One of the adages I remember from my days in journalism was to remember the audience to whom you are writing for. So ... I write for you guys. I write for the comments, I write for the new "friends" that I've made through this process and I write because there are days when I sincerely miss working in newspapers and blogging is the only thing I have found close to that type of immediacy of print journalism. So at the end of the day, I guess I write for me, but hell - you all are the most amazing fringe benefit to this endeavor.
When I cook, there's also an audience that I'm catering to. I've developed this very odd habit of narrating my cooking in my head, on the off chance that a camera crew might drop in sometime to my cramped (and messy) kitchen to catch me having an Ina moment. Some nights, I have an audience of one - my wonderful food critic of a husband who seems to like everything that I cook. But do you want to know who my hardest critics are? Ready? My parents. (My mother is probably reading this and is going "what the hell?")
Let me explain ... my grandmas? Amazing cooks - starting from my Grandma Sophie's Ice Cream Dessert, detouring by my Grandma Boots' Homemade Noodles and stopping somewhere near my Grandma Phyllis's Million Dollar Chocolate Cake - there is a presence of memory in my family's culinary lives. So then you have my mom - brilliant cook. You have my Aunt Sue - she's a freakin' legend ... even my cousin Trix who claims she can't cook made this grilled pork loin the other weekend that my father wanted to devour whole. So you can see why I am something of an upstart in my family. My culinary talent is simply not needed unless you want someone who can mash the hell out of potatoes.
I was in the presence of my three formidable lady relatives a few weekends back - my mom, my aunt Sue and my cousin Trix (her name really is Tracy, but my sister-in-law - another fabulous cook - is also named Tracy, hence the nickname ...). It was Suzie's birthday, so I volunteered to make a cake. Would it be Beatty's Chocolate Cake? (Chocolate ... too predictable.) Would it be Better Than Sex Cake? Nope - that wouldn't show off my culinary acumen ... too easy. Angel Food Cake? My husband hates that ... so I went to Food Network and immediately fell hard for one of Paula Deen's versions of Red Velvet Cake.
I'm a recent convert to the Red Velvet phenomenon (in fact, every time I think about red velvet cake or eat it, I think of "Steel Magnolias" and the "bleedin' armadillo groom's cake."). But I gotta say - despite the fact that the picture displayed only shows my shitty cake decorating skills, this cake is FIERCE. It definitely deserves a spot on the "last meal" roster.
Of course, my husband loved it. We both loved it so much that we ate leftovers straight from the pan. (We're ridiculous that way.) My husband almost cried when I decreed that we should leave the rest of the leftovers for my father. But the best part? My dad called the Sunday after we had our weekend at home - there was about a quarter of a pan left. Now keep in mind that my father is probably only 20 pounds heavier than he was when he left high school - the man is like a trash compactor who can damn near eat anything and not gain a pound.
"Thanks for leaving that cake," Dad said. "Yup, I ate half the pan for breakfast this morning and finished the other half after church. That was good cake."
This cake is a freakin' winner. Boosh!
Red Velvet Cake
by Paula Deen
* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (recommended: White Lily)
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon cocoa
* 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups canola oil
* 1 teaspoon vinegar
* 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring (**my entire family was freaked out by the fact that this cake takes an entire bottle of food coloring. I was wondering if you would be able to "taste" the food coloring? But you can't ... the men in my family were in awe of the cake's redness.)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 cup buttermilk
For the cream cheese frosting: (And my God in heaven ... in Paula's recipe for this frosting she calls for MARGARINE ... what the hell, Paula? There is no margarine in MY house and no maragrine in this FROSTING. Use butter, y'all - and kiss a dairy farmer.)
* 1/2 cup BUTTER
* 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (**I made amends and used the 1/3 fat kind ...)
* 1 box confectioners' sugar, sifted
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 cup chopped lightly toasted pecans (**I omitted because the hubby doesn't like nuts in his baking ... sigh ...)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round layer cake pans. (**I used a 9x13 pan because I realized I'd look rather ridiculous trucking a layer cake to a campground - increase cooking time to about 30-45 minutes.)
Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa together. Beat sugar and eggs together in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl mix together oil, vinegar, food coloring, and vanilla. Add to the bowl of eggs and sugar and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the wet mixture by alternating the buttermilk and dry ingredients. Always start with the flour and end with the flour.
Pour batter into pans. Tap them on the table to level out the batter and release air bubbles. Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the middle comes out clean but be careful not to over bake or you'll end up with a dry cake.
Let layers cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning out of pan. Cool completely before frosting.
For the cream cheese frosting: Let butter and cream cheese soften to room temperature. Cream well. Add sugar and beat until mixed but not so much that the frosting becomes "loose". Add vanilla and nuts. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cake.