Ode to Red Velvet Cake

This is an adaptation of a story appeared Feb. 15, 2004, in The Daily Union:

The Knight-Ridder Tribune news service has a story this week featuring a recipe for red velvet cake. They triggered a flood of fond memories for this deliciously decadent dessert.

I first encountered red velvet cake in southern Indiana, where our neighbor made them regularly for church dinners, birthdays and other special occasions. I was the recipient of several of those birthday cakes, so maybe that explains part of my attachment. It is associated in my mind with neighbors who walk in the back door just to say hi, church tables laden with wonderful home cooked food and celebrations with family and friends.

I experienced a long drought of red velvet cake after I graduated from high school and my parents moved to Illinois. My mom seldom made red velvet cake, though she had our neighbor’s recipe. It’s somewhat expensive and time-consuming to prepare, especially if you make the traditional cooked frosting.

But my memories of my favorite cake remained strong.

A few years ago, a red velvet cake mix came on the market. It was pretty good, but not quite the same. No cake from a mix can match the rich moistness of homemade red velvet cake.

Finally, about a year ago, I asked my mother to send me the recipe so I could make it for my son Tim’s birthday. I made the cooked frosting, I made the cake in three layers and I put it all together. I’m not an expert cake-baker so it looked a bit wobbly. And the cooked frosting starts to melt when it is out of the refrigerator for a while.

But one bite told me this was the real thing. If you want to try it, here’s the recipe.

Madaline Guller’s Red Velvet Cake Recipe
1/2 Cup shortening (Crisco type, NOT butter or oleo)
1 1/2 Cup sugar
2 eggs
2 3-oz. bottles red food coloring
3 TBS cocoa
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

1. Make paste with cocoa & food color. Cream sugar & shortening together,
2. Add eggs & blend well.
3. Add cocoa/food color mix to creamed shortening & egg mixture.
4. Combine sifted measured flour with salt. Then–
5. Add alternately with buttermilk & vanilla to creamed mixture.
6. Remove mixer blades, and fold in vinegar & soda.
7. Pour batter in equal portions into 3 8″ cake pans–greased and line with wax paper.
8. Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes.

Icing (two mixtures):
1st mix: Mix together in sauce pan 4 heaping TBSP flour & 1 Cup milk.
Mix till free of lumps.
Cook till thick (stir constantly keeps it smooth)
Chill in refrigerator til VERY COLD (Several hrs. or overnight)

2nd mix: 1/2 Cup each of margarine & Crisco
1 Cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Bring butter (margerine) to room temperature. Mix with Crisco. Cream shortening & sugar till light fluffy. Beat 20 minutes with mixer (or till desired stiffness. Combine mix #1 & #2, mixing thoroughly. Spread between layers and on top & sides of cooled cake layers.

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