Red Velvet Cake with Crème Fraîche Icing

I have two younger brothers, Clint and Blaine. We’re all very close in age (Clint is about 20 months younger than me and Blaine was born less than three years after Clint) and were close growing up. We share a lot of the same friends from high school, and even though our lives are different now, we still occasionally run in similar social circles. Blaine lives in Denver; while we all wish he’d move back down to San Diego, he absolutely loves Colorado. Clint and his wife, Conni (the beautiful mind behind Art in the Find, a fashion & style blog), live here, in San Diego. Clint is truly a wonderful man. He adores his wife, puts his family as his number one priority and is an amazing uncle. I think Blaine and I would agree that we are so lucky to form the Clint Sandwich;). So, yesterday was Clint’s birthday and we celebrated exactly how he wanted to: surrounded by family (sans Blaine, but he was there in spirit) at an old school Chinese restaurant (Mandarin House in La Jolla). After dinner, we all went back to my mom and stepdad’s for cake.

I made the cake. Red Velvet Cake. You love it or you hate it. My brother loves it, my husband hates it. It’s not a cake for everyone. There is a very present beet flavor, and if you can’t get over that, it’s probably not for you. For example, some people just don’t like goat cheese. If you serve them five-cheese penne with goat cheese they’re just not going to like the penne because the goat cheese flavor is so present to them. It doesn’t mean the penne isn’t good, or that they’re wrong for not liking it…the dish just doesn’t work for them. Red velvet cake isn’t for everyone. This recipe is for those who love it. It is good, really good.

Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen – Through work, Clint had the opportunity to take batting practice at Petco yesterday; this was his walk-up song.

Red Velvet Cake with Crème Fraîche Icing adapted from Food & Wine, February 2014.

For the cake, you’ll need:

  • 1 pound medium red beets
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 10 eggs
  • 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

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For the icing, you’ll need:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups crème fraîche
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into tablespoons

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Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and bake until tender, about an hour. Let cool. Peel.

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Cut the beets into chunks and cool completely. Puree in a food processor until completely smooth. Measure out 1 1/3 cups of the puree; reserve any remaining puree for another use (I used 1 1/3, next time I would use less, maybe just 1 cup).

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Bring the milk and butter to just a boil.

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Remove from heat and whisk in the beet puree.

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In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cocoa powder and salt.

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Butter the bottoms and sides of two 9-inch cake pans, place parchment rounds on the bottom of each and butter the tops of the parchment.

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Place the eggs, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.

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Set the bowl about 2 inches above a saucepan of simmering water and beat until smooth, warm and the sugars are dissolved, about 4 minutes.

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Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg mixture, at high speed, until thickened and cooled, about 5 minutes.

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Scrape into a large bowl.

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Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture.

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Fold until no streaks remain.

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Fold one-third of the batter into the beet mixture, then gently fold the beet mixture back into the remaining batter in three additions.

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Scrape batter into prepared cake pans.

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Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool completely.

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Make the icing:

In the bowl of the stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in crème fraîche just until incorporated. Add the powdered sugar in two batches and beat at low speed just until blended. Beat in vanilla. At high speed, gradually add the cream cheese, by the tablespoon, until the icing is smooth.

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Frost the cake:

Place one cake round on a serving surface. Spread about 1 cup of the icing on top of the layer. Cover the first layer with the second cake round and frost the top and sides of the entire cake with the remaining icing.

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Refrigerate the cake for at least two hours before serving.

Extra decorating tip, chocolate sides:

Prepare a sheet of foil on a baking sheet and another sheet of foil on your work surface. Cut two 3×14-inch strips of wax or parchment paper and place on work surface foil. Melt about 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Spread melted chocolate evenly, in a thin layer, over parchment paper. Transfer parchment paper strips to baking sheet foil and chill for two minutes.

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Carefully apply parchment paper strips to sides of cake and chill, with parchment paper still on, until just before serving.

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Carefully remove parchment strips and serve cake.

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A gorgeous Red Velvet Cake for your RV lover. It was a hit at Clint’s birthday!

With that, a very, very Happy Birthday to you, my dear brother. I hope your day was as wonderful as you!

Cheers!

