Nothing Says Happy Birthday Like Red Velvet Cake with Ermine Frosting

Nothing Says Happy Birthday Like Red Velvet Cake with Ermine Frosting

When a loved one says they want a red velvet cake for their birthday, you put aside your beetroot colouring, your faux sugars, your gluten-free flours, and just let it rip.  This, guilt aside, is one of the most delicious cakes I have ever made.  One day?  Guilty for one day?  Okay.

Critical that the ingredients all be at a warm room temperature, and all at the same temperature.  Ermine frosting is a lighter, less sweet frosting, and is quite easy to work with and is the original frosting for red velvet cake.  If you do not have buttermilk, you can make some by adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to milk and letting it sit for an hour.

The method described below for the ermine frosting is different than most in the sequencing.  This guarantees no grain frosting.

This recipe makes a 2 layer, 8-inch cake.

Cake Ingredients

  • 450 g of cake flour or “00” soft wheat flour
  • 400 g of caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of dark dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 120 ml of flavourless vegetable oil
  • 240 ml of buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
  • 180 g of unsalted butter just melted, but not hot
  • 1 tablespoon of quality vanilla extract
  • 1 dose of red food dye, or 1 tablespoon

Ermine Frosting Ingredients

  • 50 g of plain white flour
  • 300 ml of whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon of fine salt
  • 250 g of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 150 g of caster sugar

Make the cake.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.  Generously grease and flour two 8” cake tins, and shake any excess flour loose.  

Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.  Whisk together the liquid ingredients: melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, oil, vinegar, food dye.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer, and with the whisk attachment, run it on slow as you stream in the liquid ingredients.  Stop and scrape down, and mix and stop, scraping down, alternating between scrape down and medium speed, until the batter is just mixed, about 1 minute in total.

Pour the batter evenly between the two pans and then insert them into the middle rack of your oven, and bake thus for 25-30 minutes, or until a tap to the centre gives a spring back…or a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool on racks for five minutes, before inverting them out of their tins and allow them to cool down completely on cooling racks (you can also accelerate this by placing them in the refrigerator or freezer).

Meanwhile, make the frosting.  Place the flour and sugar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan that will take a hand mixer later.  Whisk lightly as you place these dry ingredients over medium heat, and toast them thus for about 2 minutes to take away the raw flavour of the flour.  Stir all the while.

Add a small quantity of milk, and mix it to the consistency of toothpaste, taking time to whisk out any lumps, and then little by little, keep adding milk, always whisking out lumps, until you have added all of it.  Continue whisking and do so non-stop until the frosting begins to thicken, as if you were making a bechamel or roux.  This last step will come about quickly, so pay attention as the frosting goes from liquid to quite thick after about 5 minutes of cooking time.

Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in salt and vanilla until blended.  Cover and refrigerate until completely cooled down, about 2 hours.

Mix the butter into the frosting until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  

Place a small dollop of frosting in the middle of the cake plate.  Place one of the cooled cake layers down and put a very light “crumb coat”.  Place the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool it and set the frosting, then remove it and frost it properly.  Add the next layer, and then return to the cold.  Complete a second crumb layer, return to the freezer, wait for 10 minutes or so, and then frost the cake once and for all.

It is best to keep the cake refrigerated until use.  It should be removed from the cold and kept at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.

Serve it forth.  Simply divine.

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