As I'm sure my readers have all noticed, feeling an inexplicable yet implacable void in their lives, Working Lunch has been on vacation. More specifically, at this most wonderful time of the year, I go back to California for two glorious weeks. Trips to the farmer's market, daily walks to get my latte fix, time spent (or rather gained) at the local cheese store -- yes, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Especially since I don't have to work, and generally have my lunch made for me.
It is, however, the time of year for baking. Our Christmas dinner is a feast prepared by my aunt, but we have to contribute the dessert. And that means cake. We have made a number of different recipes over the years, one involving white chocolate snowflakes (as great to make as to eat), one involving more bourbon than should legally be allowed, many others requiring varying amounts of chocolate. Last year brought us the infamously named "Bitch de Noel", of which the highlight was definitely making the meringue mushrooms (indescribable fun).
This year, we decided to go with the seasonally appropriate (at least as far as aesthetics are concerned) red velvet cake. Of course, a great cake deserves a great name (see above for the converse). "Red Velvet", though accurate, didn't really capture its spirit. We needed something a little sassier, a little more ooh la la. Our working title was "Gateau au velours rouge", which made me think a little bit of Moulin Rouge and Montmartre. Luckily, my brother brought us down to earth when he heard this, asking "Cat on a red bicycle?" The title was obvious in Esperanto: Cat on a Hot Red Bike Cake. Thus a star was born.
2 ¼ C. sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons red food coloring (or two 2 oz. bottles)
1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ C. buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour three 9 x 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.
For the cake:
In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well. (I didn't bother doing this, adding the cocoa to the flour and the food coloring and vanilla to the buttermilk, but it was noted that this may have created a slight marbling effect in the layers. I leave this decision to the individual predilections of each reader.)
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. Beat mixture after each addition until the ingredients are mixed, but do not overbeat.
In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
1 box powdered sugar
When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then cover the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with sugared cranberries.
Makes one 3-layer 9-inch cake.