WND – My Colors are Blush and Bashful

April 17, 2008

“The groom’s cake! It’s awful…it’s in the shape of a giant armadillo. Worse, the cake part is red velvet. People are going to be hacking into this poor animal that looks like it’s bleedin’ to death!” – Steel Magnolias –

When I was in high school we had a very good English language video store nearby, and a reasonably large selection of movies at home*. And yet somehow the only ones we ever rewatched were Steel Magnolias, Hunt for Red October, and Yes, Prime Minister. From these I gleaned a warped view of politics, an appreciation for smart action movies and a burning desire to make a cake in the shape of giant armadillo.

Many years later at a New Year’s party themed on the Gallery of Regrettable Foods (the caveat being that you had to be willing to eat when you brought) I was finally able to satisfy my need to make a bleedin’ armadillo cake.

Okay, technically I made the cake and my roommate turned it into a giant armadillo. I’m with Sally Fields, I can’t even begin to imagine how you make grey icing, but my roommate has an artistic soul and can not only carve a cake into the shape of an armadillo but also doesn’t find the idea of making grey icing daunting. As a side note, on the cake the grey icing was impressive, in the bowl it was disturbingly reminiscent of spackle.

The sheer entertainment value of an armadillo cake shouldn’t be underestimated, but the appeal of a plain red velvet cake shouldn’t go unappreciated either. Red Velvet Cake seems to be having something of a renaissance lately. It keeps popping up on the Food Network, and in high end bakeries, and at funky little cupcake bars. I have made Red Velvet Cake multiple times since that New Year’s party, and I can state with authority that it is not necessary to carve it into the shape of an armored New World mammal to make an impressive dessert.

The contrast of the deep red cake with the creamy white frosting is visually appealing, and more pragmatically, it’s easy to make. Red Velvet Cake does all the things a cake should do; it’s moist, it’s got a firm crumb without being dense, and it reliably releases from the pan. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with something you’re going to cover in cream cheese frosting.

* We also had Mussolini: The Last Four Days which my mother bought in a misguided fit of zeal for an improving sort of movie. It is, startlingly, even more boring than it sounds.

Grilled Chicken with Greek Spices
Beet & Orange Salad with Goat Cheese

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

1 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring*
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and beat to combine.

In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa and food coloring. Add to the shortening mixture. Don’t turn the mixer on to do this or you will end up with red food coloring on your ceiling (not that this has ever happened to me). Mix it in by hand until it’s more or less combined and then turn on the mixer to fully incorporate it.

Sift the flour and salt together. Add to the batter in three portions, alternating with the buttermilk. Add the vanilla extract. Fold in the baking soda and vinegar.

Pour the batter into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a cooling rack. Invert the cakes from the pans.

* Just don’t think about it.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(enough frosting for a 2 layer cake)

8 oz cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 lb powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla

Cream together the cream cheese and the butter. Add the powdered sugar (I recommend doing this incrementally or you’ll end up covered in powdered sugar – also, the sifting really is necessary or you’ll end up with lumpy icing). Add the vanilla.


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