On Friday, I promised you I’d share the other treat I made for Matt’s 34th birthday last week (as if the strawberries weren’t enough, right?). I had to make a cake, obviously, and I turned to a recipe I’d been meaning to veganize for YEARS—my family’s traditional, favorite birthday cake: Red Cake.
The recipe for Red Cake (NOT “red velvet cake,” mind you) originally came from my dad’s side of the family, but my mom’s side, the Lichtenauers (German? Us? Nooo…) usurped it years ago, and it’s since become the go-to birthday cake for any of my extended family. With its moist, tender crumb and old-fashioned cooked icing (never cream cheese!), it’s a universal crowd-pleaser, loved by everyone, and is probably my favorite cake of all time (though it’s got competition). My family members don’t take well to change, so Matt’s birthday gave me the perfect occasion to finally put my own spin on it. I took quite a few liberties (truth be told, it hardly resembles the original recipe); it didn’t come out tasting exactly the same, but I came pretty close. It’s still a very indulgent dessert, so don’t expect this to be low-cal, low-fat, or even “all-natural” (no need to skewer me for using food coloring, k? In my defense, I did try to healthify this cake at least a little!) but as a once-a-year treat, it simply can’t be beat.
- 1 cup nondairy milk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1¼ cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sifted whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 heaping Tbsp soy flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 Tbsp non-hydrogenated shortening
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1½ tsp Ener-G egg replacer
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 (1 oz.) bottle red food coloring
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup nondairy milk, at room temperature
- ½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
- ¼ cup non-hydrogenated margarine
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a measuring cup, combine the milk and lemon juice; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar with a hand mixer. Add the applesauce, water, Ener-G powder, and vanilla and beat to combine.
- In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and the full bottle of food coloring. Refill the food coloring bottle with water, then add to the cocoa mixture. Stir to form a paste.
- Add the red cocoa paste to the creamed mixture and beat to combine.
- Add the milk-lemon juice mixture alternately with the flour mixture, starting and ending with the milk, beating between each addition.
- In a small bowl (you can use the same one as for the cocoa mixture), combine the baking soda and the vinegar—it will foam up, so quickly stir and then pour into the bowl of cake batter. Fold into the batter with a spatula until just combined.
- Pour the batter into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish (the traditional vessel for it) or two greased 9-inch round cake pans (my variation).
- Bake for 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.
- Since I was making a layer cake, I let them cool in the pans for 15-20 minutes, then inverted them onto racks to cool completely.
- For the icing, while the cakes are baking (and/or cooling), combine the flour and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thick, about 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool completely.
- When the milk mixture has cooled, cream the sugar, shortening, and margarine in a large bowl with a hand mixer. (People in our family like to stop creaming before the sugar has fully dissolved, lending the finished icing a sort of gritty texture. It may sound weird, but I actually like it best that way!) Add the cooled milk mixture…
- …and beat until light, fluffy, and well-blended.
- When cake is cooled, frost as desired.
I sandwiched some icing between my cake layers (doesn’t that look like a giant whoopie pie?!)…
…and used the remainder of the icing to cover the top and sides of the cake completely.
Finally finished! Yes, this cake is quite a bit of work, but it’s well worth it. Look at that gooey, melty, delicious icing!
Certainly Matt, for his birthday, and I, for all my hard work, deserved to eat this for breakfast both Saturday and Sunday mornings, right? Cuz that’s what we did.
If anyone decides to give this cake a go (and you should!), please let me know what you think. I hope your family loves it as much as mine does.