Friday, June 25, 2010

Raven's Red Velvet

Hey Foodies!

I woke up this morning, feeling slightly unsure of what the day would bring and unfortunately, not possessing the best of mentalities. Then i opened my window: the trees were swaying in the slight breeze and the sun was shining. I was instantly uplifted. It is days like this that I feel so fortunate to be living in Vancouver. I was instantly in the right headspace to blog!

My latest adventure was Red Velvet! If you've seen my previous blog posts, you may remember me baking red velvet cupcakes last summer - the recipe I used previously was definitely less than perfect. Since then, I had come across a recipe from Throwdown with Bobby Flay and decided to try CakeMan Raven's Red Velvet recipe, which he was kind enough to provide access to, online! This recipe took leaps and bounds from the previous recipe so I would encourage all of you red-velvet cake lovers out there, to give this recipe a try. The way the recipe is laid out is so easy to follow that you'll be making it every chance you get!

The only change I made to the recipe was regarding the food colouring. The recipe calls for two tablespoons of red food colouring - I use gel colours, so I just added the food colouring after the batter had come together until I got the colour I was looking for - as you can see, it's very red but feel free to "say when" before it gets this bright - I think the vibrant red colour just adds to the whimsy of this delectable creation!

Here are the cakes when they came out of the oven. Just a note concerning the baking time of these cakes - it may seem short (only 30 minutes) but rest assured, this is enough time! I have definitely been guilty of overbaking things in the past because they didn't seem "done" - that has lead to a lot of tough cakes. The last time I made the red velvet cupcakes, I think I overbaked them and the baking soda taste really comes out when you do that - so resist the urge to leave them in the oven for "just a minute more"! I may try baking powder next time, since I'm not partial to using baking soda, generally. A quick note: oil and flour your pans, well! My rounds came out, just fine, but my rectangle cake definitely had to be listed as a casualty. I still had enough good cake to work with, but first, do no harm, right?

This recipe makes triple-layer, 9 inch cake. I didn't want to go with a 9 inch since there are only three of us in my house and do we really need to add 9 inches to our thighs? Yeah, didn't think so. So I went with a 6 inch - that's why you see the rectangular cake above, which I just cut a 6 inch round out of.

Now to the best part of the cake - the frosting! I encourage you all to use the exact method that cakeman describes in his recipe. In my experience, cream-cheese frostings can be pretty finicky - they especially tend to become runny, which becomes quite the dog and pony show when you go to ice a cake!

This method seemed to work very well and refrigerating the icing for about half an hour before doing a crumb coat, and then another half an hour before doing the final coat seemed to work quite well in this recipe.

I learned the technique for icing this cake while watching Cakeman Raven do it on Throwdown - he started with a nice, thick layer of icing on the cake, and then with the tip of the spatula, made horizontal lines around the cake. If you have a lazy susan, you can spin the cake, while holding your spatula stationary.

Next, with the edge of the spatula, he made vertical lines up the sides of the cake - this creates the sort of scalloped look you see, here! Super easy and elegant, no doubt.

And finally, here, you see my Southern masterpiece!

I must say, I haven't been this satisfied with one of my own creations in a long while. This cake is so moist and tastes even better right out of the fridge after a couple days.

The longer it sits, the better it gets, so it would be an ideal, make-ahead dessert!

Let me know what you think!

Happy baking, all!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Hey y'all!

So it was a certain lady's birthday, oh, two months ago...and she never got her birthday cheesecake (yes, that is the kind of horrible, little sister I am). Finally, I coupled her birthday treat with the visit of my wonderful and infinitely kind Mumti Masi and bam: a decadent delight for two equally delightful ladies!

The concoction you see is actually my aunt's recipe! A dense, sumptuous, New York-style cheesecake, topped with a tangy cherry filling.

Okay. So this is embarrassing: I used canned filling. Go ahead, judge me, I can take it. For those of you who have read my post on the cherry pie I make, you'll know: I'm not a filling-making kind of a gal. I've never been that girl, maybe I will be, one day in the distant future. I will make cans of filling between dropping the kids off to soccer practice and pulling my hair out or something. But for now, I modify fillings! I always find that the cherry filling from the can is lacking citrus: the juice of half a lemon remedies that, perfectly.

