Red velvet cake. It’s a Southern classic. But one of those classics that I took for granted all those years growing up in the South. (I am from Savannah, Georgia and it doesn’t get much more Southern than that.) But my mom is Korean and so I never really thought of myself as “Southern”. At least not until I moved to California. It seems like the absence of things I took for granted made that Southernness start to surface. Things like: Chick-fil-A, good biscuits, fried shrimp (don’t get me started talking about Savannah shrimp vs just about any other kind. Really, just don’t), barbecue and red velvet cake.
I watched as Krispy Kreme doughnuts swept the nation. People would rave about the new doughnut shop that opened, but I was just excited to be reunited with the reason I was late to high school at least a few times a week. Once I was old enough to drive myself to school, my chronic tardiness began to shine through. It’s one of those things I’ve fought as an adult because in business it is less acceptable. But it is a lot of work for me because I am naturally wired to be 5-10 minutes late. Add a Krispy Kreme with its beautiful red “Hot Now” sign conveniently on my way to school, and well… let’s just say I’ve eaten a few doughnuts. I also had to serve detention for racking up so many tardies. But it was worth it.
So a couple years ago, when I started to hear about red velvet cake as the new “it” cake. I just had to smile. I love red velvet cake. And Sprinkles has a mighty fine one. But my mom’s will always be my favorite. My mom went through a baking phase when I was in high school. She had her 3: carrot cake(her favorite), pound cake (my favorite), and red velvet cake. I can remember coming home from school to find one of those three in the cake dome on the table. Everyday. (Well, everyday in my memory doesn’t necessarily mean it was everyday in reality. But it was a lot of days for sure). Between the Krispy Kremes for breakfast and big slice of cake for an after school snack, it is amazing I didn’t gain weight, but I guess that is one of the wonders of being a teenager.
I was home for a visit when my cousin was pregnant a couple of years ago and she was having a big craving for red velvet cake. She had gone to Publix and tried their red velvet, but it wasn’t good enough. She wanted my mom’s red velvet cake. So my mom obliged and made her a cake. And it was as good as we all remembered. I’m lucky to have my mom’s 3 cake recipes tucked away. I’ve tried to make all three and have been happy with the results. The recipes are tried and true, but when I make it it lacks that little extra something that you can only get when it comes from your mom’s kitchen… but then I’m not sure how to replicate that. I’m just happy to be be able to make a close second.
Red Velvet Cupcakes (adapted from “Teri’s Red Velvet Cake” aka the recipe my mom uses)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 ounce red food coloring (about half of a small bottle)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa, sifted
3/4 cup oil
1 1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl (the batter will be very liquid).
3. Fill muffin cups about 2/3 – 3/4 full.
4. Bake for about 18 minutes.
5. Frost with cream cheese frosting (and if you want to be really classic, add pecans to the frosting).
Makes 15-16 cupcakes
Note: I sprinkled the tops with chopped dark chocolate. I also stirred some of that chocolate into the last bit of batter (I had already baked off 12, and had a little batter left). The dark chocolate chunks mixed into the red velvet cake was magically delicious.