Monday, October 11, 2021

The Hunt For Red October (Cake)

Yes, it is October and to celebrate this wonderfully festive fall season, let's do it with cake, more specifically: Sheet Cake. Abby Dodge, who wrote a new cookbook with the appropriately titled name, Sheet Cake, stopped by Tonia's Kitchen to talk about her book and recipe for classic Red Velvet Sheet Cake. She says her book has three chapters, including one label for classic cakes, but it also includes recipes for crumb cake, pound cake, and of course, upside-down cake. With this Red Velvet recipe, Abby told Tonia she used gel food-coloring instead of the liquid. The reason for this is, less-product used, with a better result. Following that, she also twists up the traditional frosting on the cake. While it's still cream-cheese based, she mixes in chocolate cookie crumbles for a delightful take on this delicious cake! 

For the cake

  • ½ cup (4 oz/113 g) whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons (2½ oz/71 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring gel
  • 1½ cups (6¾ oz/191 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup (1 oz/27 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 7 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1⅔ cups (11⅝ oz/329 g) granulated sugar


For assembly and serving

  • Classic Soak (Cream variation; see below)
  • Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (full recipe, with Cookie Crumbs add-in using chocolate cookies; see below)
  • ½ cup ground (2½ oz/71 g) chocolate cookies (optional)


Bake the cake

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas mark 4). Lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of the half-sheet pan.

2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, or in a heatproof container in the microwave for 15-second increments, heat the milk and butter together until the butter is melted and the mixture is very hot but not boiling. Stir in the vanilla and the food coloring.

3. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until blended. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until pale and foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until a ribbon of batter falls from the beater when lifted, about 3 more minutes.

4. With the mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just blended, about 15 seconds. With the mixer running, gradually add the hot milk mixture and mix until just blended, about 15 seconds.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes.

6. Let the cake cool in the pan.

Assemble and serve the cake

7. Spread the soak and then the frosting evenly over the cake layer. The cake can be served right away or refrigerated. Chill uncovered at first for one hour; then cover and keep chilled until about an hour before serving. Just before serving, scatter cookie crumbs over the top of the cake, if desired.



Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting 

Makes about 5 cups (36oz/1kg)

  • 2 (8 oz/227 g) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups (12 oz/340 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 sticks (1 cup/8 oz/ 227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt, plus more as needed


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, butter, cream, vanilla, and measured salt on medium-high speed until no lumps remain and the texture is light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Store well covered or in heavy-duty zip-top bags with the air pushed out for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat until smooth and light.


The Classic Soak

Makes about ½ cup (4 ½ oz/128 g)

  • ¼ cup (1 ¾ oz/50 g) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup (2⅞ oz/82 g) heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, or in a heatproof container in the microwave for 15-second increments, combine the sugar and cream and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature. (For faster cooling, set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice and a little water, stirring frequently.) Store the soak, covered, for up to 2 days in the refrigerator or for up to 3 months in the freezer.