Nancy lied! (Nancy is my mother by the way.)
Okay maybe not “lied”. I think she willingly misled me as a kid, though.
I remember countless Christmases when she would pull out the recipes only meant for special occasions. And the red velvet cake was one of them (don’t worry, I’ll share it at the end).
I remember the anticipation of the holidays. In our house, we went with an non traditional menu for Christmas. Lasagna, pink marshmallow salad (no idea what the real name was), an assortment of cookies, and my favorite RED VELVET CAKE!!!
Because she only made it once a year (or at least that’s the story my childhood memories replay) it was such a special treat. Not to mention the deep red hue and the beautiful contrast of the cream cheese frosting against the moist red cake – or the years when she was feeling herself and added red to the frosting too. In my mind as a naive child I just knew that the reason why this cake only made infrequent appearances was because the investment of time and level of skill required of the baker. But the truth, as many of you know, red velvet cake is not a hard recipe (but I’ve tasted enough in my lifetime to know that it does take some skill cause not everyone makes a good one).
Luckily Nancy lied to me and made me believe that it was a sacrifice and labor of love (but I guess when you add in all the other meal prep, entertaining, Christmas shopping, chauffeuring to holiday rehearsals and concerts, co-running a business, etc, it was).
I’d like to think a little of my mama’s baking skills and some of her love language rubbed off on me. It has been a while since I baked one of these but the other night I did. And it brought back some of the sweetest Christmas memories, warming my heart and satisfying my sweet tooth too. And what a happy baker I was not having to slave over a mixer all night!
When I see those deep red layers something in me turns on and thinks, “Yes, now it is Christmas.” Cue the Donny Hathaway track. Yep, that is all it takes. How about you? What’s the one tradition, sight, sound, taste, smell or experience that signals for you that the holidays are here?
And for those that were wondering when it would come, here’s the recipe. For the first 12 or so years of my life my mom used a different one. Then, our family tasted the best red velvet cake we’d ever had, made by Ms. Hazel Scott of Orangeburg, SC. She generously shared her recipe with my mom. And now I share this crowd-pleaser with you. Enjoy!
Red Velvet Cake
1 1/2 cups Crisco or Wesson oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups Swans Down Cake Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cocoa
1 cup of buttermilk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce red food coloring
Mix in large bowl: eggs, oil and sugar
Mix together: cake flour, baking soda, cocoa
Add alternately with: buttermilk and vinegar
Add: vanilla flavoring and food coloring
Pour into three round pans that have been well greased (I usually use two 9 inch pans).
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix.