Sunday, January 03, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Christmas Cake

I love Red Velvet Cake, and it's always one that is nice for the holidays because it's so festive and pretty, especially if it's baked in a fancy cake pan.  This year, I found a nice Nordic Ware cake pan in the shape of a poinsettia, and thought it would be a nice addition to my Mom's collection of cake pans, but would also be quite pretty to make a Red Velvet Cake in.

As per the directions on the cardboard insert of the pan, I washed the pan carefully with hot, soapy water and dried it thoroughly.  Since the pan has lots of "details" in it that create the petals and other parts of the poinsettia, I allowed the pan to air dry over night so that it would be completely dry when I made the cake the next morning.  Santa, old buddy, you'll just have to come back tomorrow for cake...

Christmas Morning dawned cool and clear, and I was in the kitchen fairly early to start on breakfast, Christmas dinner preparations, and, of course, the cake.  I gathered all of my ingredients, mixed and measured and did everything just so.  It was a rich reddish-brown batter, and it smelled wonderful.  I knew that it would be perfect in the form of the poinsettia flower, and would need only a sprinkling of some confectioner's sugar and some colored sugar crystals to "dress" it for the table.   (Martha Stuart or The Ace of Cakes I am not, but this cake doesn't need much decorating, and I can handle a bit of confectioner's sugar.)  I gave the batter a final stir, and poured it into the waiting pan.  The pan was placed on a cookie sheet, and then placed on the center rack of the oven.  No muss, no fuss.

I washed my mixing bowl and other utensils and put them away so that I could start on the next project, breakfast for Mom and myself.  The dogs' breakfast would come after I'd set the table, so my "helpers' would be out of the way while we ate breakfast.  More mixing, more stirring, more "kitchen activity".  I paused in the middle of this to check on my cake, which was baking away in the oven.  It had lost that gooey look of freshly poured batter, and had become a "cake" by this point, although not ready to be taken out of the oven.  Another 30 minutes or so would do it.

Something struck me, though, as I watched the cake baking away, all rich and chocolatey and wonderful in its nice warm oven:  I realized that I'd forgotten to grease and flour the pan....  Now this isn't exactly something that one wants to do when baking in such a pan, because although the pan is treated with a non-stick finish, the detail in the pan prevents it from being truly non-stick.  That cake was NOT coming out of that pan in its nice, pretty poinsettia shape, now way-no how.  Not gonna happen in this lifetime or the next.  AUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am kicking myself all over that kitchen.  Not only did the pan directions clearly state that the pan should be greased and floured, the cake recipe said the same thing at least three different times.  What's worse is the flour and cooking spray are still out on the counter where I'd so carefully placed them at the beginning of this debacle.  So much for a pretty poinsettia cake.  And, because it's got chocolate in it, I can't even feed it to the dogs!  Merry Christmas, Everybody...cake will be served with a spoon!  Ngh!

The cake comes out of the oven.  I am praying that whatever Kitchen God there is will take pity on me just this once and just let me have that cake out of that pan without turning it into a pile of Red Velvet Crumbs.  I dutifully cool the cake on a rack, then try to turn it out of the pan onto the rack.  No soap.  Hmmm.  Well, let it sit a few minutes longer, maybe it's not cool enough yet....  Uh-huh, sure, that's the ticket, just let it cool a bit longer.  

About 20 minutes later my Mom appears in the kitchen.  Doggies have been fed, breakfast pancakes are ready to hit the griddle, and I am pulling my hair out over moving a particular rack in the oven so that I can get the lamb shanks I've been slaving over in there to start their long low-and-slow baking process.  The rack doesn't fit where I want it to go, so I'm stuck using a different one.  GRRR.

Mom notices the cake...that &^$#*&@ cake sitting there so smugly in it's poinsettia pan just waiting to cause me more problems.  Mom mentions that the cake should probably be out of the pan by now, to which I respond rather snarlingly about the grease and flour problem.   Happy Christmas to you, too.  She says, "Let me work on it."  Now, I have qualify this just a bit.  Mom had shoulder and carpel tunnel surgery the Thursday before Christmas.  She is left-handed, and her left arm is in a sling.  But, she wants to help, and I'm game at this point because my pancakes are turning to charcoal, the lamb is still on top of the stove because I haven't yet successfully wrestled the rack into the oven, and that blessed cake is still in the pan.  "Okay.  I'll get you a plate and a spatula.  Do what you can.  If nothing else, maybe the deer will like it."

