Friday, August 24, 2012

Red Velvet Cake

As I mentioned in my last post, Musings, yesterday I intended to make a Red Velvet Cake using beet powder instead of food coloring.
I had planned on doing this for a while, and a friend had given me a pack of beet powder that she happened upon, so I finally had the opportunity, and the occassion, to make the cake yesterday.

Food dye allergies are quite common, with sensitivity to red food dye being the most common. I know, and pity, some people who are not capable of eating jello, nibs, or red smarties because of their allergies, and I know that carries over for most Red Velvet Cakes. And let's face it, the more natural you get, the better it gets for you.

Enter beet powder.

I've used beets in baking before, much like how you would use grated carrot in a carrot cake. They of course add some color to whatever you're making, and a nice earthy flavor, but they aren't overwhelming by any means. Beet powder has a more mild flavor, essentially being roasted beets that are dried and ground up, but it still has the same coloring properties. The recipe I used was a simple google-and-choose-the-best-picture recipe. I did look at a couple other recipes, and some got pretty 'inventive' about their interpretation of what a red velvet cake really is. For those of you who are unaware, a red velvet cake traditionally is a buttermilk-based devil's food cake (which typically means lots of baking soda to get the red-chocolate color), and half a container of red food dye. Some of the recipes I saw were based off of a cream cheese sponge cake and had no chocolate, just beet powder. Not exactly the same thing...

There are some tricks to making sure beet powder will work. Apparently you need to be careful about the overall acidity of your batter, or the color will turn out purpley-brown instead of red. So baking soda is basically a no-go. Without soda as a leavening agent, the next best way to get a cake to rise is the volume mixing method. Essentially, you beat eggs to high volume and fold everything together to get it to rise. That's the method this recipe used. (Note: this link is to an online document, not a webpage per say)

Well, I set about making the cake and made one mistake right off the bat: I broke a yolk and some fell into my egg whites. That, my friends, is why you should use an egg separator instead of trying to be a hero. The result of that tiny little gaffe was that my eggs never hit the stiff peak stage that the recipe called for, and that affected the overall rise of my cake. Mine by no means looked like the picture on the link, however I can see how it could potentially get close.

If you've never looked into beet root powder before, you can buy some online from wholesalers, or check out this link on amazon for 1 pound for $13.95.

The taste of my finished cake was surprisingly normal! There's a very faint hint of the beet powder, but it goes nicely with the chocolate. The cake is a bit more eggy than a traditional devil's food, but that's not to say it's a bad thing. I only had a bit of cream cheese (silly me), so I help the cake together with the cream cheese frosting, and then I made a chocolate-coffee icing for the top. Yum!

One more note about the recipe: typically when you are making a cake, it's wise to not oil the sides of your pan so the cake rises better, however, because of the high egg content, and the fact that as big as your batter gets is basically as big as your cake will get, I'd recommend a very light layer of oil on the sides. It was a bit of a trick to get it out of the pans at the end.

Give it a try - you won't be disappointed!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Thursday, August 23, 2012


It's been FOREVER! I've been such a lazy bum!
Actually, what I've really been is a busy bum. It's been hard for me to fit in everything in the past month and that's lead to less time for me to do fun things like crafts, baking, or even planning to do crafts and baking.
But today, despite the fact that I have a load of cleaning and bookkeeping and furniture moving today, I'm taking a break. Why? Because it's my birthday!

It's an interesting birthday this year. Usually I'd have a birthday dinner with my parents, or at very least cake with Matt's family, but since my parents are away this week, and his parents are busy, we've got no real plans. In fact, my birthday dinner with my parents won't be for another week, and the cake date with his family hasn't even been set yet. So tonight we're kicking around the house, having time as our own small family, and moving a piano. But that's okay, because the piano's for me!

As I mentioned, my time has been so full of other duties that I haven't had time for pretties and parties, but now that I've slowed down for the day I'm thinking it would be fun to bake something. I hit up Pinterest for the first time in a while and I saw abunch of cute ideas for Hallowe'en (I know - forever away.) and now I want to make costumes. And I've still yet to finish my nightstands by modge podging sheet music on top (I'm trying to find the music still!) I'm sure I could fill my whole day up with doing useless pretty things! OH, and I've also got jewellery to make! I'd made up a whole bunch of those bird nest necklaces and I ended up selling a handful of them, and now I've ordered in some bronzed wire that will make a more rustic looking nest. Those ones I plan to sell for a bit more.

