Hello, hello, hello!
Continuing on from the previous post, I have been doing more testing of various cake mixes for the second request given to me by my friend. She asked for a gluten and lactose free cake to be served at her upcoming wedding, so that all the various attendees with allergies and intolerances could still have a good bit of cake. After a bit of back and forth she settled on a Red Velvet cake, as that happens to be one of her all time favourites.
I was rather curious to give this one a go, as it would be somewhat challenging to make the cream cheese icing lactose-free, but then also have it firm enough to be able to be piped. As the design I have in mind definitely requires it to be able to hold a shape when piped.
I tried three different packet mixes for this cake, as sadly my preferred packet mix now contains milk! But in the end I found all of them so lacking in flavour, moisture, stability, etc, that I have decided to prepare the cake from scratch and freeze it in advance. I love this technique, as with chocolate cakes it does seem to help the flavour develop better, and with gluten-free cakes means the cake remains fresh and moist.
The first cake mix I tried was Melinda’s Decadent Red Velvet Cake Mix. It wasn’t bad in terms of price, but nowhere near as cheap as I’d like. This cake mix starts gluten-free, but also has egg-free and dairy-free options. I found doing the dairy-free option very easy. But honestly, the cake mix was not even vaguely red. And not nearly as red as the picture on the packet would suggest. It was more a vaguely deep-ish pink colour, which would have become even paler after baking, as these things often do. I had to add quite a bit of Americolor super red food gel to it to get it to be red. I found the finished cake had a nice enough texture, was nice and light, but it was completely and utterly flavourless. I could feel I was eating cake, but I couldn’t taste cake. It was very surreal. There was none of the usual rich chocolate hints I expect from a red velvet cake. There was nothing decadent about it whatsoever. So for this one to work it required lots of food colouring and extra chocolate flavour to even get up to a basic level. Not a winner. I didn’t try the icing it came with, as packet icing never makes enough – especially not for what I need for this cake.
The second mix I tried was the Yes You Can Red Velvet Cupcake Mix, which could also be made vegan. It was the priciest of the three because I had to go to an allergy friendly grocery store to get it. I was more impressed with this one in terms of fluffiness and texture, and overall moisture. However, like the previous cake mix it was not even slightly red. The photo on the front cover made it look like it would be quite red, but if anything this mix was even paler and pinker than the last one! I once again had to add substantial amounts of food colour to it to make it red. But it baked as a cake quite well! I popped it into the oven and kept checking it after about 30 mins had passed. It baked quite well and had a nice rise, as you’d expect from a cupcake mix. Sadly, once again it lacked flavour. It wasn’t nearly as lacking as the first cake mix, but it was still highly disappointing. It would also need tampering with to make it taste of chocolate enough for me to use it. And once again I didn’t bother with the packet icing.
The third cake mix I tried was the Orgran Chocolate Cake mix – which is all kinds of “free”, from gluten and quite a few more, with a vegan option for assembly too. It was the cheapest of the three, but also not that easy to find. This one did the best out of all three cake mixes. It took to the food colouring quite well, had a much stronger chocolate flavour, and was a tiny bit denser too. However, it was incredibly unstable. All the cakes thus far hadn’t exactly been stable, but neither of the two above were quite so prone to breaking. I flipped this cake out onto a cake plate so I could then turn it onto a wire rack to cool, but in the two seconds it took me to remove the base of the springform cake tin and peel off the baking paper the cake completely fell apart into four large chunks. And this was despite it having had the chance to cool well in the tin. I did some testing of the chunks and found the cake to be incredibly crumbly, and a bit dry. And even though it had a better flavour, texture wise I wasn’t at all satisfied.
So, for this cake I have decided to use the base of an AWW recipe for a “Pink Velvet Cake”, which I have then adapted to be a Red Velvet Cake, and I am still in the process of testing different icing recipes. I have done a complete test run of cooking, assembly and packaging, and was very pleased at the results and the feedback from my testers. The feedback was that the cake was pleasantly moist, which surprised a lot of the non gluten-free people, and that it had a good flavour. However the icing was not at all popular, with the consensus being that it was sickly sweet and unpleasant as a result. But the icing design was quite a hit. None of the testers had seen a rose cake before, I suspect, and I was quite pleased at how – even though it was appalling rough and rushed, there were lots of “oohs” and “aahs”. So I am quite satisfied with the base cake, the design, and how I can store it before taking it to the venue. My best friend Mrs E will also be driving me so I can ensure the cake is stable and protected the entire trip.
But I am still in the process of testing the icing. I have gathered another four cream cheese icing recipes, which are meant to be quite stable and work well for piping, and I will be testing those leading up to the wedding. What I want is something with a good cream cheese flavour that’s not overpoweringly sweet!
*Disclaimer, none of the above photos are mine.