Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Red Velvet Cake for a Redhead

L and I love to host parties, at home or at the restaurant. When A asked us to host her 18th birthday party at the restaurant we were delighted. As has been a birthday tradition for L for several years now, A asked for a quiz night for her and up to 40 friends.

Putting together a 50 question quiz is quite a challenge, but it's also quite fun and some of the things I've learnt as a result will certainly help me in any quizzes I might find myself at over the next few years. I can't let you in on any of this secret knowledge though - what if I put them this years quiz?

Thinking of that, I'll have to start thinking about the next quiz quite soon.

A quiz seems to give a team quite an appetite too. I have a standby curry recipe suitable for mass catering and we always make a vegetarian option to go with chips, chips and more chips.

Naturally, a birthday party requires cake like tonic water needs a shot of gin. This cake was going to be special one, standing tall and clean with 18 candles ablaze on top. A has dyed her hair almost every shade of red under the sun lately and I thought it would be fun to make the cake sponge red and luckily, it turned out almost exactly the same shade as her current colour. I wonder if she noticed?!

Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Pistachios and Crystalised Rose Petals (adapted from the Hummingbird bakery cookbook. Makes a 3 tiered cake)

For the cake
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g caster sugar
3 eggs
30g cocoa powder
60ml liquid red food colouring
1½ tsp vanilla extract
360ml buttermilk
450g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp white wine vinegar
For the buttercream
9 egg whites
1 ¾ c (350 g) sugar
4 sticks (532 g) of butter, room temp
150g white chocolate, melted and cooled
To decorate
50g unsalted pistachio nuts
75g white chocolate
1 organically grown rose
1 egg white
caster sugar for dusting

For the cake
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Beat butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed.
Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extra ct to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).
Turn the mixer up to slow speed, slowly pour in half the buttermilk.
Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl again.
Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture.
Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.
Pour into a deep springform greased and lined 6" cake tin.
Bake for about 40 mins or until done. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in t he middle, should come out clean if done.
Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Using a large serated knife, carefully split the cake into 3 horizontal layers.
Make the crystalised rose petals at this point so that they have time to dry out (see below for method).

For the buttercream
Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat,stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (rub some between your fingers to check if it is completely smooth and all the sugar is incorporated).
Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until you have stiff peaks and the mixture is glossy.
Chop up the butter into about 15 squares and then on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed and whip until it has come together, about five minutes.
Then add the cooled white chocolate and beat for two minutes more until smooth.

To decorate
On a plate or covered cake board, place a dessert spoon of the buttercream and spread into a circle no bigger than the cake and place the bottom layer of cake on top to stick it in place.
Using a palette knife, spread some of the butter cream across the top of this layer of cake and then place the next cake layer on top. Spread yet more of the buttercream on top of this and place the final cake layer on top. Finally, spread more buttercream on top and a little down the sides to crumb coat. Only use a small amount of the buttercream for this to stop the crumbs coming through the icing.
Next, reserve a tablespoon of the butter cream and spread the rest of the buttercream over the top and sides. Dip the palette knife in warm water and then wipe the drips off, before using the warmed knife to smooth the sides and top down.
Using a mezzaluna, roughly chop the pistachio nuts and carefully arrange them into a circle shape in the middle of the cake.
Using the bluntest kitchen knife you have, drag it slowly down the side of the chocolate bar, to create rough curls. Fill a bowl with iced water to dip your hands into when the chocolate feels as though it's melting in your hands.
Cover the rest of the top of the cake with the white chocolate curls.
Put the reserved buttercream in a piping bag and pipe it around the centre of the cake between the pistachio and chocolate curls.
To make the crystalised rose petals, lightly beat the egg white until it foams and use a pastry brush to gently cover each side of the petals. Sprinkle both sides with caster sugar and place on some greaseproof paper to dry out for eight hours.
When dry, arrange overlapped on top of the piped buttercream and press down lightly to secure in place.


  1. Absolutely wonderful ! The concept, the cake...EVERYTHING about your entry. I LOVED reading it ! Made this dreary, overcast day (in the States) so much more bearable !

    Could you please ship a cake to me in Boston ? It's not too much to ask now, is it ? If you 'pack it' in buttercream frosting, it should arrive intact, no ?

    Hope you and ALL your family are well ! Please give them my love ! Noah

  2. So the weather is bad there for you too? We have had non stop rain all day! Where is August?!

    I would love to bring one over to you, or better yet, make one right in front of you! I am desperate to come over, as ever. x x