While I still don't know all that I plan to accomplish today (obviously), I think it would be fun if I posted some of the thoughts that are roaming through my head - they range from tips to musings, and hopefully you'll find them inspiring!

1. Have you ever tried shaving pumpkins instead of carving them? It involves shaving down the shell until light can shine through partially. You can do alot of neat things with shading, and more intricate designs because you don't have to worry as much about connecting lines and having pieces fall out. I like this Spiderman Pumpkin and this Volkswagon Pumpkin!
2. Incidentally, who says you need to use pumpkins? Pineapples, mandarin oranges and watermelons can all be used in creative ways! And pineapples and mandarin oranges are in season closer to winter, too!
3. I'm hoping to make a red velvet cake today, but instead of using red food coloring, I'm going to try making it with beet powder! It's a natural dye, I've got a bit on hand, and I'm going to see how the color holds up against the chocolate in a devil's food cake!
4. I think I need a custom seal. Like, a wax one. Apparently you can carve one out of a dowel and then drip some red wax on your envelope and stamp it in. Worth trying, no? Wouldn't it be cool to have your own formal seal?
5. I've still got some of that stone ground flour that I need to make a muffin recipe with. I've got an original recipe for Pumpkin, Apricot, Date muffins, but I'm wondering if I should make up a whole new one? Maybe an apple one?
6. Some of the crafts that I've seen lately (everything from halloween costumes and wedding decor to nail art and jewellery) require feathers. Here's a hint: before you go to Michaels or to a florist to shell out big money for a peacock or ostrich feather, try visiting a sporting store. Fly fishers use feathers in their fly tying and you can find a variety of colorful feathers for a very reasonable price at somewhere like Bass Pro Shop, Cabela's, or even Canadian Tire.
7. Looking for more cheap crafting supplies? Ebay. Especially things like beads and wire, you can find a variety of supplies for dirt cheap, and with free shipping. I made my Chan Luu imitation bracelet for about $5 (I paid about $10 for the supplies, but I have enough of everything to make a second triple-wrap bracelet). My bird nest necklace wire was $6 for A LOT (it'll probably work out to 10 cents per piece), and you can find some varieties of genuine semi-precious stones for wholesale pricing. Just watch the shipping - Lots of places from Hong Kong will do free shipping, but closer places can charge an arm and a leg.
8. I'm getting calling cards printed soon. I've been meaning to for a while, and now that I have some birthday money I might use a bit for that. I'm involved in a number of unrelated projects, businesses and volunteer efforts where I give out my information a lot. I've got recipe cards that I use as business cards for my Pampered Chef stuff, but it would be nice if I had one card, mostly with personal info on it, that I could write a note on the back of, about why that person was talking with me. They'd be handy!
9. I'm planning a surprise party for someone this year and I want to make it a theme party - but I've been toying with the idea of a secret theme, that only people who are familiar with the references will know it's actually a theme. What do you think? It'll be a very mixed group, so I'm having troubles thinking of one theme that would work across the board.
10. What do you buy a couple that are both mature and have lived on their own for over a decade? We're going to a wedding this winter for just such a couple and I think we're going to pool resources with a few other couples to buy them something big and fantastic - but what?
11. I'm a little torn about what to do with the rest of my birthday money. I've been meaning to get a few more Sophie Conran for Portmeirion pieces (I need new kitchen canisters and Matt likes the contrasting blue dinner set) but there's also this Metal cuff imprinted with text from Jane Austen's Persuasion, with the line, "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope." in larger letters overtop. It's $40 + shipping from the UK, and I've wanted it since I saw it last year, but I've never really thought about ordering it until now. It's gorgeous! Who knows, maybe I'll get enough money for both?
12. I need to get me some Toms. You know about Toms, right? Most of the world does. They specialize in canvas shoes, and have branched out in their style quite a bit, but the big deal is that for every pair you buy, they donate one pair to kids in need. Awesome, hey? I'm getting mine from Adrenaline Clothing and Boardsports.

well, a dozen will have to be enough, because my battery is dying. I promise I'll try to post more! Until then, check out all the links I put in through this post!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)