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Several years ago, red velvet cake went from being a not-so-well-known Southern classic to a fad that you saw everywhere. Unfortunately, once that happened, I don’t think I ever found one good one. Most of them just tasted like a white cake batter with red food coloring added. No thank you.
And say what you will about “variations”, I am a stickler that to be a true red velvet cake, it must be slathered in cream cheese icing.
My introduction to the real, classic, red velvet cake came while I was living in Atlanta. I was student teaching under a wonderful mentor, Miss Cay. More than a terrific model of teaching, she took me under her mothering wing. She took care of me when I had my wisdom teeth pulled and pampered me when I was pregnant. She also bought me my first piece of red velvet cake.
Did any of you ever watch a show on TBS called, Dinner and a Movie? They had a really catchy theme song. Each week, they’d show a movie, and during commercial breaks, they’d show the hosts making a recipe that related to the movie. No one else watched that? Just me?
Well, when they aired Steel Magnolias, they made red velvet cake….with beets to make it red. Beet cake? Gross.
So when Miss Cay and I were out for a ladies luncheon one afternoon, and she suggested red velvet cake for dessert, I politely declined. After laughing at me when I told her why, she explained that beets most definitely were NOT in most red velvet cakes.
I savored every bite that day. And, the following week brought my husband to that restaurant to buy him a piece. We were enamored.
Miss Cay had us to her home for dinner some time later. And, knowing how much we both enjoyed the cake she had introduced us to, made one for dessert. She also kindly shared her recipe with me. To be honest, she shared it with Greg. The copy of her recipe that she gave me says, “For Greg” at the top.
Red Velvet Cake
This is an oil based cake (rather than butter). This, paired with the buttermilk, makes the cake incredibly moist. And here’s a tip on the buttermilk…if you don’t have it, just add about a Tablespoon of white vinegar into a one cup measure and fill up with regular milk–voila!
It has a small amount of cocoa powder. Just enough to make you wonder how it gets its flavor, but not enough to make it taste chocolate-y. And yes, it has an entire bottle of red food coloring. Would the cake taste just as good without the coloring? Maybe, but I’ll likely never find out. You’re welcome to, though.
While I do insist that true red velvet cake must have cream cheese icing, I will allow for one variation. Pecans or no pecans.
I loooooove nuts in my desserts. I know many people who don’t (I am married to one!). If it were up to me, I would pack a layer of chopped pecans around the outside edge of the cake and in between the layers. It looks lovely, and provides lots of crunchy goodness.
As a compromise, I usually either serve nuts on the side, or in this case, spoon a little “moat” of nuts around the edge. Those that want them can scoop up as many as they like while those that don’t can avoid them pretty easily. (Unless, like my eldest, you drop your piece back onto the tray before getting your slice to the plate and end up picking individual nut pieces off…sorry, bud!)
Nuts or no nuts, this is a special occasion cake. Make it. Savor it.
Let me know what you think!
Here’s Miss Cay’s original recipe: