Summer Velvet: Red Velvet Cake with Berries and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Summer Velvet Cake by Flours and Chocolates: Red Velvet Cake with Berries and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Happy Fourth! Here’s a patriotic cake for your Fourth of July barbecue.

Three layers of moist red velvet cake filled and frosted with vanilla bean buttercream (which tastes like creamy homemade vanilla ice cream), and layered and topped with summer berries.

Summer Velvet Cake by Flours and Chocolates: Red Velvet with Berries and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

I’m calling it Summer Velvet. For me, classic red velvet cake, rich and fudgy with luscious cream cheese frosting, will forever remind me of winter and Christmas since my family would always eat this cake on Christmas Eve. In my mind, it looks best with red and white candles, a sprig of holly, and Nat King Cole in the background.

Summer Velvet Cake from Flours and Chocolates: Red Velvet with Berries and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

So if that is Winter Velvet, this then is Summer Velvet. A southern red velvet cake, with a dash of cocoa for flavor and plenty of buttermilk to lighten it up, it’s a perfect summer-weight cake for July. I like it with berries on top and sparkler candles for the Fourth.

Summer Velvet from Flours and Chocolates: Red Velvet with Berries and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Note on Method: I loved the way my Yellow Butter Cake turned out so much, I decided to use the soaked-flours method again, and it’s incorporated into the recipe (see here for why I like it). If you find this step unnecessary or simply don’t have the time, combine all the dry ingredients together in one bowl and add in three additions after the eggs and vanilla, alternating with the buttermilk/kefir.

 Summer Velvet Cake 

3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup each sweet rice flour, teff flour, and almond flour
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or kefir
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tbsp cocoa
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2-3 tbsp red velvet flavor emulsion plus optional red gel food coloring, OR 3 tsps red food color gel or enough to reach desired color
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs, room temp
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used Best Foods [Hellman’s]; use a mayonnaise [not Miracle Whip] without flavorings like mustard, garlic, onion, etc.)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Vanilla Bean Buttercream (recipe below)
6 oz each strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, washed

The day before: Combine brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, teff flour, and almond flour with buttermilk or kefir. Cover with a towel and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.

The day-of: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8 or 9 inch cake pans, line with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour with tapioca flour (or other flour of choice).

In a separate small bowl, combine potato starch, cocoa, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter, sugars, red velvet flavoring, and red gel paste until mixture is combined and color is distributed evenly.

On medium speed, add vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined and scraping down the bowl after each addition.

In three additions, alternate between the dry ingredients (the cocoa mix) and the wet buttermilk/flour mixture, finishing with the dry mix. Mix until mixture is combined, but do not overmix. Fold in the mayonnaise.

In a small separate bowl, combine vinegar and baking soda so that it fizzes then immediately whisk into the cake batter until combined.

Divide batter between cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes.

Frost or freeze until ready (I recommend freezing the cake layers for at least 30 minutes for easy assembly–freeze while you make the frosting).

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

4 1/2 sticks plus 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and sliced
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 1/2 vanilla beans)
2 1/2 tsps pure vanilla extract
1 generous pinch of salt, or to taste

Note: 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract may be subbed for the vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean if desired, for a total of 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla extract.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl with a hand beater, beat the butter on medium speed for about 10 minutes, until creamy.

Add powdered sugar, milk, vanilla bean paste and extract, and a generous pinch of salt. Beat on lowest setting for one minute, until sugar is incorporated, then beat on medium speed for 8 minutes, until all ingredients are combined and frosting is smooth.

Add additional milk to reach desired consistency. Use frosting right away or store in fridge until needed.

Assembly

If necessary, trim cake layers with a long serrated knife until level.

Add a dab of frosting to the center of a cake round or cake plate, and place the first layer on top with its flattest side down. Top with a layer of frosting and press half of the sliced strawberries and half of the raspberries into the frosting. Cover the berries with a thin layer of frosting.

Set your second layer, flattest side down, on top of the first. Spread with a layer of frosting, then press half of the blackberries and half of the blueberries into the frosting, covering berries with another layer of frosting.

Set your final layer on top, flattest side up. Spread with a generous layer of frosting and gently decorate with remaining mixed berries.

Use your remaining frosting to pipe an edge around the top of your cake and around each layer if desired (I used a 1M tip).

Serve this at room temperature but store it in the fridge (I just slide mine onto a cutting board and covered it loosely with plastic wrap).

Summer Velvet Cake from Flours and Chocolates: Red Velvet with Berries and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Happy Fourth!

Classic Yellow Cake

Classic Yellow Cake, Gluten-Free from Flours and Chocolates

For Jarron’s birthday last week, I made a classic yellow butter cake with chocolate fudge frosting. I’ve made many gluten-free cakes over the years, but believe it or not this was his first time tasting this quintessential birthday cake combination.

Classic Yellow Cake, Gluten-Free by Flours and Chocolates

And I’m proud to say that after many years of trial and error with cakes, this is one of my best yet, and definitely my go-to vanilla cake recipe from now on. Supermoist, with a beautiful golden color from the eggs and the millet and almond flours, a generous crumb, great body, and rich vanilla flavor. It was so good that, I’m not ashamed to say, other than sharing a few slices with family, we ate the rest ourselves.

Classic Yellow Cake, Gluten-Free from Flours and Chocolates

This fudge frosting was perfect, but this is a great versatile cake base that would go with pretty much any frosting or filling: a solid homegrown vanilla cake.  Jarron said he wants to try it next time with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Go nuts.

Classic Yellow Cake, Gluten-Free by Flours and Chocolates

Note on soaking flours: I chose to the soak the flours beforehand because I heard with gluten-free flours it could contribute to a more tender crumb. A lot of gluten-free bakers recommend exclusively baking with superfine flours for this reason, but superfine flours are (in my opinion) prohibitively expensive to buy and impossible to recreate at home for those who grind their own flour. Though it requires some advanced preparation (a day ahead) soaking the flours beforehand seemed like a reasonable compromise to me (especially since I’m not making celebration cakes off the cuff), and I definitely noticed a difference.

I’ve written the recipe to include this step, but if you feel that it is unnecessary or you don’t have the time, simply combine and whisk all your dry ingredients together and after you have added the eggs, add the flour mixture in three installments, alternating with the buttermilk/kefir.

Classic Yellow Butter Cake, Gluten-Free
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup almond flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp potato starch (not potato flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk or kefir (I used kefir)

The day before: Combine almond, sweet rice, millet, and brown rice flours in a large glass bowl and whisk to incorporate. Add kefir/buttermilk, cover with a dishtowel, and allow to soak for 12-24 hours in a warm place, out of the sun.

The day-of: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round aluminum cake pans, insert circles of parchment, and butter the parchment. Flour the pans with tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, or potato starch.

Combine baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk briefly to incorporate.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric or stand mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping with a spatula after each addition.

Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt mixture to egg/butter/sugar mixture, and mix until combined. Then working in three additions and at low speed, beat in buttermilk/flour mixture until just combined. Add potato starch and mix until just combined. It’s okay if the mixture is curdled-looking.

Divide the batter evenly between cake pans, spreading with a spatula to smooth. Drop the pans on the counter a few times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until the cakes are golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan to loosen. Invert cakes onto rack and discard parchment, allowing to cool completely, about 1 hour. Frost and serve or freeze in plastic wrap until ready to use.

Milk

Raspberry Almond Tart

Raspberry Almond Tart

Way back in March, I made a raspberry almond tart for Easter, topped with bunny pastry  cutouts.

I loved how pretty the cutouts made the tart and also how easy they were to do. Obviously, I used bunnies, but you can use whatever shape your heart desires (stars, leaves, hearts, etc.).

