Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake

I love pound cake and I adore coconut, so when I found a Southern Living recipe for Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

The recipe called for bourbon in the batter, but I substituted it for an equal amount of heavy cream. I know people say that the bourbon intensifies the flavor of the cake, but I just don't care for liquor in my baked goods (no Tortuga rum cakes for me). I also baked the cake in mini loaf pans (7) instead of one large tube pan. The mini loaf pans had two advantages: 1) I could split the batter and make some with coconut and some without (weird family members who hate coconut) and 2) any loaves that remained uneaten by the end of the party could be sent home with guests and thus kept away from my greedy pound cake lovin lips and hips.

Here are the loaf pans waiting to go into the oven. I divided the batter between seven of the eight available wells. I could have used all eight, but I thought that it would make the loaves too flat.

Just out of the oven, puffy, golden brown and oh-so tempting.

Waiting for their bath in shiny glaze.

The original Southern Living article gave two glaze options. One was a plain powdered sugar glaze and the other was a brown sugar-praline glaze. I always go for the more calorie packed option, so I opted for the praline glaze. Here is the glaze cooking on the stove.

After I drizzled the praline glaze over a few of the loaves, I decided I didn't like the way it looked. The glaze looked splotchy and coarse, and it didn't flow like I wanted. Plus it hardened immediately and I didn't have time to smash the coconut into the glaze.

So I whipped up a batch of shiny butter cream icing, and used it instead of the praline glaze. The butter cream stayed soft for a while so I was able to coat the entire thing with coconut flakes. Perfect.

And here are the few slices.

While stuffing my face with pound cake I did noticed that the loaves with coconut in the batter were moister than the loaves without the coconut. Did the coconut help to hold moisture during baking? The loaves were all baked at the same time and the pans were rotated halfway through the baking period, so the only thing different was the coconut.

So don't omit the coconut, without it the finished cake is slightly dry.

If you want a deliciously moist pound cake without coconut and pecans try Elvis Presley's Favorite Whipping Cream Pound Cake. It is one of the best pounds cakes I have ever tried.

Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake
from Southern Living - December 2004, 2008


* 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
* 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 3 cups sugar
* 6 large eggs
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup bourbon (I used heavy whipping cream)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
* 1/2 cup shredded coconut


* Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread pecans in a single layer and bake for 5-7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Cool completely.
* Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
* Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
* Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy.
* Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yellow yolk disappears.
* Sift together flour and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with bourbon (or milk), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition.
* Stir in vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch/12-cup tube pan. (I used 7 mini loaf pans.)

* Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. (I baked my mini loaf pans for 35 minutes.)

Brown Sugar-Praline Glaze
from Southern Living - December 2004, 2008


* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
* 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
* 2 Tablespoons milk
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


* Melt butter in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat.
* Whisk in brown sugar and corn syrup; cook 1 minute.
* Add powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; whisk until creamy (about 2 minutes).
* Remove from heat and use immediately.

Shiny Butter Cream Icing
from Tongue-N-Cheeky


* 2 cups powdered sugar
* 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
* 1 teaspoon heavy cream


* In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. With an electric mixer, at medium speed, beat until mixed well.
* If thinner consistency is desired, add corn syrup by the teaspoon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowy Chocolate (Brownie) Baby Cakes

Last year in Southern Living's December 2008 issue there were the cutest little Christmas cupcakes called Snowy Chocolate Baby Cakes. These little gems were simply upside-down chocolate cupcakes topped with white glaze and garnished with red cinnamon candies and fresh bay leaves.

I didn't get a chance to make them in 2008, but I put them on my list of "Things to Bake for Christmas 2009". And surprise, surprise I actually made something on my list. Here they are…

Too cute.

The original article in Southern Living used a doctored devil's food cake mix for the cupcakes, but I already had Birthday Cake on my Christmas menu so I decide to make baby brownie cakes. I used a Curtis Stone brownie recipe adeptly named "Best Fudge Brownies". And believe you me they are indeed the best fudgy brownies I've baked (so far). They are not fudgy to the point of goo, but not cake-like in the least. They are just right.

Even the batter looked yummy...

Baby Brownie Cakes just out of the oven...

One of the brownie cupcakes stuck to the pan, but the rest dropped out without a problem...

