Sunday, August 25, 2013

All Natural Red Velvet Drum Cake

NOTE: Sara’s blog has moved to a new location: Feel free to browse around my tutorials here, then come check out my new site!

Wow. What a challenge! For her son's 14th birthday, this particular customer requested a life-like Drum Cake. The real kicker: she also wanted a dye-free red velvet cake. Always up for a challenge, I happily accepted.

After perusing  Pinterest and Google, I found 2 red velvet cake recipes that used beets for the signature red color. One that supposedly is a historic recipe dubiously from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, found here,  and another "All Natural Red-Velvet Cake" found here. I tested them both. Allow me to save you some trouble. Do NOT even bother with the first recipe! Unless you love a brown beet-cake that sinks at high altitude (I bake at an elevation of 4300 ft).  However, the 2nd recipe, by Merissa at Little House Living, was bright red and quite remarkable. Both call for beets--I used fresh, oven-roasted beets pureed in a processor for both recipes. Both batters were identically beautiful.

Apparently, for the beets to maintain their amazing red color, you have to have an acidic batter. Little House Living's did by incorporating vinegar and orange juice, while the "Waldorf Astoria's" did not. That made the difference between a brown cake, and a gorgeous, red-velvet-RED cake upon baking. I threw out the brown cake -- no photos of that one. Trust me, it wasn't worth it, based on both looks and flavor! It tasted like beets. Enough said.

Little House Living's recipe didn't exactly taste like Red Velvet. Not that Red Velvet cake has much of a signature taste to begin with. But, it did have a deep, sweet, slightly fruity, with a hint of chocolate flavor. And maybe the tiniest of beet aftertastes, which concerned me.  But, it's made from beets. What can you expect? The true test: My kids loved it! They usually get my scraps, which is what they're chowing down on here:

I would say that the beet aftertaste deepened a bit over time. I bake my cakes a couple days in advance, freezing them soon after coming out of the oven to preserve moisture and enhance flavors. I don't think I would do that again with this cake. it was plenty moist already, and the earthy flavors are best fresh, without having time to percolate. 

After filling the 8" layers with a shelf-stable cream cheese frosting, and giving it an all-over coat of a light vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream (excellent under fondant!), we were ready to move on to decorating!

The drumsticks were made out of Wilton Gumpaste mixed with homemade Marshmallow Fondant + Tylose powder. The Tylose helps the fondant to set up hard, which is what you want for details like this. The fondant/gumpaste was colored brown, shaped, and set aside. After drying, I used a cakes-only paintbrush to apply a brown edible coloring dust. I barely dipped my brush in water and gently went over the entire stick, which gave it it's more streaky coloring as well as adding a lasting sheen. The drumsticks needed a few days to harden well, so I made those about 5 days in advance.

The rest: tedious detail after detail. The hinges (that's not what they are, but you get the idea) of the drum, as well as the pole-looking peices were all made out of the same gumpaste/fondant mixture as the drumsticks.  The top of the drum is Satin Ice fondant, in order to achieve a true white color. The black fondant is Duff Fondant. Coloring my own black fondant is not worth the time or food coloring. Black (and red fondant) is worth purchasing in my humble opinion!

My gold and silver colors were achieved with Luster Dust mixed with a clear vanilla extract for painting, once I'd applied all of the fondant onto the cake. The writing is a simple white royal icing.

All Natural Red Velvet Drum Cake. Success! 

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