Known for its smooth soft texture and distinctively deep, rich red colour, The Red Velvet Cake is enjoyed by many. It is the most significant cake served on Emancipation Day, as it serves a reminder of the bloodshed and those who lost their lives during enslavement.
Emancipation day, or more commonly known as Juneteenth Day or Freedom Day, commemorates the abolition of more than 300 years of slavery, announced on 19th June 1865. On this day, union soldiers sailed to Galveston, Texas and read aloud a general order, proclaiming the end of the Civil War. Whilst some former slaves stayed and embraced the new employer to employee relationship, many chose to escape the plantations and travel northwards to discover their new found freedom. With them they took their religious traditions and culture, including recipes for good old fashioned church cakes such as the Red Velvet Cake.
Considered a 'soul food' of the South, the Red Velvet Cake is believed to have originated during the 1800's, and like most southern cuisine and culture, is of African American origin. It may come as a surprise, however, to learn that originally the redness of this cake wasn't so apparent. It was therefore known then merely as the Velvet Cake. The colour began as a Reddish-brown tint caused by the chemical interaction between the brown sugar, buttermilk and vinegar. To enhance the redness, food colouring was introduced to the recipe much later, but exactly when and where remains a mystery. One theory is that the Red Velvet Cake made its debut at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Manhattan, in1959. Another is that a 1950's housewife was so dissatisfied with the colour of her cake that she added red food colouring to the batter. And then there was the baker who created the distinctive red colour so that he could profit from the cake on Valentines Day.
Regardless of how its colour came about, this cake is definitely a one and only. if you have ever tried this cake you will know that its texture is like no other. The delicate, light, fine crumb, makes a sinfully moist texture; followed by the smooth, subtle taste of cocoa, accompanied by the creamy and slightly tangy flavour of the cream cheese frosting. Everything here works in perfect harmony to create not only a feel of velvet on the palette, but one of the most divine tasting sweets loved by many.
Try the below recipe for a batch of delicious Red Velvet Cupcakes - great for sharing:
300g caster sugar
2 tablespoons red food colouring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon vinegar
250g plain flour
5 tablespoons best quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
Preparation: 30 min > Cook: 20 min > Ready in: 50 min
1. Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4. Grease two 12 cup muffin tins or line with 20 paper cases.
2. in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, red food colouring and vanilla. Stir in the bicarb and vinegar. Combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt; stir into the mixture just until blended. spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, dividing evenly.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 mins. Cool in the tin and set over a wire rack. When cool, arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter and ice with desired frosting.
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