Thursday, January 8, 2009

THE BITTER AND THE SWEET

This has been a decidedly odd, stressful, emotional day. I've been anxious about a dear friend, an internet friend who has become very dear to my heart. She has lately been and is still in mortal danger, having to send her young child to relatives, and heartsick for another child who is still in harm's way.

I today received a heart-rending e-mail, telling of the fears and the emotions and the day-to-day struggles. I read it to Chris over the phone, as by happenstance he called to tell me that someone else whom we both love very much has just returned home from another scary place very far away.

We wept together across the line for both events, the bitter sadness and fear for our friend, who sends me stones and spices, equally sweet for the flavors and the history, and also for the joy of our own dear one's return home.

If the roller-coaster emotions of this day had occurred to someone else, someone nearby, I'd probably have gone straight to my kitchen, stirring up something good, something to carry into their house with a hug of empathy for their sadness or of thankfulness for the homecoming, or both.

Something sweet answers both needs, I think. There's just such a history to this good old Southern stand-by, the handing-down and the exacting methods and the little bit of pomp to honor the moment, of such an age-old recipe.

And why I thought of it, for this circumstance, today of all days, I cannot tell you. We just all need something pretty, something sweet, at times like these.


Red Velvet Cake
Pam-spray two 9” pans. Line with rounds of parchment or waxed paper. Oven 350, rack centered.

Sift together and set aside:

2 C. A/P Flour
1/2 t. Salt
1/2 t.Baking Powder
2 T. Cocoa Powder

Cream in large bowl of mixer:

1 Stick Butter, Room Temp.
1 1/2 cups sugar

Beat in 3 Eggs, one at a time

In a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl, stir together:
1 cup Buttermilk
1 T. Red Food Color
2 t. Vanilla

Stir in:
1 t. Baking Soda

With mixer on medium speed, alternate adding dry ingredients in thirds, wet in halves, ending with dry.

When all is completely incorporated, whirl in:

1 t. Vinegar

Bake 25/30 minutes, or until top springs back to touch. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove and peel off paper; turn right-side up and rack-cool completely. It goes faster if you set the racks up on wide cans, such as tuna cans, for ventilation.

Layers may be wrapped in Saran and frozen at this point. You CAN frost it frozen, but it may cause the frosting to "glow" with a little dew in places.

Makes about 20-24 cupcakes, if you’d rather.

White Velvet Frosting

1 stick Butter, Room Temp.
8 oz Philadelphia, Room Temp. (do not use LF or NF)
1 t. Vanilla
A box of Powdered Sugar, sifted with a dash of salt

Cream butter and cream cheese in mixer bowl. Add vanilla, then beat in powdered sugar in several increments. Add a few drops of milk if needed for spreading consistency.


Stir in a cup of chopped pecans.

Spreads top, sides, and filling of a 9” two-layer cake. I like to spread the filling, THEN stir in the pecans, so the middle is smooth. Very rich.

Refrigerate if not eaten the day it’s made. Don’t try to cut it with a cake server---use a very sharp knife. It’s a very tender cake.


Tender and sweet. Taste and feeling. Anodynes for almost any moment.

3 comments:

Keetha said...

I'll be thinking of you and your friends. Red velvet cake is the answer for a lot of things.

nakji said...

This is more a legend than a cake to me. I hope someday I get to try it - but without any hurts that need soothing. Best wishes to your friend.

racheld said...

I'm sure she is glad for all good wishes. She's still answering my e-mails, so I know they're still at home.

How I wish for you to experience the "legend"----I suppose it IS one, and rightly so. I think the last time I made the recipe was for a surprise dessert bar for a friend's dinner party for about thirty or so.

She ordered profiteroles with hot fudge sauce, and those would have been perfect for a seated dinner---a bit of pretty fruit, a nice garnish on the plate. But it woulda looked skimpy on that big buffet after we'd cleared away all the dinner dishes.

So as a gift to our long-time client, we did Red Velvet cupcakes on a big silver stand, the profiteroles, and small babas and Chris' famous chocolate chip cookies, as well as a big fruit tray with a nice wedge of "Hoop Cheese"---which was enthusiastically received by the crowd; they'd never tasted it.

We also did chocolate-dipped strawberries, lots of tuxedos and drizzles. My friend was delighted at the lagniappe, which didn't surprise her friends so used to her lavish hospitality.