This customer was so sweet over email that I just could NOT refuse customising our original Red Velvet Meta Cake for his partner's 40th birthday. She loves red velvet, and she loves penguins.
The red velvet sponge recipe is the exact same one I have shared in one of my most successful blog posts - My Hero Sponge Cake recipe aka The MOST versatile and delicious Vanilla sponge. It's so easy, and doesn't compromise on flavour or texture.
Red velvet "purists" will whinge that you need vinegar and buttermilk in the recipe for it to be authentic. They might even claim the acidity is for the red colour or texture. Whilst it's true that you need some acidic ingredients in a cake batter to activate some raising agents like baking soda, you definitely don't need it for colour.
Way back in the day, bakers used beet juice for that signature deep ruby red colour, which brings down the acidity of the batter. The only reason vinegar was used was to add more acidity to help activate baking soda. Those were also the days of unprocessed cocoa, which when combined with more acid would deepen to a reddish brown colour.
These days, pretty much all cocoa powder is Dutch processed. What's Dutch processing, you ask? It's basically washing raw cocoa with an alkaline solution (potassium carbonate) to neutralise its natural acidity. Whilst it loses its ability to change to a reddish colour, it is milder and tastes more "chocolatey", a flavour that we are now so familiar with.
Luckily for us, we have red food colouring and baking powder (which is basically baking soda plus an acid, mixed together in powder form) these days. Which makes making red velvet cake even more of a doddle.
This is probably too much of cake-geek chat. I'll stop now! So customer's partner loves red velvet and penguins. Here we have the most incredible red velvet cake with a fondant hand-modelled penguin. My job's done!
Lots of love,