Raspberry Almond Tart

And this tart is every bit as tasty as it is pretty. The filling is a creamy almond custard with the flavor of sweet cake batter, contrasted with sweet (or tart), juicy red raspberries. And baked in a flaky, buttery crust.

There’s touches of almond in almost every layer of this tart: almond flour and extract in the crust and topping, and fresh, homemade almond paste in the creamy filling.

Raspberry Almond Tart

Though I may have jumped the gun a bit with fresh raspberries in March (spring fever hit me so hard I can’t be held responsible for my actions), this is a perfect dessert for those first sweet batches of spring raspberries.

*To make non-gf: Substitute the 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flours in the crust and the 3 tbsp sweet rice flour in the filling with equal amounts of all-purpose flour.

Raspberry Almond Tart

Raspberry Almond Tart 

Ingredients

Crust
1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flours (I used 1/2 cup millet, 1/2 cup sweet rice, 1/4 cup potato starch, and 1/4 cup corn flour)
scant 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 stick plus 5.5 tbsp cold butter
1/4 cup ice cold water, plus 1-2 tbsp

Almond Paste
heaping 1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups blanched, slivered almonds (see how to blanch your own almonds here)
1/2 tsp almond extract
scant 2 tbsp butter (optional)

Filling
6 oz almond paste
3 eggs (room temp)
3 tbsp sweet rice flour
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp almond extract
10 oz fresh raspberries (about 3 cups)
2-4 tbsp sugar (to taste)

Equipment
10-inch tart pan
decorative cooke cutters
food processor

Make the Almond Paste

You can substitute store-bought for this recipe, but I think the flavor of homemade is much better and much fresher (also, it’s easy to make). You can make the almond paste as early as six weeks beforehand (so the flavor develops) or as soon as you need it.

You can use this simple recipe for almond paste, which requires only almonds, powdered sugar, an egg white, and optional almond extract. This is an excellent quick and simple recipe, but the recipe below (adapted from Jacques Torres) is my favorite: it has an unbeatable consistency and flavor. In place of some of the simple syrup or the almond extract, you can add kirsch, amarretto, lemon juice and lemon zest, orange juice and orange zest, or honey.

heaping 1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups blanched, slivered almonds (see how to blanch your own almonds here)
1/2 tsp almond extract
scant 2 tbsp butter (optional)

Combine the sugar, honey, and water in a saucepan and bring to a strong boil, stirring until sugar and honey dissolve. Place the almonds in the food processor and grind until coarse crumbs form (if you blend the almonds too much on their own, they will start to release their oils and turn into almond butter). Remove the simple syrup from the heat, setting aside about a scant 1/4 cup of liquid, and pour the rest over the almond meal. Add the almond extract if using and process the paste on high until smooth. When the food processor begins to strain, add a little of the extra liquid with the machine running until the blade moves freely again; repeat as necessary until almond paste is smooth and the desired consistency is reached.

Wrap the almond paste in plastic wrap and allow it to cool. When you are ready to use it, knead in the 2 tbsp butter. The butter makes it smooth and not so sticky, though some people have found the butter unnecessary.

This makes about a pound of almond paste. Whatever you don’t use for the recipe will store well in the fridge or freezer, well-wrapped, for a later date (rainbow cookies? :) Just make sure to bring it to room temperature before you use it.

Make the Crust

1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flours (I used 1/2 cup millet, 1/2 cup sweet rice, 1/4 cup potato starch, and 1/4 cup corn flour)
scant 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 stick plus 5.5 tbsp cold butter
1/4 cup ice cold water, plus 1-2 tbsp more.
optional: 1/2 tsp almond extract

Combine the flours, salt, and sugar in the food processor, and whir until combined and cohesive.

Take the butter out of the fridge and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the pieces of butter in the food processor and blend with the flours until coarse crumbs form. Add 1/4 cup ice cold water and the almond extract if using and process until dough comes together. If dough is too dry and is not coming together, add ice cold water a little at a time with the machine running until the dough comes together (I added an additional tablespoon of water).

