This post comes from our guest contributor Beth Kirby from Local Milk.
If a guilt driven bouquet and a bottle of red food coloring aren’t your love language, then maybe this is: a deep red velvet cake naturally colored with earthy beets & a lush potted succulent in lieu of roses. You see, Valentine’s Day wasn’t always such a torrential downpour of cellophane, cheap chocolates, and stilted romantic gestures. It wasn’t even always “Valentine’s Day”. It has roots in ancient purification, in goat skins and vestal virgins, in burnt offerings and a wolf mother god, Lupa, in the ancient festival of Lupercalia. That’s how deep the roots of Valentine’s Day go. The very name of this month, this last gasp of winter, derives from the word Februa, the festival of purification that predates even the sensual fertility celebration of the wolf. Fertility means so much more than childbearing. It means a fertile earth. Fertile creativity. Fertile communities and relationships. Spring cleansing to promote fertility of all sorts, those are the twining roots of this holiday. So what better way to celebrate sensuality, love, and the life giving promise of imminent spring than with potted succulents that will out last the withering bouquets and clean the air around them on top of it? And then to share in an earthy cake that’s free of chemical dyes and processed cheese but just as red, moist, velvety, and delicious as that fine cake of the long Southern tradition? I can’t think of anything better. Whether you do this for yourself, your family, or your lover—this holiday is, at it’s roots, about cleansing & preparing for the return of life.
Red Velvet Cake with Goat Cheese Thyme Icing
yields 2 small bundts or one 2 layer 8” cake or about 20 cupcakes
This cake gets its intense red color a combination of acid with raw cacoa and a reduced beet puree. The reduction of the puree is necessary to produce an intense color with minimal amount of puree leading to a cake that’s more in line with the traditional red velvet texture and taste. It’s important that you use room temperature ingredients where noted, and that your flour be unbleached and your cocoa not be Dutch processed (alkalized). I also wouldn’t advise substituting milk for buttermilk. The acid in this cake is key!
250 g ( 2 cups) unbleached ap flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp raw cacao or unprocessed cocoa powder (non-alkalized)
100g (1/3 + 1/4 cup) coconut oil (refined), at room temp
50g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp
300 g (1 1/4 cup) sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, room temp
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp reduced beet puree (fully cool)
2.5 tsp champagne vinegar (or other white vinegar)
180 g (3/4 cup) buttermilk, at room temp
goat cheese glaze
8 oz goat cheese, at room temp
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp thyme, finely minced & packed
3 small beets or 2 medium
1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup water
Make Beet Puree…
Heat oven to 400°F. Wash beets thoroughly, scrubbing to remove any dirt. Line a small baking dish with tin foil, place beets along with water in the dish. Cover tightly with additional foil and bake for one hour or until beets are completely tender when pierced. Using a paper towel and being careful to not burn yourself, wipe off the skin—it’ll come right off! Cut beets in to chunks. Place beets along with the left over beet water in the bottom of the pan and the additional 1/4 cup of water into a food processor or blender (I use my mini processor). Puree completely until absolutely no lumps remain. Press this puree through a sieve, discarding any pulp that doesn’t pass through. and into a small sauce pan. Simmer the beet puree until reduced, about ten minutes. You should have a little over 1/4 cup by the end. Place reduced beet puree in a bowl and set aside to cool completely while you make your cake.
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cake tin of your choice thoroughly with butter or organic cooking spray. If using traditional round tins, line bottom with parchment after greasing and then grease parchment.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa to combine thoroughly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream coconut oil, butter, salt, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl at the half way mark. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Mix until smooth and thoroughly combined. Scrape down bowl again, and add in beet puree and vinegar. Mix to combine thoroughly on low, again scraping down the bowl as needed.
With the mixer on low, add in the flour and buttermilk in three additions, alternating between the two, beginning with flour and ending on buttermilk and scraping down the bowl, making sure to scrape up the very bottom, as needed. Once just combined remove bowl from mixer and give it a stir gently with your spatula just to make sure it’s thoroughly mixed.
Fill cake tins no more than 1/2-3/4 the way full. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in multiple places in the cake. I start checking at 25 for small cakes, 30 for thicker ones.
When done, remove cake from oven and allow to cool in tin on a rack for about 5-10 minutes. Turn cake out onto a plate and allow to cool fully before icing…or it will melt. If you only want a light glaze, you can put your icing on a warm cake, which is what I do. But if you want a thicker icing, definitely wait until totally cool!
While the cake cools…make the glaze:
In a medium bowl whisk the powdered sugar and thyme into the goat cheese. It will turn into an icing consistency without any additional liquid added. Voila!
Thank you Beth! A very happy Valentines day to all of you beauties…
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