Sorry, folks! No recipe for this one: family secret! But I hope you enjoyed reading this, all the same.

Just throwing a question out there to all you, foodies: how do you prevent your cheesecake from cracking? Below, you can see that the filling has seeped into the cheesecake (not that I'm complaining!) but that's because my cheesecake always cracks...ideas?

Thanks for perusing this post!

Till soon!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mamma Mia, I'm Switchin' It Up!

Hey lovely people!

For those of you who know me, you know that baking is my thing...but I LOVE cooking, too! Baking is fun because it's all about chemistry - it's a challenge to get all the proportions of everything right -- and when you do, it's so satisfying! But cooking is different - it's all about improvisation: no balsamic vinegar? Use red wine vinegar instead. And because of all this improvisation, you can tailor your recipes to fit your taste and add your own style and flair. A madeline will generally always taste like a madeline, but two pasta sauces can be completely different!

This year has been a whirlwind so far, testing me and my family for reasons that we cannot, for the life of us, figure out. Being in the kitchen is my solace.

My mum and sister celebrated their birthdays in April and so instead of the usual "let's go out for dinner" thing, I decided to make them an Italian feast. There's just something about a home-cooked meal that beats any restaurant.

On the menu: Lasagna with red sauce and layers of creamy bechamel sauce, garlic bread and a fresh, green salad with my famous warm balsamic vinaigrette.

First up, you see the lasagna. The sauce was quite a complicated thing. I find that when I make pasta sauce, it's different everytime. Sometimes, I feel like throwing in some olives, sometimes not. Sometimes it's a bit sweeter, and sometimes a bit richer. In any case, I usually start it off with an onion, which I caramelize in the pot. I then add everything else all at once: ground beef that I pre-cook with salt, pepper, garlic, ginger (yes, ginger - you don't taste the ginger...but you definitely notice if it's not there!), basil and oregano, a dollop of tomato paste and a huge can of crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar and a schwack of fresh basil if you have it. This time, I also added a handful of chopped up olives.
For the bechamel sauce, it's as simple as a quarter cup of each flour and butter, which I cook on the stove until light golden and then a splash of milk to get your desired consistency. Traditionally a bechamel has nutmeg and a few other spices, but the red sauce was so strong in flavour, I left it unseasoned, and it did exactly what I wanted it to do: added a creamy layer to the lasagna, which melded perfectly with the red sauce.

And then, all it was was layering the lasagna starting off with red sauce, followed by pasta, more red sauce, bechamel and cheese and then pasta again. I did three layers, finishing off with just red sauce and cheese!

For the salad, use any vegetables and greens you like. I just went with lettuce, tomatoes and olives: go simple, because it's all about the warm, balsamic vinaigrette.

For the dressing, dice up half an onion as small as you can manage and slice a garlic clove and sautee them in olive oil until caramelized. When you reach this stage, pull the pan off the heat, and add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar. I usually put it back on the stove on low at this point, just to bring everything together and add salt and and a generous amount of black pepper to taste. Let the dressing cool a bit and then toss with the salad before serving. Make sure that when you add the balsamic vinegar, though, not to inhale the fumes! The vinegar is really pungent. You'll thank me later!

The onions and garlic absorb all the vinegar and melt into the dressing - it's divine. If you try anything from this blog post, please try the dressing!

Finally, the easiest garlic bread you'll ever make: and the tastiest. Just toast slices of baguette in the oven (or even the toaster) and while still warm, rub a raw garlic clove over them. The crusty bread breaks down the garlic and the bread gets a hint of garlic aroma and taste, without being overpowered. If you toast them in the oven, I like to spread some butter on one side. If you do them in the toaster, just rub the garlic on them when they come out, and then you can spread some butter on top.
And that's all she wrote, folks! I hope you'll try at least some of these recipes! And I hope the change of pace from baking was welcome!
Till soon!
Happy eating!