Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Strawberry Blue Velvet Cake

I am slowly getting back into the swing of things after a very active and tiring 4-day, holiday weekend.  I'm a tad overwhelmed with the photos I want to share with you, so I'll tackle it one post at a time.  Luckily, work decreed yesterday "Recover from Burns Day", so that was my rehab from too much moving, driving, eating, picture snapping, doggie madness, and money spending.

And baking.  I baked, and it was good.

Jon and I hosted "quiet and relaxed holiday chill time" at our apartment this 4th of July.  It was much easier and I spent a lot less money and time in the kitchen compared to last year where we hosted a day-long brunch and dinner extravaganza.

Along with pan-frying some hotdogs and black bean burgers, I made a cake.  Not just any cake, though... A blue velvet cake.

I found this recipe last week and stashed it on my Pinterest page to safe-keeping.  But it only took about five minutes of swooning over that dark, royal blue cakey-ness until I decided to make it as soon as possible.  Plus, with the ingenious idea of replacing the blueberries with strawberries, it was a cake fit to represent our glorious Independence Day!!

Wop, wop.

Okay, so it wasn't as blue as I had intended.  (And this picture could be a lot less terrible, let's be honest.)  After getting over my initial disappointment (and realizing that I missed a crucial "blue" element to the recipe—a toothpick-dab of violet food coloring), I finally acknowledged that the cake tasted glorious and there was no reason to fret.

I loved this cake, and based on the responses from my 4th of July guests, everyone else loved it too.  I have made red velvet cake before, but have never used cake flour... until now, and WOW!  It makes all the difference.  This cake was perfect and not at all dry (a common problem with many velvet cake recipes), and I will continue to use this for whatever-color velvet cake I make in the future.

The thing about this recipe that didn't work, in my opinion, was the frosting.  Oh, it was sweet and spread easily and everyone seemed to like it.  For me it was just... off.  If I had never tasted cream cheese frosting before, I probably wouldn't have noticed.  But the ratios seemed strange, even as I was making it, and my instincts turned out to be right.  The cream cheese frosting I made last year with my red velvet cake was the best (you know it's a winner if you only want to eat the frosting), while the cake itself was too dry and tasted only so-so.

So, my dear readers, let's take each delectable cake element and put them together for future reference, shall we?

Next time, I'll remember to use gel food coloring, as well as the dab of violet.  But if you only have blue, liquid food coloring, at least what you'll come out with is still in the realm of blue, though perhaps not as show-stopping.  (Not a bad color for a baby shower or a baby boy's 1st birthday party, eh?)

Blue Velvet Cake
recipe via bakebakebake, as adapted from One Particular Kitchen

2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. blue food coloring, gel or liquid
1 dab of violet food coloring, gel or liquid (a drop of red and blue together will make violet)
2 1/2 cups of cake flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
Garnish (optional): one cup or so of any berry or other fruit you like. Obviously, I used strawberries (which I sliced), and they were the perfect compliment to the velvet flavor.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans (recipe called for 8-inch, I used 9—didn't make much of a difference) with butter, NOT Pam.  (I used Pam and it made the outer rim of my cake hard as a rock, so I had to cut them.)  Line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease one more time.

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until totally combined.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing fully between each one.

In a smaller bowl, mix cocoa powder and food coloring together.  (I found this a little difficult to do, because the food coloring hardens as soon as it meets the cocoa powder.  Mix as best you can—the blue will spread easily as soon as it meets the butter/sugar.)  Add cocoa and food coloring to sugar mixture, mix thoroughly.

Sift flour and salt together in a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients to sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.  Start and end with the flour.  Mix in vanilla extract.  Combine baking soda and vinegar (get ready for that sizzle!) together, and then add to cake batter.  Mix thoroughly.

Fill cake pans evenly with the batter.  Cook at 350ºF for 30 minutes.  Check to see if a toothpick comes out clean.  Adjust cooking time based on your personal oven.  Let cool completely on cooling rack before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Monica H. at Lick the Bowl Good

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups powdered/confectioners sugar

Use an electric mixer to cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add cream cheese, mixing until fully combined, followed by the vanilla extract.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, stopping occasionally to wipe down the sides of the bowl.  Continue mixing until fully combined.  Use immediately.

Bringing it all together...

Once cooled, use your best judgement about whether or not to use a long bread knife to "shave down" the top of your cake.  I found mine was a little more rounded than I'd like, so I did my best to flatten it to make for easy layering.

Place one cake down on a plate or cake pedestal.  Plop down LOTS of frosting on the top, spreading all around, but not along the sides.  If using fruit, add it now—tightly pack the fruit in one layer, covering the cake and frosting.  (If your fruit is particularly wet, like my strawberries were, try patting them down with a paper towel to lessen the wetness, otherwise the juice will leak out of your cake as it sets.)

Flip the remaining cake upside down (bottom facing up) and plop some frosting down; spread evenly.  Place on top of fruit layer.  Press slightly to combine.  Once your cakes are evenly stacked, plop a huge amount of frosting on top of your cake, using a flat knife or icing spatula to spread on top of the cake.  Slowly start to let the icing spill over the sides and gradually work the icing down the sides of the cake until it covers the cake completely.

(This post by Monica H. of LTBG is a great "how-to" for frosting the outside of a layer cake.)

Did anyone make something delicious over 4th of July weekend?  Any baking recipes I should add to my "must make" arsenal?  Hungry and under-sugared minds want to know!


  1. I really really want you to make me this cake. Right meow.

  2. O.M.GENIOUS! I love this, and it looks so delicious! If we could do that, and make it bright orange, that would be splendid. kthx.

    So I think it necessary for you to move down here and once and teach me the magic of cooking/baking. I'm horrible at it, and I want that to change.

    Or at least so I can try all these delicious things you're showcasing here.