For Valentine’s Day, a new GF all natural brownie and a not so new classic Red Velvet cake
My favourite episode of Friends is the one where Monica is after Phoebe’s grandmother’s legendary chocolate chip cookie recipe. When the recipe is destroyed in a fire in flaky but lovable Phoebe’s apartment, the determined foodie Monica sets out to recreate it with the one sole cookie she has left from the original recipe as her template. A dash of this, a bit of that, after numerous attempts Monica fails to come up with the illusive magical formula. When Phoebe finally reveals it came from her grandma’s French friend “Nestle Toulouse”, we and Monica realize it was off the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chip packet that sits in every American baker’s cupboard.
This week, with all of the beautiful Valentine’s baking going on in my Instagram and Twitter feeds, I am returning to an old favourite that is, in fact, based on a recipe from the back of a packet. My Red Velvet cake adapted from Betty Adams’ recipe which appeared on the Adams red food colouring packaging in 1969. The famous “cake of a wifetime” (yes I know, but a commentary on the lengthy history of misogyny in advertising will need to wait for another time).
The stories doing the rounds about the origins of the Red Velvet are very entertaining but the best article I have come across is from the wonderful Tori Avey: http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2014/02/red-velvet-cake-history-recipe. Her recipe is also highly recommended.
In the UK, the Red Velvet has had a big resurgence of late. Or is it just a surgence? Was it popular before? But the results are not always what one would hope for. There seems to be a lot of confusion over how much cocoa there should be, how red is red, how sweet … My Southern DNA tells me that a Red Velvet should have a hint of cocoa, be red enough to stand out but not so lurid that it feels like eating a bottle of chemicals, the crumb should be gentle and the overall effect (including icing) should be sweet but never cloying. If a cake can be soft-hearted, this is, despite its deceptively dramatic appearance. And it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day.
The changes I have made to Betty’s recipe (pictured above) for my version of the classic cake are: I use all butter (no shortening, no butter flavouring), I use a ½ tsp (max) of red food colour paste like Superflair or Wiltons, I make it in 2 layers not 3 and finish with a traditional cream cheese icing: 600g icing sugar, 50g butter, 200g cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice.
Natural Gluten-free Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies came out of my desire to create a cheesecake brownie, and red velvet felt like a more congenial base than a traditional dark chocolate one. Plus I wanted to have a go at a red velvet product that didn’t contain any food colouring. These are a big hit at my stall in Soho. As they contain beetroot and goat’s cheese, I kid myself that I am practically having a salad when I eat one!
Natural GF Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
5 large eggs
275g unsalted butter, melted
300g granulated sugar
125g light muscovado sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g natural cacao
75ml concentrated beetroot juice
2 tbls buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white wine vinegar
230g GF flour blend (I use Dove’s Farm)
300g cream cheese, 200g soft rindless goat’s cheese, 125g caster sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 180 degrees c (160 degrees c for fan assisted). Butter a 9×13 brownie or roasting tin and line with greaseproof paper, bottom and sides.
In a large bowl combine the eggs, sugars, vanilla, cacao, beetroot juice, buttermilk and salt. Whisk until well blended. I do this by hand. You can use a stand mixer but mix sparingly – brownies should have texture (but not lumps). Add the vinegar, whisk, then add the flour and give it a final blend. Pour this mixture into the prepared tin and set aside.
To make the cheesecake, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or mix by hand) and mix well, for about 2 minutes.
Pour the cheesecake filling over the top of the brownie mixture levelling it off gently with a spatula. Then take a chopstick and “swirl” the cheesecake gently into the brownie mix, moving up and down then across the pan. The red should start to show through and you’ll have a swirl pattern on top.
Bake for 35 minutes. You want the brownie to set but there should be a little wobble at the centre. If you over-bake these they start to resemble cake.
Cool completely in the tin. Trim the edges and cut into 12 large or 15 medium squares. I store these in the fridge and bring to room temperature before eating.