I iced the brownie cupcakes using the Winter White Glaze recipe given in the Southern Living article, and I garnished with mini M&Ms and mint leaves (I didn't have any cinnamon candies or bay leaves). I had a little trouble with the mini M&Ms bleeding into the white glaze, so make sure the glaze is completely dry before topping with the candies. The M&Ms may not melt in your hands, but they sure do melt on wet sugar glaze. The mint leaves also caused a bit of crisis because they started to wilted after just a few hours. Next time, I'll solve all the problems by making the garnishes out of fondant.

Best Fudge Brownie Cupcakes
from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favourite Mood

Yield 8 cupcakes

6 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, (60-70% cacao). Chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

To make the cupcakes:
  • Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Using a standard 12 wells cupcake pan, generously spay the top of the pan and 8 of the wells with non-stick cooking spray (or line with paper cupcake liners)
  • Stir the chocolate and butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat until they melt and the mixture is smooth.
  • Stir in the syrup and salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs in a large bowl for 2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and light.
  • Slowly stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.
  • Add the flour and baking powder, and stir just until blended; then stir in the walnuts.
  • Divide the batter equally among the 8 cupcake wells, filling them completely.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cupcakes puff and crack on top and a skewer inserted into the center of one comes out with fudgy crumbs attached.
  • Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Winter White Glaze

Yield: 2 cups

4 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon meringue powder
1/4 cup (or more) hot water

  • Beat together all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Add more water as needed to achieve a pourable consistency.
  • Use immediately. Cover the glaze surface directly with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Brown Sugar Butter Buttons

A beautiful photo on FoodGawker lead me to a posting by Tongue-N-Cheeky for Brown Sugar Butter Buttons. The cookies looked so cute and cheeky that I decided to give them a try.

The dough came together beautifully…

And the cookies baked up without any problems.

Tongue-N-Cheeky said that the Butter Buttons baked up flakey and surprisingly hollow. I was dying to see the hollow center so as soon as they were out of the oven I cracked one open. But instead of a hollow center I found an ooey, gooey mess.

Sad and dejected (I wanted hollow cookies) I abandoned the baking sheet of failed Butter Buttons and went on to making my next holiday treat. A few hours later I picked up a Button, broke it open, and prepared to photo document my failure. But instead of a gooey mess, I found a perfectly hollow cookie. Amazing. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. Somehow in the cooling process the inside of the cookie shrank and a cavern formed in the center.

Isn’t baking a strange and wondrous thing? If anyone can explain the physics/chemistry of how the cavern forms in the cookie I would appreciate it.

As far as the taste, well honestly, I didn’t care for them much. The cookie was ultra sweet and very crisp. I don’t think I’ll make them again, but I sure would like to know how that hollow center formed.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cran-Apple Crisp Pie

I wanted to bake an apple pie for our Christmas Day lunch, but I couldn’t decide which recipe to try. Should I use a recipe that called for pre-cooking the apples or one that used raw? Raisins? Nuts? Did I want a double crust pie or one with crumble? The possibilities were infinite.

In the end I decided to use Dorie Greenspan’s Cran-Apple Crisp recipe but baked in a 9” deep-dish pie shell instead of a soufflĂ© dish. Like all of Dorie’s recipes, it turned out yummy.

Here are the filling ingredients just waiting to be tossed together.

And here are all the yummy sugar-coated goodness squeezed into their pie-shell home.

And the crumb/crisp topping. (Not very pretty, huh?)

Such a shame to hide all those beautiful bright red cranberries and crisp green apples, but I new the end product would be delicious. Thanks again Dorie. Your recipes never disappoint.

Cran-Apple Crisp Pie

Adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours – Dorie Greenspan

For the topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

For the filling
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, don’t thaw)
1/2 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1/2 cup pecans
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 - 9" deep-dish pie shell (frozen or home made)

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

To make the topping:
Put all the topping ingredients in a large bowl. Using your fingers or a fork, cut the butter into the topping mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumb. (You can make the topping up to 3 days ahead and refrigerate it in an airtight bag.)

To make the filling:
Toss all the filling ingredients together in a large bowl. Place frozen (or home made) pie shell on the lined baking sheet. Pour the filling into the pie shell, and spoon the topping evenly over the top of the filling. Bake 40-45 minutes or until the topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling up around it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

WOW! Can I say it again? WOW!

