Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Halloween Cake: Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet

Last week I had a housewarming party to go to, a cake recipe to test, and some Halloween spirit to get out of my system. Since I am a super-woman, multi-tasking model of efficiency, I did all three in the form of this one cake. Of course, since the party was across town on a Friday evening, and I have a day job that might as well be located in another country, and every now and then my body does this weird shut-down thing called sleep, something inevitably had to go. (So, super-woman - not so much) Usually that something is combing my hair, or matching my left shoe to my right. Luckily, when you walk in with a triple layer cake, no one seems to notice that you didn’t get your hair done, nails done, everything did…

Red velvet cake has been in trend that past few years and I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon. However, I really do love the complexity of this flavor and it’s a little puzzling to me why it’s not as ubiquitous as chocolate or white cake. I have a very big project coming up in the next few weeks involving a whole lot of red velvet cake - dairy free red velvet cake - and I’ve been going through all my red velvet recipes. This may be the one. I used the traditional boiled icing for the frosting here (which has dairy ingredients) and found it to be really nice – not too sweet, and not too buttery.

Waldorf-Astoria Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from troyh on Food.com

1/2 cup shortening (Spectrum brand organic vegetable shortening)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces red food coloring
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup almond milk
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar

Prepare three 8” round baking pans with parchment rounds and baking spray. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Cream the shortening and sugar and eggs one at a time until blended. In a separate bowl, combine the food coloring, vanilla and cocoa until dissolved. Add to the creamed mixture. Add almond milk, alternating with flour and salt. In a small dish, add soda to vinegar, and blend into the batter. Pour batter evenly into the baking pans and bake immediately. Bake 24-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Allow to cool in pan about ten minutes, and then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a rack, parchment side down.

Boiled Icing
Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups almond milk
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine flour and salt. Whisk in almond milk slowly until smooth while placed over medium heat. Allow mixture to reduce and thicken while whisking constantly until past-like. Remove from heat and cool completely. For me, this was at about one in the morning so I decided to “relax” on the couch while the mixture cooled…until 6 am when I woke up with a giant couch cushion imprint across my face. This was probably why my frosting wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix until combined. Combine cooled flour mixture on high speed and beat for about 10 minutes until smooth and you can no longer feel the sugar granules. Or just beat for as long as you can get away with before your neighbor puts in a complaint that you’re doing kitchen construction at the crack of dawn. Frost cakes as desired. Go to work. Come home and stencil some orange frosting on the side of the cake, throw some Halloween sprinkles across the top, find a clean dress, and go to the party. Remember to bring the cake.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies


It rained here this week. And by rain, I mean it was raining cats and dogs, minus the cats and dogs. Because that would have been awesome. And it was cold too! And by cold, I mean about 60 degrees around dinner-time by which time the rain had cleared in Hollywood and I was able to don my high heals. The weather forecast also says it should be back in the mid-eighties next week. Okay, so for just a day or two, I got to feel sad for my sun dresses and flip-flops that didn’t get nearly enough wear this past summer. I got to pretend I was a Seattleite and wear my favorite trench coat. I also got to be nostalgic over fall spices and pumpkin baked goods. Fortunately, this is LA, and that rain thing is sooo just a fad. And I can still have my pumpkin spice latte at the corner Starbucks.

I’ve been planning my baking around pumpkin for the past month, but pumpkin puree wasn’t nearly as easy to find as I thought. Luckily, my wonderful boyfriend was able to track some down at Trader Joe's and got me three times as much as I asked for. This was a quick one to whip up: Soft pumpkin sandwich cookies (aka: pumpkin whoopie pies) from A Cozy Kitchen. I have to say, I couldn't resist filling a pair of the cookies with cream cheese filling while the cookies were still a bit warm. If only you (someone, anyone) were there with me for that - it was amazing. And you know - they only come out of the oven once.
These are just perfect. Not too sweet with just the right amount of spices. And oh, my new fascination with the scent of cardamom! This was my first time using it. I finally got to use the cardamom I picked up a while ago, but they were whole pods and I didn't have a spice grinder. Just cardamom pods... and a hammer... Guess what? Of all the bumps and cuts I've gotten over the past few days - burning my finger on a sheet tray, getting a paper cut from card-stock, a sore arm from the flu shot - I did not injure myself with the hammer. Ha! Well, not this time...
I think you should make these. They're super easy. And yummy. I didn't fuss with the recipe at all (if you don't count the hammer-spice-grinder technique) so you can get it at A Cozy Kitchen.