Monday, May 30, 2011

My Tales of Cake Woe, A Recipe, Pimping a Book and Contests

My Sad Story involving Cake

I've never had allergies. I grew up and live in Sonoma County California, one of THE worst places in the US of A for pollen counts and I have never had the slightest pollen-related sniffles. No allergies of any kind. Until about 14 years ago.

Not long after my son was born, I developed an allergy to red dye. I woke up one day covered head to toe in an itchy, blotchy rash. The doctor's eyes got big when she saw me and told me I needed to find out pronto what I'd come in contact with that caused such a severe reaction. It took about two weeks to figure it out and, long story short, it was red food dye. My daily vitamin was red, you see . . .

I'm not sure if it's Red #3 or Red #40 because they so often are used together and I've never felt curious enough to find out if it's one or both. Whenever I eat out, I have to ask why food red food is red or simply not eat it.

On my birthday shortly after I discovered the cause of my allergy, my father bought a beautiful birthday cake for me when I was visiting. It was covered in red frosting. He felt just terrible because, of course, I could not eat my birthday cake.

Over the years, I've been careful but I cheat and sometimes eat food I know has red dye. M&M's are good food and the peanut kind have protein! It's practically health food. And I've never had that awful rash, just a rare prickly sensation. I'd even started to wonder if maybe I wasn't still allergic . . .

My son, who will be sixteen in June, has taken to baking cakes. (The kid is 6'3 and skinny. He can eat all the cake he wants with no discernible effect on his weight.) Red Velvet Cake in particular. By all accounts he makes a mean Red Velvet Cake. Red Velvet Cake is pretty much a cocoa-based chocolate cake with 2 tablespoons of red dye. It's made with butttermilk and a bit of vinegar and baking soda. The frosting is butter, cream cheese, and sugar.

Another long story short which I am sure you all saw coming from about a mile away. Yes, I am still allergic to red dye.


Red Velvet Cake

Here's my son's recipe, adapted to the Rose Levy Berenbaum method of cake making and to some of my preferred methods and ingredients:

1/2 cup UNSALTED butter (use a high quality butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar (baker's sugar preferred)
2 1/2 cups cake flour (sift then measure, then sift again)
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt (kosher salt preferred)
2 tbs Red dye
2 tbs Dutch process cocoa

16 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Add confectioner's sugar until the frosting is the desired consistency.

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Grease two 8" cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper, grease again. Flour the pans.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa and salt. Whisk for about two minutes so that the ingredients are fully mixed and aerated.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla.
Scrape down as necessary for the following steps:

Add the eggs one at a time, beat to combine.

Add the red dye and beat to combine

Add 1/3 of the flour to the butter mixture and beat at medium speed until combined.
Add 1/2 the buttermilk. Beat about 90 seconds at medium
Add 1/3 of the flour, beat about 90 seconds at medium
Add the rest of the buttermilk, beat 90 seconds
Add the rest of the flour, beat 90 seconds.

In a small cup or bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda. Add to batter and combine.

Pour the batter into the pans. Make a "ledge" of batter at the edge of the pan. Essentially, you are pushing the batter to the edge of the pans to a height of roughly 1/2 an inch and a width of about that. Try to keep the ledge relatively even in height and thickness. Smooth out the middle too. This ledge will give you a flat cake top instead of a domed one since the middle (being lower) will rise to meet the ledge instead of the middle rising above the edges.

Use cake strips if you have them. This will also help keep the top of the cake flat.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto wire rack. Let cool completely, then put the cake into the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and slice each layer in half horizontally so you have 4 layers.


Book Pimpage - My Dangerous Pleasure Plus Chances to Win Cool Stuff

TEMPT THE DARKNESS Strong-willed and independent, Paisley Nichols is used to taking care of herself. But when an insane mage begins tracking her every move and threatening her at every turn, she has no choice but to put her life in the hands of a demon.

RISK THE PASSION Burned by betrayal, demon assassin Iskander won't get too close to anyone. He spends his days serving his warlord and his nights indulging in carnal pleasures . . . and that's exactly how he likes it. But when a mage wages a wrenching psychic assault on his beautiful tenant Paisley, Iskander must defend her. Under his protection, she will be drawn irresistibly into his life and learn about her own mysterious powers. And not a moment too soon. The mage haunting her isn't acting alone-and he won't rest until he destroys both Paisley and Iskander.

An unlucky human female becomes the focus of the next battle in the ongoing war between the Magekind and Fiends. Expert storyteller Jewel excels at developing rich and intriguing characters who face challenges of the most dangerous kind. Packed with the right dose of danger and treachery, this love story is the perfect escape from reality.
Reviewed By: Jill M. Smith

What stands out most after reading My Dangerous Pleasure, fourth in Carolyn Jewel's Immortal series, is this: The hero, while totally the alpha male you'd expect a demon to be, is also incredibly sweet to the heroine, a human with latent magic being threatened by a mage.

The typical urban fantasy/urban fantasy romance hero is usually pretty slutty, with a bad-ass attitude to match. He's generally pulled into helping/saving/working with the heroine, often begrudgingly, and...yada, yada, you know the drill. Iskander, Jewel's hero, fulfills the slutty part of the equation, but even though he never planned any sort of involvement with Paisley Nichols, he brings no pissed off, sullen, or I'm-the-boss-of-you attitude into their relationship.
Laurie Gold, Heroes and Heartbreakers

Buy My Dangerous Pleasure


There are two contests you can enter (no purchase necessary for either):

If you're reading this before Midnight Pacific on June 4, 20011, I'm giving away some high quality baking supplies at my blog. You can also read chapters 1-3 of the book, too. Enter here. The stories people are sharing about their baking experiences are really fun, so check it out!

The other contest is over at the Risky Regencies. I'll be giving away an Amazon gift certificate, so Head on over.

Questions for you

Are you allergic to anything? Do you have any tales of cake woe? Share in the comments.


  1. The cake really looks awesome. Loved the pic. Also looks yummy. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I will surely try this out.

    Take the Cake Personality Test and find out which cake are you like. I have taken the test and have enjoyed a lot. Hope you too will enjoy it. Have Fun!!

  2. I love red velvet cake. Will have to try out.

  3. No allergies Carolyn--lucky that way! This cake looks amazing--you are so lucky to have a baking son! I'm going off to tweet your contests...

  4. It's so gorgeous, I wanna try this. Thanks for the recipe!