These little bacon-chicken wraps were a huge hit at our Christmas Eve party. I baked three batches and within minutes of each batch leaving the oven they were gone. Everyone wanted the recipe and to me that is a sure sign of success.

This recipe is compliments of Paula Deen. Thank you Paula.

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

1-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes.

  • Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick.

  • Stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture.

  • Coat a rack and broiler pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken on rack in broiler pan.

  • Bake at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bacon is crisp.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

"Uncle Bill's" recipe for Whipped Shortbread cookies has been sitting in my "to bake" box for ages. I found the recipe on Recipe Zaar and at the time of this posting there were 227 review of the recipe with 99% of them being positive. With all of those 5 star ratings I decided to give them a try.

The ingredient list was very basic: butter, flour, icing sugar, vanilla. And the cookie dough came together quick and easy.

They look simply scrumptious unbaked...

But honestly I was a little disappointed in the finished product. The cookies were tasty, but they were so tender and delicate that they crumbled and dissolved as soon as they touched my lips. I had no chance to bite down on the little buggers and chew. Big disappointment. To me chewing slowly and reverently is a huge part of the whole "cookie" experience.

I also wish mine had come out a little thicker. My dough was a little soft and sticky (I should have added more flour), and the cookies spread substantially during baking. They ended up big and round and flat as pancakes.

Christmas is right around the corner, so I'm going to try these cookies again. Hey, 200+ positive reviews on Recipe Zaar can't be wrong! But this time I'll add a little more flour (to give the cookie more bulk) and substitute half the icing sugar for regular granulated sugar (so they are not as delicate).

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Red Velvet Cake Taste-Off: Round 2

In mid-November I conducted a taste test of Red Velvet Cake recipes (see blog entry here). I baked 8 different cakes and recruited 25 people to sample and rate the entries. The undisputed winner of the Red Velvet Taste-Off : Round 1 was:

Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet Cake
But the day after I compiled my results, I ran across yet another distinctive Red Velvet Cake recipe. This one was from Rose's Levy Beranbaum book Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The actual cake is called Rose Red Velvet and for its fat is uses butter and oil. It also uses more eggs than any of the other recipes I tested. The person who brought this cake to my attention said it was better than Cake Man Raven's! That got my attention. Better than Cake Man Raven? Red Velvet Cake Taste-Off #2 was on.

For this round I baked three different recipes:
  • Rose's Red Velvet - Rose Levy Beranbaum - the challenger
  • Cake Man Raven's - because it had won the first round of the taste test
  • Waldorf Astoria recipe with a tweak - My original reason for conducting this taste test was to find a recipe that mimicked the Red Velvet Cake sold at Piccadilly Cafeteria (the absolute best RVC). Flavor and color wise I think the Waldorf cake comes the closest, but it is not nearly as moist as Piccadilly's. So in this test I added 1/4 cup of light corn syrup hoping to give it a little more moisture. Sadly my tweaked Waldorf did not produce a copy cat of Piccadilly RVC. Granted my tweak cake was better than the original, but still not measure up to Piccadilly's caliber.

So here are the three cakes all stacked up:

And sliced open:

So which do you think won? Which do you think looks the best?

Well the winner yet again was Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet Cake.

The Waldorf cake came in second and the Rose Red Velvet cake came in third. In this round I only had 9 taste testers, as opposed to the 25 testers in round one. Two of the tasters (the kids) picked the Rose cake as their favorite (they said it was the sweetest), but the other 7 had it as their least favorite. One of the biggest complaints about the Rose RVC was that it was too dry and two people remarked that it had a spongy, angel food cake texture. If you want to see a spreadsheet listing all the results click here.

So after two unbiased tests, the oil based Red Velvet Cake is still reigns as the undisputed favorite.

BUT even as I write this someone handed me yet another RVC recipe. It is Red Velvet time of the year. This one used uses brown sugar instead of white and a 1/2 cup cocoa. I must test this recipe, so stay tuned for round 3 of the Ultimate Red Velvet Taste-Off (some time around Christmas).

