Ellen Clifford
September 06, 2014 10:55 am

I realize I asked y’all to celebrate last week. But this week I really want to celebrate more, seeing as it was my birthday last Friday.

There is cake. So I am expecting Sloane Crosley to show up at my door any second now.

Sloane Crosley. Learn that name. She is funny. She is relatable. I read her book of essays called I Was Told There’d Be Cake and I want you to read it too. Then we can sit around and dish about her stories. There is “The Pony Problem,” about a collection of gifts from exes that she doesn’t know how to discard of. I relate. Not that I have a drawer full of pony toys like Crosley had, or masses of riches from allllll my men. But ya know, I’ve had trinkets. How do you properly dispose of the random poster? Do you dispose of the jewelry you kinda want to keep wearing? In my case, I ripped the poster and gave the jewelry a mourning period of not being worn until I had dissociated it with the fella. Crosley had a pretty creative way to deal with her ponies but you must read to find out what it was.

Sloane’s stories are relatively short. I friggin‘ love short stories because I can read an entire one in a day and feel like I accomplished something. It is all about the little things. But I’ll be honest. I’ve got a lot of birthday-weekend wine drinking to get to so I am not going to go on too long about Sloane Crosley, or her other brilliant book How Did You Get This Number. I’m just telling you, you gotta read her stuff. Kapeesh?

Let’s get to the goodies. Sloane was told there’d be cake. And I wanted birthday cake. So let’s make some celebratory cake.

I made this velvet cake two years in a row for a former boyfriend. Red with chocolate frosting the first time. Blue with rainbow chip the second time. It had used up a couple of containers of the red the first year. I could only get it in multipacks so I had multiple containers of other colors leftover. Hence the Smurf-toned cake. If we hadn’t broken up before his next birthday, I was going to make a green velvet cake with Bailey’s Irish cream buttercream. I’m sorry I’m talking about exes so much. This red velvet is for me and you! And Sloane Crosley. Whether it be your birthday or not, any day with cake is worthy of happiness.

Red Velvet Cake adapted from 75th Anniversary The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

  • 2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (which means sift a bunch first, then measure it)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup powdered buttermilk (or whatever your brand says is the equivalent to one cup of buttermilk–if you have real buttermilk you can leave this out)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, whisked together
  • 1 tsp. vanilla, whisked with the eggs
  • 1 cup water (or, if you left out the powdered buttermilk, use real buttermilk here and don’t try to use regular milk–it lacks the acidity you need)
  • about a Tbsp. food coloring
  • icing, your call

Get all your ingredients out of the fridge, you want them around 70 degrees before starting. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, or butter them.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk powder (if using), and cocoa powder.

Beat the butter until it is good and creamy. Keep the speed high and slowly add in the sugar. Make sure it is nice and fluffy before proceeding. Slowly beat in the eggs and vanilla. Now turn your mixer to low. Beat in a third of the flour mixture, then half of the water or buttermilk and all the food coloring–I just dripped in the color until I was satisfied with how it looked. Then beat in another third of the flour mixture and the second half of the water. You may need to scrape down the bowl some. Beat in the last third of the flour. Beat it good. Divide it between the pans and bake 25-35 minutes.

You may want to rotate the pans in the oven midway to so they cook evenly. You know your cake is done when a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Well there may be a crumb or two, you just don’t want it coated in batter. Start testing early because you really don’t want to over bake this. Buy yourself some frosting, or make it if feeling industrious, and chow on down.

If you want a three or four layer cake, you can split your thicker layers to make thinner ones.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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