The holiday season has always been a favorite time of year for me. There’s something about the combination of brisk walks during early evenings, houses outfitted with blinking lights while ornament-adorned trees poke out from behind curtains, and the smell of wood smoke wafting from chimneys. The season evokes vivid memories of wrapping paper-filled garbage bags, and stockings hanging on the mantle, overflowing with candy canes.
These comforting feelings were the catalyst for this festive cake. I got inspiration from the classic yule logs you see this time of year, but I wanted to play around with the flavors of the season. I found a partner who was interested in supporting my idea, and I’m incredibly thankful to Whole Foods Market for collaborating with me on this cake by providing me with all of the best ingredients.
My idea was to create a red velvet cake with more of a holiday flare, and one thing that struck me while image-searching “red velvet” was how unnaturally red they all looked, especially considering that it’s a chocolate cake recipe. I knew I didn’t want to use food coloring, but, then, how do I get a nice red color for the candy cane look I was seeking? While strolling down the aisles of a Whole Foods Market, I found myself in the health section, where I spotted a package of beet powder on the shelf. That sighting started the wheels in the ol’ noggin’ turning, and I figured I could not only get the color I wanted, but actually provide a sliver of nutrition where none is typically found. Next was to find some peppermint oil to complete the candy cane experience.
Admittedly, some trial and error was involved developing this recipe. I found that bread flour gave the cake a good amount of structure to make rolling easier. It also made the cake much more dense than your typical fluffy birthday cake, and gave the cake a richer texture that paired nicely with the frosting. I had to go a bit lighter on the cacao powder to get the color I wanted, but it still provided plenty of flavor. So obviously, the most worrisome part of a cake like this is the actual rolling, and there are a few tricks to be aware of. First, is to cook the cake until it’s just set; overcooking will dry it out, making for a crumbly mess. I cooked my cake in a pan lined with a greased sheet of parchment paper; once done, I flipped it out onto a cool pan lined with a non-stick Silpat. Then, you have to roll the cake while it’s still very warm because it’s very pliable, and make sure you get a tight initial roll. Finally, you allow it to cool down completely in its rolled shape.
I correlate red velvet specifically with cream cheese frosting. Light, fluffy, sour, and smooth, it can work wonders on any cake, but it’s quintessential for red velvet. Unrolling the cake to fill the inside with frosting can be a little unnerving, but as long as you are slow and gentle it should be an easy process. Also, if the cake does end up cracking, just remember that cream cheese frosting makes for a wonderful spackle that can fix mistakes. Then, reroll the cake back into its predestined shape, frost the outside, and it’s off to the refrigerator, seam side down to chill. This step allows the cream cheese to stiffen, and sets the cake up for slicing, right after a generous sprinkling of crushed candy canes.
I can’t think of anything that screams “holidays” like candy canes, or anything that garners more attention than a delicious red velvet cake on the table. So, combine the two and make this deliciously festive dessert for your next holiday party, and if you have anyone saying they’re watching their waistline, just try to convince them that they’re eating their veggies.
I want to thank Whole Foods Market for collaborating with me, and for supplying me with only the best ingredients to make my idea into a festive reality.
Cake Batter Dry Mix
Sift together flour, cacao, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then set aside.
Cake Batter Wet Mix
|1||Teaspoon||Rice Wine Vinegar|
|1 ½||Teaspoons||Peppermint Oil|
Crack eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer, and using the whisk attachment, whip for a few minutes on medium speed.
Beat in your buttermilk, vinegar and oils to the egg mixture.
Reduce your mixer to low speed, and spoon the dry mixture into your wet mixture. Continue to whip until dry mixture is fully incorporated into the batter.
Bake cake for 10-15 minutes, rotating after 5min. When done, the center of the cake should spring back when lightly touched.
Once the cake is out of the oven, place the Silpat on top of the cooked cake (this will position it on the bottom when you invert it), then invert the cool sheet pan on top of the hot sheet pan (like it’s clammed up). Using pot holders, grab both pans and quickly flip the cake (transferring) onto cool sheet pan.
While cake is still warm and working on the short end of the pan, grab the edge of the Silpat underneath the cake. Slowly roll the cake (with the Silpat) over itself, making sure your initial roll is tight. Continue rolling the cake, and using the sides of the sheet pan as guides to make sure it’s rolling straight. Once the cake is rolled, place on a cooling rack with the seam side down to maintain it’s shape.
While allowing the cake to cool completely, you can make the cream cheese frosting.
|8||Ounces||Cream Cheese||Room Temp|
|2||Each||Standard Candy Canes||Crushed|
Using a stand mixer outfitted with a clean bowl and paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract together on medium-high speed, until well combined.
Reducing the speed to low, add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, and beat until frosting is fully incorporated.
Once your cake is completely cool (if too hot, the frosting will melt), slowly and carefully unroll the cake. Spread an even layer of frosting on the inside, and reroll the cake back into shape. If the cake splits or breaks along the way, add a little frosting to act like spackling to hold everything together. Frost the outside of the cake, and make sure that it’s resting seam side down.
Very lightly cover the cake with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until fully chilled (1-2hrs). Retouch with additional frosting if needed. Crush up some candy canes and sprinkle over cake.
Slice & serve.