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Dark Hot Fudge

My husband and I are celebrating 12 years of marriage this Sunday. Valentine’s Day has meant so many different things throughout my life and, really, has now come full circle. Growing up, we look so forward to celebrating at school and exchanging candy notes with our classmates. As a teenager, I remember both excitement and disappointment when it came to the holiday (one boyfriend broke up with me two days before Valentine’s Day, really?!). In college, I just remember celebrating the day with other single friends; happy to be unattached and free. I met Ben right out of college in December of 1999, we were married on February 16, 2002. Lifetime Valentine Achievement Earned, right? It has been an amazing 12 years. We are really, really awesome life partners. He has an unbelievable amount of patience and I like to think I bring that extra sparkle;). We just work. I am proud of the adults we have become, the partnership we have formed and everything we have created together.

I Was Made for You – She and Him

These days, our Valentine’s Day consists of manically throwing together class Valentine’s for our boys (“Mommy, I’m putting ‘FROM, Graham’, not ‘LOVE, Graham’, I don’t LOVE them and I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea!”), baking cookies for classroom parties and trying to think of a token of appreciation for their teachers. Those red roses, chocolates and love notes? Well, they’ve been replaced by crayons, cookies and “FROM”s. I am not complaining one bit. I am thankful everyday for my loves.

In an attempt to treat everyone this holiday, I decided to whip up something for all of us. Anyone will enjoy this Dark Hot Fudge for lovers, kids, teachers, moms, and all of you amazing singletons!

Dark Hot Fudge adapted from Feast by Sarah Copeland (an absolutely gorgeous vegetarian cookbook). Makes about 3 cups.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 4 ounces coarsely chopped GOOD unsweetened chocolate*
  • 2 ounces coarsely chopped GOOD bittersweet dark chocolate*
  • 1/3 cup cubed unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ice cream, fruit, a body, spoon, whatever you need as a vehicle for this amazing sauce.

*Quality of chocolate is very important. Please don’t skimp, you are only cheating yourself.

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In a medium pot, combine the sugar, cream, agave, both chocolates, and butter.

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Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

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Reduce to medium-low heat, stirring until chocolate and butter melt.

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Continue cooking over medium-low heat, without stirring, until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Make sure chocolate doesn’t scorch.

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Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Serve or cool completely before storing in clean jars and refrigerating. Sauce will keep, refrigerated, for two weeks.

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Give someone some Dark Hot Fudge love, whether it’s yourself, the kids or your special someone. It will definitely fill their hearts.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Blood Orange Ice Cream

This is about the time of year some of us crave just a hint of summer. Living in Southern California, I am lucky enough to have amazing weather almost all the time. Even then, the short days and lack of summer produce wear on me. I needed a hint of summer.

Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap

I know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many more times, if you live in San Diego, you have to go check out Specialty Produce. Specifically their Farmer’s Market refrigerator, it is produce heaven. Seasonal, fresh, gorgeous, and affordable produce in one place. I went in search of something that would be perfect for a seasonal ice cream recipe, thinking grapefruit or oranges. I found (thanks to the amazing staff at SP) the most beautiful blood oranges. I am so excited to share this recipe with you!

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Blood Orange Ice Cream – makes about a pint, so feel free to double it

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split open
  • pinch of salt
  • zest from one blood orange
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2-3/4 cup blood orange juice (about 6 oranges)

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Combine the milk, cream, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean, salt, and zest in a saucepan.

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Bring to a boil and remove from heat.

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Whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar until pale yellow.

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Whisking constantly, slowly add warm cream mixture to eggs. Once combined, pour mixture into the saucepan and cook over moderate, stirring constantly, until mixture coats the back of a spoon.

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Remove from heat, strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Refrigerate for at least two hours (this is a very important step that I ALWAYS recommend when making ice cream). The colder, the better.

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Pour mixture into an ice cream maker. Once mixing, add blood orange juice. Continue per ice cream maker manufacturer instructions.

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When finished in ice cream maker, be sure to store ice cream in a separate container (do NOT use ice cream maker bowl). I use a food service quart container, with a top, from Smart & Final (I recommend buying a few of these, they are great for storing ice cream, soup, etc.).

After freezing for a few hours, scoop and enjoy!

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The blood orange juice gave the ice cream the most gorgeous color (there was no artificial coloring added). The flavor is heavenly. I recommend making this for your valentine. Home-made ice cream is a true testament of love and this would be perfect!

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Shopping notes: Blood oranges purchased from Specialty Produce. Milk, cream & eggs from Trader Joe’s.

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