Friday, November 27, 2009

DB - Nov 2009 - Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I’ve never had much luck with fried deserts, and this month’s cannoli challenge was no different. I wouldn’t saw it was a total failure, but neither was it a success. Look for yourself:

A little too brown and a little too thick, and I didn’t care for the taste at all. I couldn’t see spending more money and time on something I knew I wouldn’t eat, so I skipped the filling. I know, I know, I’m a bad Daring Baker.

Here is the dough just out of the frig and waiting to be rolled and cut.

I didn't have any cannoli forms so as suggested, I used pasta shells.

Here are a few cannoli waiting to go into the grease.

Again, the final product. I guess my grease was too hot, because the cannoli browned much too quickly (after about 1 minute). I lowered the temperature of the grease, but I still had trouble. A few cannoli popped apart and a few wouldn't slide off the pasta shell. I fried a few "cannolipoleons". The flat disks looked better than my rolled attempts, but they all tasted kinds doughy and bland. I guess the "pizazz" of a cannoli comes from the filling and not from the dough itself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Taste-Off: 8 Cakes, 25 Testers, 1 Winner

I've always been a big fan of Red Velvet Cake, and my absolute favorite RVC comes from Piccadilly's Cafeteria. Their version is very dense and moist and full of tangy, buttermilk flavor. They used to put pecans in the icing, but they stopped doing that because of nut allergies and law suit threats. What a sad, sad day that was when the waitress handed me that piece of cake sans pecans.

But I digress; the point of this blog post is to share the results of my Ultimate Red Velvet Taste Test. Here are the contenders all stacked up.

I started the experiment by scouring the internet for Red Velvet Cake recipes. There were a LOT! But most of the recipes fell into three categories: those containing Oil, those containing Shortening, and those containing Butter. There were also a few that used combinations of the three different fats, and some that deviated drastically from the norm.

My first step was to build a spreadsheet to help compare and contrast the different recipes and help decide which cakes to test (click HERE to download the spreadsheet). A lot of the recipes I looked at were exactly the same, so the spreadsheet only has recipes that are different in some way. The recipes fall into specific categories of: butter, oil, shortening, combination, and other. In the butter, oil and shortening categories I selected one recipe as the base, and noted how the other recipes in that category deviate from the “base”.

The largest percentage of recipes I found used BUTTER as the fat. The butter recipes I included on the spreadsheet are:
  • Sylvia’s Red Velvet - from Emeril’s site
  • Joy of Baking’s Red Velvet (same as Epicurious’ Red Velvet)
  • Grandmother Paula’s Red Velvet – from Paula Deen at the Food Network
  • Montclair Martha’s Red Velvet – from Martha Stewart
  • Hummingbird’s Red Velvet
  • Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet
  • Brown Derby Red Velvet
  • Cooks Country Red Velvet
  • Christmas Red Velvet - from The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather

The recipes are very similar with just minor changes in sugar, cocoa, and vinegar content. In the end I selected Paula Deen’s version as the "typical butter” RVC . I also selected Rebecca Rather’s version because it added sour cream in addition to the butter.

In the OIL category of RVC are:
  • Cake Man Raven’s Southern Red Velvet (same as Apple a Day and Saveur)
  • Rachel’s Red Velvet – from Martha Stewart
  • Sara Moulton’s Southern Red Velvet
  • Smitten Kitchen's Red Velvet Cake from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook” by Elisa Stauss
  • Bobby Flay’s Red Velvet Cake
Because it is so famous, I selected the Cake Man Raven version. I also selected Bobby Flay’s version which uses a combination of oil and butter.

Next were the SHORTENING RVCs. This category had the smallest number of recipe variations but it includes the most famous of them all: Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake. I also found a variation of the Waldorf recipe that included Cane Syrup. The syrup recipe looked interesting (could Cane Syrup possibly be the secret to Piccadilly's unique RVC?) so I included it in the baking lineup.

Last but not least is the OTHER category of RVC recipes. I recently received a copy of Melissa Gray’s book All Cakes Considered which includes a RVC recipe that contains no buttermilk. Hummm. I was curious enough to add her version to the experiment.