Mom sets to work in her one-handed way, and by the time I've gotten the rack back in the oven, the lamb started, and the charcoal pancake problem solved, she has half of the cake on the plate.  The rest of it is being "encouraged" out of the pan by Mom's very persistent poking with the spatula.  About 10 minutes later, there is a mound of Red Velvet Something on the plate, and Mom has put the cake pan in the sink to soak.  With some careful smooshing here and there, we have what looks like a reasonable facsimile of a Red Velvet Cake, although it does not even remotely resemble that pretty poinsettia I had envisioned.  But, it is out of the pan.  Now, what to do with the blessed thing.

Icing, she says, will help hold it together, and a little of the colored sugar sprinkled over it will "decorate it", so she thins down some of the cream cheese frosting I'd found in the pantry.  We are discussing this while I'm flipping pancakes and Mom's back is to the cake while she puts the bowl of icing in the microwave.  Out of the corner of my eye, however, I see Addie, our Basset puppy (well, she's almost 2), standing at the edge of the counter top casually munching away at the cake.  "NOOOOO, ADDIE!!!! OFF!!!!! OFF!!!  OFF!!!!  ADDIEEEEEEE!!!!"  Addie jumps down and looks at both of us as if to say, "But I was only tasting it!"  and wanders out of the kitchen as if insulted.  Not to worry, she didn't eat enough to do any harm to herself, but my poor abused cake has taken yet another insult.

Both of us are in hysterics, laughing about that poor cake, but also remembering a similar dog-eating- the-cake-incident--another Red Velvet Cake.  Amidst the disasters of the morning and all of the tears, here we are laughing over a memory from some 35 years ago....

The first Red Velvet Cake and Dog encounter occurred when we lived in Parker, Colorado in the early 1970's.  Mom had made a Red Velvet Cake to take to a faculty Christmas part at her school.  Earlier in the morning she had set it on the tailgate of our station wagon while she collected her lunch and other things to take with her to school for the day.  The garage door was open, and Ace, our big Doberman was wandering around in and out of the house and garage as everybody made their final preparations for work and school.  He often supervised this activity, so it wasn't out of the ordinary.  Somewhere in the middle of all of this hubbub, Ace decided he wanted to investigate that cake, so he pushed his big nose into it and came back with a face full of white fluffy icing.  (I don't know that he actually bit the cake, although there was a small "scrape" out of it where the icing had been removed.)  Mom saw the dog, then the cake, and shrieked for my Dad.  Dad was in the kitchen finishing his coffee.  He chased the dog out of the kitchen where he cleaning his face of the frosting and came out to see what tragedy had occurred.  While Mom was still having her conniption fit about her beautiful cake (and it was beautiful),  Dad grabbed the plate, took it into the kitchen and proceeded to cut a healthy-sized hunk out of the cake where the dog's nose had been.  He handed the cake back to her and said, "If anyone asks, just tell them your husband got hungry," and sent her off to work.  The dog maintained his skin (although he and my Mom were on the outs for a while...), and no one ever knew what really happened to the cake.  The plate was empty when Mom brought it home.  We have laughed over that story for many years, and each time Mom has made another Red Velvet Cake we remember old Ace and his little snack.

(This photo is not mine...I borrowed it for the "visual effect.  No dog nose has touched this cake--that I know of.  LOL!)

I'm sure Dad was laughing with us, too, on this past Christmas morning, and he'd have loved the "Addie addition" to the story.   This one's for you, Dad!

Someday, I will make the pretty poinsettia Red Velvet Cake the right way--but I can't promise that it won't have hunk taken out of it because of a dog.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the story, not just for the pet/human/why-can't-they-behave factor (I can't roast a turkey without 5 cats milling around demanding to know why Mama doesn't SHARE) but also the mention of Ace, the Great Doberman. In my memory, Ace appeared as the quintessential Doberman: alert, authoritative and without much humor. To imagine that dear black/tan face wreathed in icing (A Santa Dobie, no doubt) is a treat.

    Write more, please!