Rob's birthday was last week and Annie agreed to let me make the cake. I have been to a shocking number of parties lately where the "cake" was purchased at Costco. This is so very wrong in so many ways. These are parties where the rest of the food is prepared right there in the host and hostess's kitchen.
When did it become acceptable to serve a "purchased" dessert? Other than ice cream, and in the summertime at a casual get together, Popsicles, one should never serve a "purchased" dessert. It is disgusting, unattractive and unhealthy, full of chemicals, trans fats and ingredients processed from other processed ingredients, the final product being to cake as Tropical Fruit Pop Rocks is to a mango. The "cake" has a crumb so uniform it could be used in a science fair project on geometry, the "filling" is usually lemon the color of a fluorescent light bulb and similarly created, or glutinous "fruit" from the flavor palette of Bonnie Belle Lip Smackers or White Owl Blunts and with the mouth feel of river sludge. The "frosting" is made from some low rent Crisco that coats the roof of your mouth with a grease slick impervious to all known detergents, and enough high fructose corn syrup to hurl you into diabetic shock.
I was delighted to be allowed to actually bake a cake for Rob.
I pulled out a number of cook books, read and reread.
I considered a mousse cake, but rejected that idea as mousse can be tricky, the cakes are usually not pretty, and I don't have a 12" springform which I would have needed to make a mousse cake for 20. I considered a chocolate caramel cake and rejected that because Annie doesn't like chocolate and having never made it before, I was scared that the cake would be dry. I thought long and hard about a spice cake and finally accepted that for me, spice cake has been failure followed by disappointment followed by defeat.
Chocolate dump cake? Too dump-ish. Carrot cake? Too healthy. Lemon cake? Too boring. Yellow cake with Chocolate icing? Too boring. Coconut cake? I'm tired of it. I settled on Red Velvet Cake.
Although I have not been enamored of RV cake and I know you think it is gross, I went with it because it is popular, Southern and festive. We live in VA; this was a party; an audience inured to the horrors of Costco cakes wouldn't have any reservations about a cake the color of a Twizzler.
From my previous experiments, I knew that the recipe would have to use oil not butter, and would need red food coloring, never mind my visceral aversion to both the ingredient and the resultant hue. (Talk about viscera!) And I knew that none of the recipes I had previously tried would do.
I found a recipe for Southern Red Velvet Cake on Cookstr. It is from The Neely's. There were 3 comments and all were effusive in their enthusiasm and praise. It contained oil. I went for it. I wanted three 10" layers. I made one and half times the recipe, I doubled the cocoa powder and I added pecans to the frosting.
The cakes baked up with nearly burnt and crusty tops, maybe because I had to bake them longer because the layers were so large, maybe because my ovens are too hot.
I sawed off the top 1/2 inch and still had three very tall layers. The frosting was quite gooey and drippy and the cake began to slide and list as soon as it was frosted. I secured it with four dowels.
It was delicious. Festive, traditional and very popular.
I wish I had brought some home.