So in the end I settled on 8 different RVC recipes to use in my taste test:
  1. Grandmother Paula’s Red Velvet Cake – Paula Deen (butter)
  2. Cake Man Raven’s Southern Red Velvet (oil)
  3. Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake (shortening)
  4. Bobby Flay’s Red Velvet Cake (butter & oil)
  5. Louisiana Red Velvet (shortening & cane syrup)
  6. The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather’s Christmas Red Velvet Cake (butter & sour cream)
  7. Melissa Gray’s Dark-Chocolate Red Velvet Cake (no buttermilk, sour cream)
  8. Duncan Hines Red Velvet Box Mix – YES a box mix. I wanted to see how a box mix compared to the scratch recipes.

On the morning of November 16, 2009 the baking began. I set up an assembly line, preheated the oven, and began to mix, whisk and bake. Seven hours later I was finished. Whew, what a marathon. The next morning I hauled everything to work: eight cakes, a huge tub of cream cheese icing, plates, forks, and a stack of scoring sheets.

Once at work (I got there an hour early), I unwrapped and iced all the cakes and added sprinkles to each so the taste tester could identify them. Blue sprinkles, green sugar, yellow balls, each cake had its own unique topping.

Each cake was sliced into thin wedges and a wedge of each was placed on a plate.

The tasters themselves were carefully selected because of their love of cake and their familiarity with Red Velvet Cake in particular. There are over 200 people in the office and only 25 of them got cake. Some people where kinda pissed that they weren’t “selected”, but hey, you can only get so many slices from a cake. It is also worth noting that the cakes were frosted but the testers were asked to base their cake critique on just the cake and not the cake and icing combination.

The result sheets trickled in during the day (some people didn’t want to eat their cakes until lunch), and I was amazed at the variety of responses. What really gave me pause were the critiques of the icing (remember I told them that the icing wasn't part of the test). One person, in addition to the cake ratings, rated the icing. She loved some of the icings and hated others. She said one had a “flour” taste and another she said didn’t have enough sugar. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that all the cakes had the exact same cream cheese icing. The only thing I can figure is that the icing took on different flavors and nuances when eaten with the cake. Strange how the mind and taste buds work.

But on to the results. I know you are dying to know which cake WON.

Drum roll please.

The winner of the first Ultimate Red Velvet Taste-Off is...


Cake Man Raven’s Red Velvet Cake
The oil based cake beat out the butter. Are you surprised? Shocked?

Here is a detail ranking of cakes.

Note that “1” is the best possible score, and “8” is the worst possible score. The cakes were ranked 1-8 with the taster's favorite cake given a score of "1" (first place), their second favorite given a score of "2" (second place), and so on. Their least favorite cake was given the rank of "8" (eighth place). Also, 5 people didn’t give me back my sheets (yet).

In FIRST place: Cake Man Raven’s Red Velvet Cake – score 2.85

  • 11 people gave it a “best cake” scores of 1 or 2, 8 people gave it an “average” score of 3, 4, 5, or 6, and 1 person gave it a “worst cake” score of 7 or 8.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Moist, light and fluffy, melts in your mouth. Although one person said it was dry, another said it had no flavor, and a third said that it tasted like a “box” mix. Ironically the person who said this cake tasted like a box mix gave the Duncan Hines cake very high marks.

In SECOND place: The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather’s RVC – score 3.8

  • 6 rated it the “best”, 13 rated it “average”, 1 rated it “worst”.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Moist, too dense, a little sticky, packs in the mouth, mushy, less sweet. One person said it had a soapy taste.

  • I found the the Pastry Queen's cake looked the best. It was light and fluffy and had a bright red color. I did have trouble applying the icing though, the surface of the cake crumbled and the fine crumbs bled/mixed into the icing.

In THIRD place: Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake – score 3.85

  • 5 rated it the “best”, 12 rated it “average”, 3 rated it “worst”.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Dry, good flavor, chocolaty, traditional.

In FOURTH place: Duncan Hines Red Velvet Box Mix – score 3.9

  • 6 rated it the “best”, 11 rated it “average”, 3 rated it “worst”.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Chocolate taste, light and airy, good texture, light flavor, a little dry and bland.

In FIFTH Place: Louisiana Red Velvet – score 4.05

  • 7 rated it the “best”, 7 rated it “average”, 6 rated it “worst”.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Dense, a little sticky, not sweet enough, don’t like the flavor, strange taste, rum-like flavor, traditional red velvet, fruity flavor.

