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This week’s obsession: Dead Velvet Cake

Yes I said Dead. That’s because I killed it. With glass. (Such a great Halloween treat!!)

Actually I’m killing it by refusing to make Red Velvet ever again. Let me explain:

Do you ever perform social experiments on the people around you just to see what will happen? (Please, oh please, say yes because there have been far too many weird things in my life that I’ve chalked up as someone trying to see “what happens if…” at my expense.) I’ve certainly done a few to try to understand what other people are thinking, why they think it, or just to gain insight into how the world works. 

I remember when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, I asked my mother two weeks in a row what a turn signal does while she was driving, just to see if she would use the exact same words to describe it to me (apparently at that time I was at a stage where I thought the world was extremely structured and that objects and actions had to be defined/described in the exact same terms every time you spoke about them). She did not use the same terms to explain it to me, so I had my answer. I’m pretty sure it was questions like that which caused people to think that I possessed a far less than average intelligence level as a child. I didn't help my case because sometimes my curiosity led me to do stupid things, too.

I once stapled my finger just to see what it felt like. I was probably between 7 and 9 years old at the time. Several kids in my class had been talking about how they had done it on accident and how much it REALLY hurt, so I was curious about what it felt like and decided to experiment on myself. #stupid (For the record, it hurt. But I was so ashamed of my own stupidity that I pulled the staple right back out and didn’t tell anyone because even though I was dumb enough to staple my own finger, I was actually self aware enough to know that I didn’t want to look one of my parents in the eye to tell them that I had done it on purpose.) See? My curiosity used to make me look stupid.

Crime scene cupcakes to take us into Halloween week.

I tell you all of this to explain an experiment that I once performed on my family. And how now, my curiosity sometimes makes me look like a jerk. You see, like most people, I used to eat Red Velvet cakes. I always thought they were aesthetically pleasing because of all the red, and was overjoyed at the chance to consume cream cheese frosting because, well… cream cheese freaking frosting!! It really doesn’t get better than that as far as frostings go. 

But then I went to pastry school, which ruined a lot of things for me believe it or not. Because I was educated by European chefs Red Velvet was never anything they dreamed (nightmared?) about teaching us, but it was certainly a flavor that was frequently requested at the bakeries where I worked after I graduated. Once I started baking professionally (read: made everything from scratch) I came to realize just how terrible red velvet cake is as far as a chocolate cake recipe goes. Seriously, oil and vinegar? In a cake?! Plus about a gallon of red food dye. (No joke, if you’re baking commercially, you’d have to buy a gallon jug of red dye and dump it into the cake mix. Excuse me while I vomit in the next room.)  Once I realized just how little chocolate (cocoa powder) was in a recipe for RV - typically just a tablespoon - I started paying attention to the flavor of the cake without the enhancement of the amazingness that is cream cheese frosting. And I have to say that I was extremely unimpressed. 

Red Velvet proved to be a pretty flavorless cake on its own, and was sometimes dry. I reported my findings to my family and friends who vehemently disagreed with me, although it was entirely without a well thought out reason. When I asked them why they thought RV cake was so unbelievably tasty every single response from them sounded like some version of “grumble-grumble-cream-cheese-frosting”. It occurred to me that none of them had ever tasted RV cake without the shield of the ubiquitous cream cheese frosting so I started explaining it to them about the true, unmasked flavors and ingredients of the cake. Everyone dismissed me and said that I was being ridiculous, which sparked my need to have my point heard.

Thus, the experiment.

For Phase I of the experiment, I made a RV cake with my usual cream cheese frosting and everyone loved it! No surprise there. Also I should mention that shortly after I graduated from pastry school, I had to have a talk with my family about giving feedback. When I was fresh out of school, I would let them taste/eat anything they wanted as long as they promised to give me feedback about it. Every time they taste tested for me, they would say things like “it’s so good!” or “great job!” or “this is so delicious!”, which is really awesome if you ask my ego, but my inner novice who was desperately trying to develop into a better chef was getting pretty frustrated. So I had a talk with my family and told them that they were allowed to say negative things about my pastries if that's what they truly thought. I guess I didn’t communicate that very well because what I meant was that they could critique my work honestly to help me improve, but what they heard was “LET ME HAVE IT!!!!” And boy did they. 

Enter Phase II.

Look at all that blood oozing off the cream cheese frosting. It's so wonderful <3

For Phase II, I got the same family members together again and I made the same recipe of RV cake as the first time, but I didn’t dye it red. It was so gross because without all the red dye the cake came out some weird sort of grayish brown. #Gross #Nasty #JustDontEatIt Also, I made my chocolate frosting for the non-red Red Velvet cake, which I felt further highlighted the lack of cocoa powder in the cake by contrast. I fed it to them after dinner, and the opinions and “feedback” started to fly! Long story short, they didn’t like the cake one bit. I’m hesitant to repeat most of what was said to me that day, but the one that stung the most was the suggestion that I didn’t really know how to bake. #OUCH However, I quickly got over it so I could do the big reveal! Imagine the look on their faces when I told them that it was the very same cake they just loved last time, but I took away their beloved cream cheese frosting and they hated it. I finally proved my point!! #ToldYaSo 

It’s moments like these where my curiosity makes me look like a jerk.

So I’m putting an end to this once and for all. I will not make Red Velvet cake again. I will, however, make a Dead Velvet cake. And I will make it often because oooooooooo. It’s sooo sooo good!

This cake uses butter! With no oil or vinegar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it uses fresh brewed coffee!! (The flavor of just about any chocolate recipe can be enhanced with coffee, and I enjoy every moment of it!) And it uses 4oz. of Dutch processed cocoa powder (Dutch processed cocoa powder has a much darker color and has less of an acidic taste) instead of just a tablespoon of regular cocoa powder! And look at that color! (I’m swooning over here. I don’t know if you can tell or not. I think the exclamation points gave me away.)

Anyway, I topped these delicious little Dead Velvet cupcakes with my lovely cream cheese frosting, but I made sure to take out my frustrations about Red Velvet on the cupcakes by stabbing them with (candy) glass and leaving a trail of (fake) blood all over it. I think it’s perfect for Halloween, don’t you? 

The man candy is going to be SO PISSED when he finds out that this is why I borrow his tools all the time. Sorry, sweetie! XOXO)

The candy glass was pretty easy to make; it’s just boiled sugar and corn syrup. The best part was taking a hammer to it to crack it up. Thank God I had the forethought to put the pan on the floor before smashing it with a hammer because I would have certainly cracked the REAL glass top on my table (but it was SUCH a good stress reliever!).

The fake blood (just like the stuff I used in my “Monster Smashed” cake from my last post) proved a little more challenging, mostly because I read the recipe wrong in my morning pre-coffee stupor and added triple the amount of water ::facepalm:: But to give the blood color some depth, I added a drop of blue gel coloring. The thing I didn’t notice is that I also spilled a drop of blue gel coloring on the floor and then I stepped in it. And trekked it all over the kitchen. And dining room, which has carpet. ::another facepalm:: So after all the baking, photographing, writing, and posting, I also get to do a super deep cleaning to get rid of the blue dye (YAY ADULTING!!).

Also, please send me some good vibes because even after all of that, I still have to go out into the world with these delicious cupcakes and I know that I’m going to have to explain why they’re Dead Velvet instead of Red Velvet which nearly always leads to an argument… On second thought, maybe I’ll just stay home and eat them all myself! #BestPlanEver

Happy eating, y’all!

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