Happy Valentines Day! What better way to celebrate all things romance than by bringing you a delicious love themed bake! If your reading this post and thinking that the ‘difference’ in this red velvet cake might be that it’s not actually all that red, then no that’s not it, that’s just a rather confusing accident. Despite pouring in an entire bottle of food colouring my cake still came out of the oven looking more maroon than red. Maybe I added too much cocoa powder?
Anyway this is the first bake in my new Baking Club – a monthly bake-a-long where a group of cake loving folks all bake together under the same theme and share their recipes and ideas – If you’re thinking that sounds like fun (it is) then join in using the sign up form above, and join the Facebook Group here. February is our first month and LOVE is the theme (of course!) so I wanted to create something worthy of a Valentines treat without going too far down the hearts and kisses and pink frothy icing route.
Red velvet is GB’s absolute favourite type of cake, and seeing as my baking projects are primarily for him, and with it being our first Valentines as a married couple, I thought red velvet would be the perfect start. Let’s just temporarily forget that it didn’t come out all that red shall we? I’m sure his new favourite is maroonish brown velvet, I mean that’s totally what I was aiming for.
But the thing about red velvet is that in terms of baking, it’s nothing new and chances are you all know how to make it already (Not me apparently – I can’t even get the colour right). I knew I’d need to up my game significantly in my new group of 27 keen bakers if I was able to call myself a baking club host. And so I attempted a red velvet cake with a difference – the difference being a little hidden heart effect inside my loaf. From the outside it looks like a humble sponge cake with cream cheese frosting but slice into it and you get a cute Valentines surprise. Romantic without being too cheesy. Fun huh?
This was something I’ve always wanted to try after seeing similar things on Pinterest but when I began I had no idea how to go about it. Turns out it’s not as fiddly or as difficult as you might imagine… it just takes a VERY long time to do because of all the cooking and cooling times on the cakes. My first top tip is to block out a whole morning/afternoon if you’re planning to make this one – each step doesn’t take long to do but you can’t move on with the next step until the one before is completed if that makes sense.
“Top Tip: block out a whole morning or afternoon to bake this cake as you’ll need to be patient!”
Below is my version of the recipe plus the timings you can expect and my tips having attempted this for the first time, so you can avoid my mistakes! I did mine with a white heart inside a red (or maroon) cake but feel free to swap them around if you want a red heart inside. Happy baking!
What you’ll need… (x 2 Cakes)
175g unsalted butter (x 2)
140g self raising flour (x 2)
175g caster sugar (x 2)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (x 2)
85g ground almond powder (x 2)
100ml milk (x 2)
3 teasoons of vanilla essence
2 tablespoons of cocoa
30ml bottle of red food colouring
1 x loaf tin
1 x heart cookie cutter
What you’ll need… (Cream Cheese Frosting)
250g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Step 1 – Cake Number 1 (20 mins prep, 1 hour 10 mins cooking, 1 hour cooling)
1. Preheat the oven to around 160C and then grease and line a loaf tin. My absolute pro tip for lining a loaf tin with greaseproof paper is to cut strips and place them in a lattice effect within the tin leaving edges out so that you have something to pull the cake out with. It’s something I learned from a friend and have been doing ever since. It means that you don’t have to worry about the creases in the paper affecting the shape of your loaf but can still remove it from the tin easily.
2. Cream 1 portion (175g) of the butter and sugar together. If you don’t have a top notch mixer then this is where you’ll need to put in some real elbow grease like me! It pays to work those biceps and make sure this mixture is as smooth as it can be as you want to avoid lumps as the cake mix progresses.
“Top Tip – leave the butter out of the fridge for ten minutes before creaming as soft butter will be much easier to handle!”
3. Beat 3 of the eggs together and then add to the butter mix a little at a time, stirring each time, until all combined.
4. Sift 1 portion (140g) of the flour and the baking powder into the mix and then add the almonds. Mix well and then add the milk and vanilla essence and combine until there are no lumps.
