake or some kind of cupcake memorabilia. (I remember the days when we called them fairy cakes and reserved them for children's birthday parties and school fetes.) I'm not much of a cupcake kind of girl. Give me a proper slice of sponge cut from a big round cake any day. One cupcake is never enough and 1/2 of it tends to be topping, so I took the Red Velvet cupcake recipe and converted it into a giant gateaux (the bakery sells both kinds.)
Btw, just because I'm a crafter does not automatically make me a baker (these days there's so much pressure for crafty girls to be domestic goddesses and baking is on top of the list.) I rarely bake and even more rarely follow recipes. I'm a 'bung in anything and measure nothing' kind of chef but as I knew 20 people would be eating this creation and it was for a special occasion, I focused and tried my best to whip up something worthy of a place on the Hummingbird shelf. Try it for your self (recipe reproduced from the book):
Ingredients (1/2 these measurements to make a tray of 12 muffin sized cupcakes)
120g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
20g cocoa powder (Green &Blacks)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240ml of buttermilk (stored in supermarkets near the single cream)
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
3 teaspoons of white wine vinegar (I left this out and it didn't matter!)
(Frosting and filling) 250g cream cheese (full fat Philadelphia)
500g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
(Most important bit) 40ml red food colouring
This is what makes the cake red but remember you're competing against dark cocoa powder so you need the red to override the brown. Commonly found red food colouring in supermarkets won't work, you need to get a quality one from a cake decorating stockist. Hummingbird recommend Dr Oetkers and Nigella Lawson recommends Sugarflair in 'Christmas Red' which is a paste not a liquid. I went with that, which I bought from The Make Lounge Shop. One jar was the perfect quantity.
You also need 3x 20cm round tins, lined with greaseproof paper and to pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 3, 170 degrees.
Beat the butter and sugar with a whisk on medium setting either using a hand held one like me, or inside a mixer/blender. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, turn up the speed on the blender and make sure everything is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl mix the cocoa, red food colouring and vanilla to make a dark paste. Add it to the butter mixture and blend in. Turn the mixer down to a low speed and stir in 1/2 of the buttermilk. Add 1/2 the flour, beat again, then repeat adding the remaining buttermilk and flour. Turn the blender back to high and keep going until it's mass of smooth, creamy red mixture. Add the salt, baking powder and vinegar if using, beat well and then for extra measure beat for another two minutes. On a hand blender it takes its toll but it's worth it and I kept going until I was happy it was super smooth.Split the mixture into your three tins, they should be 2/3s full (as should your cake cases if you are making cupcakes) and bake for 20-25 minutes. Don't open the oven too soon and don't leave them in too long. Insert a skewer and check the sponge on top bounces back when touched to know it's done. Leave to cool down.
To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the sugar and butter together using a whisk, add the cream cheese in one go then beat it on a medium/high speed until the whole mixture is blended, light and fluffy...again this may take a good five minutes. (NB I am wearing my PJs in this pic, I have not started wearing animal print clothing!)
Spread the filling between the layers and on top, and if you like, over the edges but I decided against this. I finished with a sprinkling of edible glitter across the top.
I didn't get a chance to photograph the completed cake before it got cut but here's the slices as they were being handed out.I was so happy the cake got polished off! Nothing fills a chef with more pride than knowing their hard work has been appreciated. And here's my Arches Leisure Centre gym crew ( a sample of them!) who did the chomping. Usually we only see eachother looking sweaty in trainers and sports gear (I hasten to add I do wear sequins at the gym but that's another post!) so it's really nice when we have our socials and get the opportunity to glam up. (Btw all those who didn't show up wearing red got made to wear sticky red gemstones.)
Cake verdict: The entire cake cost £10 and took about two hours to make. I remember the first time I tried red velvet in Hummingbird and it was the most divine cake I'd ever eaten. I never imagined I would one day be baking it myself. It's a very straight forward recipe, the topping is sweet but the filling isn't, making it a really good combo. I say give this recipe a go! Just don't burn your arm when you're taking it out of the oven, I now have to live with a 4cm long scar and it's not pretty so it's just as well the cake was!