Blue-ish Velvet Cake
I have a confession to make: I have never made a layer cake. In my opinion, the layer cake is the scariest culinary feat known to man. I’m dead serious. Cakes are usually associated with special occasions; birthdays, weddings, retirements, etc., and all those occasions come with high expectations. That’s a recipe for disappointment because something always goes wrong with a cake. They end up not cooked all the way through, too dry, with too much frosting, not enough frosting, or (my personal nightmare) the cake layers end up uneven and the whole thing resembles the leaning tower of Pisa.
In the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get over my culinary fears by cooking recipes that unnerve me. I decided to make a true southern classic, red velvet cake. Then I had a brilliant idea! Since the Duke Blue Devils were playing in the NCAA tournament, I would bake a Blue Velvet cake in their honor (let’s face it, UGA isn’t making it to the big dance anytime soon so a red cake can wait until football season).
Being a true Southern Belle, the only Red Velvet recipe I’m willing to use comes from Southern Living magazine. I thought it would be really easy to substitute blue food coloring for the 2 ounces red I needed…..I was very mistaken. I went to four different grocery stores and none of them had a large singular bottle of blue food coloring! I found red, green, yellow and (oddly enough) black food coloring, but no blue. After striking out at store #4, I admitted defeat and purchased one of those assorted food coloring kits with a .25 ounce bottle of blue.
Once back home with my food coloring I began to mix up the cake. It’s a very straight forward recipe with a POUND of butter creamed together with sugar and eggs. Then came the dry ingredients alternated with a cup of sour cream until everything’s combined. The cake pre-food coloring is a beautiful nutty brown. I almost didn’t add the food coloring I liked it so much, but this cake was in honor of Coach K and “tha Dookies”, so I squeezed in the entire bottle of blue food coloring and prayed it would turn out just like I wanted.
I waited as the food coloring swirled around the mixer until the batter turned a lovely shade of light blue…Carolina blue to be more specific. I was horrified! I couldn’t serve a Carolina blue cake to a die-hard Duke fan, that’s like asking my parents to do the Gator Chomp (the apocalypse would happen before my parents would do our biggest rival’s signature cheer). I covered the batter and rushed out to buy another 4 pack of food coloring. Once I returned I added a second .25 ounce bottle of blue coloring to the mixture. The batter color transformed from Carolina blue to a slate blue that still wasn’t anywhere close to Duke blue. I added a few drops of red food coloring hoping it would make the blue intensify; instead the dough became a tealish hue. At that point, I decided there was no way I would get to Duke blue without buying several more food coloring kits and that the best thing for me to do was bake my three layers of blueish cake and hope the color changed in the oven.
Once the cakes were baked, cooled, and taken out of their pans they looked very blue-green, I was completely deflated. Luckily for me, Chris took a break from basketball to inspect my work. He took one look at my uniquely colored cakes, laughed, and reminded me that what mattered was how the cake tasted, not how it looked. That was the boost I needed to make the cream cheese icing and complete the cake (side note, there are 3 sticks of butter in the icing….that’s 7 sticks of butter in the whole cake…I should probably jog this week).
When the cake was assembled and completely iced it was surprisingly very pretty. Then I cut a piece of cake for Chris to eat and it wasn’t as pretty. The blue-green cake against the white cream cheese icing made the whole thing look, well, weird. Chris said it looked like he was eating a huge piece of mold and my friend Faith said it looked like floral foam. Thank goodness it tasted much much better than it looked! The cake was buttery rich, sweet and the tangy cream cheese icing gave the cake a much needed bite. Ultimately everyone who tried a piece of cake said it was tasty.
So, though I still think layer cakes can easily be a disaster, I am not as afraid of them as I was before making my blue-green velvet cake!