Remove dough from the food processor. Dough should be very easy to handle and should hold together well. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously butter your tart pan, making sure to get into all the crannies. Arrange two overlapping sheets of plastic wrap on the counter and sprinkle with potato starch flour. After the dough has chilled for 30 minutes, remove it from the fridge, unwrap it, and place it on the plastic wrap. Cover with two more overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and roll out to a circle about 1/4 inch thick and about a 14-inch diameter.

The dough is very easy to work with and handle and should be easy to transfer into your tart pan. I took off the top layer of plastic and rolled my dough circle around my rolling pin and transferred it that way, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that or feel the dough is too delicate you can transfer the dough with both sides of plastic wrap and all into the tart pan. Fold over one side and peel one side of the plastic from underneath, then replace dough and repeat with other side. Remove the top layer of plastic last (keeping the top layer of plastic while removing the under layer prevents the top of the dough from sticking to itself during this process).

Press the dough into the tart pan, removing the excess and using it to patch any holes. You should still have plenty of dough left over; roll it back up and return it to the fridge for now.

Once the dough is pressed and shaped into the pan evenly and you’ve patched any holes, prick the base of the crust all over with a fork. Bake the crust in the oven for 11-13 minutes. Be careful not to over bake the crust, since it will bake again with the filling; the crust should still be blonde when you remove it from the oven. Do not bake longer than 13 minutes.

Allow the crust to cool on a rack for 10 minutes while you make the filling.

Make the Filling

6 oz almond paste, room temperature
7 tbsp butter, room temperature
3 eggs (room temp)
3 tbsp sweet rice flour
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp almond extract
10 oz fresh raspberries (about 3 cups)
2-4 tbsp sugar

If you haven’t already set the eggs out to come to room temperature, remove them from the fridge now and place whole eggs in a bowl of warm water.

If you followed the above recipe for almond paste and have not yet kneaded in the 2 tbsp butter (but would like to) do that now. Your almond paste should be at room temperature.

Measure out 6 oz of almond paste and cut into thin slices and place in the food processor with the sweet rice flour, honey, and almond extract. Cut the 7 tbsp of butter into 1/2 inch slices and add to the food processor as well.

Whisk the eggs together and set aside 1 oz (2 tbsp) of the whisked eggs for the egg wash. Pour the rest into the food processor.

Process the mixture on high until smooth. making sure there are no chunks of butter or almond paste.

This is one of my favorite parts. Test the mixture for sweetness (mmm). It should taste like sweet cake batter and have a smooth consistency. It is at this point that you can add additional honey or simply sugar. Consider your options: you could make the filling extra sweet and skimp on the sweetness of the berries so the tartness contrasts with the sweetness. Or simply sweeten to taste, adding sugar or honey 1 tbsp at a time until desired flavor is reached.

Once the filling is smooth and sweetened to your taste, pour it into the tart shell and spread evenly with a spatula.

Toss your fresh raspberries with 2 to 4 tbsp of sugar, to reach desired sweetness. Gently press the raspberries into the filling.

Top and Bake 

Remove the extra crust dough from the fridge, and roll it out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters (hearts, stars, leaves . . . bunnies) and place in a random pattern over the raspberries and filling.

Mix the remaining whisked egg with 1 1/2 tsp whipping cream and brush generously over cutouts and the edges of the tart crust. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until filling is slightly puffed and pastry cutouts are golden at the edges. Check tart at the halfway point to make sure the crust is not overbrowning. If it is, cover with tin foil or pie crust guards. Filling should still be slightly wobbly when you remove the tart from the oven.

After removing the tart from the oven, allow to cool for about 50 minutes, and chill in the fridge for at least 50 minutes before serving.

Raspberry Almond Tart

This tart is perfect with some high-quality vanilla ice cream. And it only gets better with age. In the days after Easter, I swore the tart tasted better with every passing day.

Raspberry Almond Tart