Gochugaru Girl is not easily frightened by cakes. An exception is the Red Velvet Cupcake, which she and Mr Gochugaru first came across whilst shopping for plates in Notting Hill. The shop assistant, taking a quick break, bit into the reddest cake we have ever seen.
This kind of cake poses many questions.
How does a cake get to be so red?
Does it taste of cake?
If I eat it, will my tongue be stained?
Worse, would my wee look red?
Curiosity got the better of us and we joined the long queue outside the Hummingbird Bakery in Portobello Road.
That was some time ago and three of their cookbooks have since been published. There are now six branches of the bakery in London, and two in Dubai (with a further one opening soon in the Mall of the Emirates).
In the past two weeks I have finally taken the plunge and made not one but two red velvet cakes. I had a lot of fun making and icing them as they were birthday surprises.
The recipe below is slightly adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook*. I used red paste colouring and gently increased the amount of cream cheese for the frosting. The method given is how I made my cakes. The quantity here makes a three-tiered 20 cm iced cake.
For the Cake:
300 g plain flour
40 g cocoa powder
14 g Wilton ‘Christmas Red’ concentrated gel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240 ml buttermilk
120 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300 g cream cheese, from the refrigerator
600 g icing sugar, sifted
You will also need three 20 cm baking tins.
How to Make:
Preheat the oven to 170°C/ 325°F/ Gas 3. Grease and line the baking tins.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl.
In a separate and smaller bowl, add the red food gel and vanilla extract into the buttermilk and mix thoroughly until evenly combined.
Put the butter and the sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. Slowly add the eggs and beat until everything is well incorporated.
Turn the mixer down to a lower speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk mixture. Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and cocoa, and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour/cocoa have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl using a spatula.
Add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and continue to beat the mixture until it is smooth.
Divide the mixture equally between the three baking tins and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A metal skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
Slowly add the icing sugar and beat until it is completely incorporated. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, around 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.
Use an icing knife to spread over the cream cheese frosting layer by layer before swirling the remaining frosting around the entire cake.
* The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf, Published by Ryland, Peters & Small Ltd, ISBN 978-1845978303.