  • The Cane Syrup in this cake caused a love-it or hate-it reaction in the taste-testers. This cake definitely had a “different” taste and people either devoured it or tossed it in the trash.

In SIXTH Place: Grandmother Paula's Red Velvet Cake - Paula Deen – score 4.7

  • 4 rated it the “best”, 11 rated it “average”, 5 rated it “worst”.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Buttery, pleasant taste, light & moist, moist but crumbly in the mouth, too gooey, sticks to the roof of mouth, too soft, needs to be denser, needs more texture, okay taste but weird texture.

  • I was surprised that the “butter” cake rated so low because in my mind everything is better with butter.

In SEVENTH Place: Bobby Flay's Red Velvet Cake – score 5.75

  • 1 rated it the “best”, 12 rated it “average”, 7 rated it “worst”.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Chocolate taste, a little drier than others, don’t like, fluffy, bland, no flavor, good taste but more like devil’s food than red velvet.

  • It really surprised me that Bobby Flay’s recipe ranked so low. I thought the combination of butter and oil would produce a winning cake.

In EIGHTH Place: Melissa Gray's Dark-Chocolate Red Velvet Cake– score 7.1

  • 0 rated it the “best”, 6 rated it “average”, 14 rated it “worst”.

  • Common Tasters Comments: Does not taste like Red Velvet, dry, bland, slightly bitter, more like devil’s food cake, too dense and firm.

  • This cake was universally disliked in RVC taste test. In my opinion the cake itself had a good taste, if slightly on the dry side, but it just didn’t taste like Red Velvet. It was more like a yellow pound cake with red food color and cocoa added.
Click HERE to see all the results.

So what do you think of my results? Do you agree or disagree. I was really surprised at the diversity of opinions on each the cakes and I’ve come to realize that one cake will never satisfy all the people all the time. Next time I bake a three layer Red Velvet Cake I’m going to make each layer a different recipe: Cake Man Raven, The Pastry Queen, and Waldorf Astoria. Hopefully my Threesome Red Velvet Cake will satisfy everyone.

PS: I’m also thinking about doing another round of RVC testing. I still can’t believe that Bobby Flay’s recipe came in so low (did I do something wrong?), and I found another recipe by Rose Levy that uses butter and oil (like Bobby’s) but only uses egg whites instead of whole eggs. I still have some buttermilk and red food color left over from the first round, so I’m going to preheat my oven and start RVC baking again.

Update December 3, 2009:
To see the results of the Red Velvet Taste-Off - Round 2 click here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

TWD - Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins

I know these Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins were not on the Tuesday with Dorie baking schedule, but I was baby-sitting this weekend and I wanted to bake some the kids would enjoy.

But alas, they weren’t the hit I thought they would be. The kids devoured the leftover batter, but they didn’t care for the finished muffin at all. The biggest complaints were not enough chocolate chunks, not sweet enough, and TOO DRY. Way, way too dry.

The first step in the muffin mixing was melting the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a small bowl. Amanda, my niece, said it smelled divine.

Here are all the pieces-parts waiting to be mixed together: the dry, the wet, the melted, and the chunks (chocolate chunks that is).

Here is everything all mixed up. I didn't think it had enough chocolate chunks, so I threw in an extra handful. In hindsight I should have thrown in three handfuls, some oil, and a little extra vanilla.

Into the oven they go, twelve lovely little muffins to be.

Amanda really liked the taste of the batter. She licked the bowl clean.

Just out of the oven, 375° for 18 minutes (2 minutes less than Dorie suggested). They sure do look good.

But looks can be deceiving. They were a big dissapointment in the taste department. In attempt to mask the dryness, I whipped up some ganache and slathered the top in chocolate stripes. It helped a little, but not much.

I felt they just needed something more. If I ever make them again, I'll add more chocolate, more sugar, more vanilla, and maybe some oil (for extra moistness).

Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line your muffin pan with paper muffin cups or butter it well.

Melt the butter and 1/2 of the bittersweet chocolate.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Combine the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla in a bowl.

Pour the buttermilk mixture and the chocolate/melted butter mixture into the bowl with all the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, gently and quickly stir to blend. Stir in the remaining bittersweet chocolate.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Let the pan cool on a rack for 5 minutes then remove the muffins.