5. Pour the mixture into your loaf tin and bake for 1 hour and 10 mins or until you can stick a skewer in and it comes out clean (you know the score).
6. Once you’ve removed your cake from the oven, lift out of the loaf tin and leave to cool completely (this is the first instance which needs extreme patience as if you’re anything like me you’ll be itching to get started on those hearts!)
Step 2 – Cake Number Two (20 mins prep, 1 hour cooking, 1 hour cooling)
7. While you wait for your first cake to cool you can whip up your second loaf. Repeat steps 1 – 4 again but this time add 2 tablespoons of cocoa (I’d perhaps dispute this slightly as this could be why mine wasn’t as red! I’ll leave it up to you) and a bottle of food colouring.
8. Wash, grease and re-line your loaf tin and set the mixture aside until you’ve made your hidden hearts.
Step 3 – Creating your hidden hearts (30 mins prep)
9. Once your loaf is completely cool (do be patient as it will be so much more crumbly and less workable when still warm) cut it into 4 cm slices (they seem quite chunky but go with it as you don’t want to be messing around with lots of fiddly individual hearts) removing the crust at either end of the loaf.
“Top Tip – don’t worry if your sponge feels greasy (mine did), it needs to be moist for you to cut the shapes – too dry and it would crumble away.”
10. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, stamp heart shapes out of the sponge. If your cutter is a little rubbish like mine just press it in to give you the shape then use a sharp knife to slice off the edges. You get lots of extra cake here to either snack on during those ‘patient’ moments or freeze for another time (would be good for cake pops).
Step 4 – Bringing it all Together
11. Once all your hearts are cut out (I got around 6 from my loaf) pour around a third of the red velvet mixture into the bottom of the loaf tin.
12. Carefully place your heart shapes into the mixture, packing them together as tight as possible and making sure you push them down as far as they can go.
“Top Tip – don’t forget cakes rise! Your heart may seem like it’s in the middle but like mine might rise up to the top of the cake in the cooking process so place them as low as possible.”
13. Pour the remaining cake mixture into the tin, covering the hearts completely and smoothing out the top as best you can.
14. Cook for 1 hour or again until a skewer comes out clean. I found my cooking a little uneven here as certain parts of the cake which had slotted in next to the already cooked hearts didn’t bake as fast as other areas so just make sure it’s completely cooked before removing from the oven.
15. Once ready, remove from the oven, pull out of the loaf tin and leave to cool completely.
Step 6 – The Frosting (10 mins prep)
16. While waiting for your loaf to cool, make the cream cheese frosting. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and then add the icing sugar. Mix well and then add the lemon juice before beating until smooth and shiny.
Step 7 – The finishing touches
17. Once the cake is cool, spread on a generous amount of frosting (no one likes scrimping on the icing). You can pipe if you like but I prefer the uneven look.
18. Decorate as you wish. I chose to add fruit and berries for mine (I use frozen berries as when defrosted you get that added juice which just looks and tastes so yummy over icing) but you can do anything you like. Maybe you’d prefer something more Valentines esque or maybe you like it plain.
19. Finally, when cool, and when ready to reveal, slice into it with generous portions and give say hello to your cute hidden heart. It’s a tense moment making that first cut, believe me!
A red velvet cake with a difference! I was pleasantly surprised at how much easier this was to make than I was imagining and reasonably pleased with how my hidden heart came out (next time I’ll push it down a bit further) so aside from the cocoa powder overtaking my bake, I’d deem this one a success!
Also – I actually made this gluten free so it’s easy enough to switch the flour without making too much difference to the consistency of the cake (the almonds help), and you could also change the icing if you prefer a chocolate glaze or traditional icing. Very versatile!
I just wasn’t expecting to lose a whole day to the process!
I’m super excited to share the rest of the baking club’s ‘LOVE’ themed creations with you at the end of the month so check back then for more tastiness! And if you want to join in – there’s still time and I’d LOVE to have you! Don’t forget to use #BBBakingClub on social media to find more ideas and inspiration from the group.