13 February 2007

Pink dishwater and garnet velour

I must admit that I was at a loss as to what to make for Valentine's Day this year. I'm not a big fan of the day--yes I'm a glooshy romantic, but I dread this Hallmark holiday and the commercialisation (including the price hikes) 14 Feb brings.

That said, as long as I can come up with something to bake, I'm usually placated. Last year I went OTT with a heart-shaped theme. It was fun once, but I really didn't want to go through all of that again...at least not so soon. Up until late last week I thought I'd just skip the froufrou...yeah...you know I'm doing too much when I seriously contemplate skipping a kitschy baking opportunity.

While in line at the bigscarymegamart, waiting for the third price-check for the guy a couple of shoppers ahead of me, a magazine cover caught my eye. No, it had nothing to to with Britney, Jen, Nicole, Camilla or that weird seamonster that kinda looks like a praying mantis who's in love with a rather ordinary-looking-midwestern-housewife with that-really-weird-skin-that-only-people-who--show-up-on-weird praying mantis-looking-seamonster-proffering-tabloids have. What caught my eye was a red velvet cake.

I've never had one, but have been intrigued by them for a while So much so, I decided to try baking one last year, but had a spectacular disaster. I made the mistake of listening to one of those "baking gurus" who counselled the "proper" way to measure ingredients. No, it didn't involve a scale, but a very bizarre little ritual that probably only worked with her own recipes. II foolishly followed her advice with a recipe I found and wound up with too little flour, too much sugar and butter. The cake didn't rise and produced a hideous pepto pink that was as sticky as flypaper. Needless to say, I didn't bother photographing it. If anyone asks me about it, I'll disavow all knowledge of its existence.

There was something so gloriously tacky about that magazine cover. Flock wallpaper red crumb enveloped in Styrofoam white gooiness. Given I'm not the greatest fan of Valentine's Day, I had no problem returning to this cake--if anything I wanted to see how gloriously tacky I could make it.

Like a good girl I did my research and read through four or five recipes. Apart from the odd thing here and there, they all seemed fairly similar and fairly easy.

Then something odd happened.

I turned into my mum for about five minutes.

I tossed out all the recipes and came up with my own version of a cake I've never tasted and never made.

Which means, who knows how close it is to a "real" red velvet cake.

I knew I wouldn't be baking a traditional layer cake with all its frothy icing, but instead bake cupcakes, so I can take them to work. I wanted a crumb so red that people thought Titian himself tinted the batter, slathered with fuchsia pink, neon pink and white icings, and topped with edible baubles: candy hearts, a feathery boa of flaked coconut and squiggly, wiggly designs.

Ummm...yeah. Perhaps when I live a life of leisure...and learn how to use a piping bag.

The end result was a garnet-coloured crumb that was so soft and light and barely chocolaty. I topped it with a standard cream cheese icing, tinted bright pink and a pallid rose white. I couldn't let them go totally unadorned, so I sprinkled some heart candy confetti and coconut over their shiny, sugary caps.

Throughout this process, I realized there was a certain visual appeal in watching an almost putrid puce batter magically transform into opalescent raspberry coloured fluff and bake into a deep red cake.

There's also a bit of joy seeing my kitchen covered in red speckles, as if a Bakewell pudding/tart sneezed all over everything. The sort of joy a two-year old has when she makes a big old mud pie and splatters it all over the ground.

Given I'm not sure how close this is to a red velvet cake, I don't feel right about calling it a "red velvet cake." So...I'm dubbing these "Garnet Velour Cakelets."

Oh, that top photo is the colour my of dishwater after washing the mixing bowls...

Garnet Velour Cakelets

Yields 24 cupcakes

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
50 ml natural yoghurt mixed with 200 ml milk
56 ml liquid red food colouring (two 28 ml/1 oz bottles)
225g sifted cake flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla salt
300g vanilla sugar
454g softened butter
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 180C/350F and prep cupcake trays.

Mix together the milky-yoghurty mixture with bicarb and food colouring and set aside. Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt and set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add in the egg whites and blend well, then do the same with the yolks and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and pour in the vinegar and mix well. Alternate adding the puce-coloured milk with the flour mixture (one third of each at a time, starting with the liquid and ending with the flour). Mix until it's as creamy as a buttercream frosting. Divide into 24 "standard sized" cupcake bowls and bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Top with boiled icing, royal icing or cream cheese icing.


  • You can use buttermilk instead of the yoghurty-milk mixture.
  • If you can substitute regular white sugar and regular salt for the vanilla'd versions. If you don't have the vanilla paste, use one or two teaspoons worth of vanilla extract.


add this page to del.icio.us


Anonymous said...

Hey Jasmine,

These look gorgeous! What "real" anyway -- as long as it's yummy...

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of red velvet cake per se. (and here in the southwest, you'll find a lot of them!)It's just too sweet for me. but I have to say, these look pretty fantastic!

I may give this a go at some point.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I love your humor...praying mantis-looking-seamonster indeed!
The cupcakes look appropriately yummy!
Great close with the inside of the dishwasher image.

Rachel said...

I love red velvet!

Anonymous said...

i know i made a fuss about v-day posts, but this is the least "valentiney" v-day post ever. and those look really yummy. consider your recipe stolen!

Anonymous said...

So pretty! Happy Valentine's Day (even though I'm not much for the day either ...)

The Curly Cook said...

This was my first visit to your blog and I had a little chuckle with your segue into the actual recipe. I also like the fact that you didn't 'play by the rules' sometimes things turn out better without recipes :)

kelli ann & lorie said...

...garnet velour. LOL! holding my sides. happy valentine's day!!

Freya said...

I love the name! They look very pretty too!

Elizabeth said...

I'm with you about Valentine's Day being basically a Hallmark day. It drives me crazy that there were news reports yesterday of people who were hurt because their spouses had not presented them with lavish gifts. As for me, I made a point of thanking my husband yesterday for NOT bringing flowers home.

I contemplated making heart shaped biscuits yesterday but I don't think I would ever even consider making a red velvet cake. My mom made a heartshaped one years ago (as I recall, she used a Duncan Hines box mix and a bottle of red food colouring). It was amazingly red, of course. And the heart shape was lovely. But the vivid red was just a little scary.

I must say though, your cupcakes look lovely.


P.S. I ended up baking two loaves of caraway rye bread not even remotely heart-shaped. My husband made the most spectacular chicken liver dinner (also not even remotely heart-shaped) and we toasted ourselves and congratulated ourselves that we had contributed not one iota to the Hallmark company coffers.
P.P.S. Stop making me laugh out loud at the Supermarket tabloid descriptions.

Anonymous said...

I love the name Garnet Velour! That is perfect!

Helene said...

I love the name too, but I have to admit that I have not met a red velvet cake I liked yet. I am willing to give yours a try.
Looks gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

I love red velvet cake...your cupcakes look fantastic!

The Guardian said...

I have my grandmother's Red Velvet Cake recipe from 70 years ago. Still works great. And the recipe card she wrote it on. I'm sure yours was delish....but if you want her recipe, it's yours Jas!


Alice Q. Foodie said...

Hi Jasmine! - I finally got around to checking this out - it looks gorgeous! And I love the "Garnet Velour" name - I wouldn't be surprised if that shows up in a bakery somewhere soon! Hope you enjoyed it!

jasmine said...

Hello all

Thanks so much for visiting. Wish I could have given you all a cakelet...

Glad you liked my descriptor of the checkout reading material...glad to know it's a universal thing.