Red Velvet Cake

Right before leaving for our couisin’s wedding in Italy (seriously like 3 hours before) I was notified by a crisp white 8×11 piece of paper that I had won our school’s food writing scholarship.

I applied for this scholarship last year, and thought I had it in the bag. Um hello! Blogger (with a spelling problem), paid restaurant critic, book contributer. And as you can guess I did not win. This year I dug a little deeper, pulled out the “hearts and flowers” (not the way I like to write), and as I turned my essay in I said, “If I do not win, please gently pull me aside and let me know that food writing is not in my future.”

Culinary and Writing are both ego fueled careers, and while I find pleasure in both, I’s be lying if I didn’t admit to also finding pleasure in the ego stroking. It feels good to have people recognize the work you’ve done, and the chorus of “ohhhhhs,” and “ahhhhhhhs,”  is better than a paycheck. (Ok, not really, the pay check is important too.)
Thanks to Erin, Lily, Carolyn and Shannon for reading through and editing.

Red Velvet

My father isn’t a hard man to please. A southern born military school graduate, he likes things done right, the first time. Simple pleasures such as sipping a cold can of Coca Cola after mowing the lawn on a hot summer afternoon, or a few autumn puffs on his pipe deeply satisfy him. In contrast to the ever-changing demands for sweets and entertainment, and full attention we placed on our mother, my father’s few and far between requests carried more weight. A man who valued quality over quantity and an evolving gastronome, his traditional but impeccable taste in food has proved to be a bedrock in my culinary journey.

Such was the case for his birthday cake. No ordinary cake would do. Sub-par sponge blanketed with garish pink buttercream roses plagued our local grocery store bakeries. My mother, partaking in a cherished family tradition from my father’s childhood would present to him a fully homemade red velvet cake.

Every January 31st following the long holiday baking season of pies, Christmas cookies, and fruitcake my mother would lug out her white Kitchen Aid standing mixer. And from her worn tin recipe box, she would pull a faded 3×5 card for red velvet cake penned in Grandmother Williams elegant, but illegible cursive.
Pulling a chair over from the kitchen table I would peer over the mixer, watching in silent awe. Crack! The eggs slid into the bowl. Ploom! A puff of flour escaping into the air. “This is daddy’s cake,” my mother would say to my sister Jamie and me as we waited patiently to lick the paddle attachment clean of its pink batter. “And when he was a boy, his mother would make it for him on his birthday.”
After dinner, it would appear. A cake dreams are made of, three tiers of sanguine sponge, swirls of frosting suggesting cascading silk theater curtains the color of fresh cold snow. With a long slicer she would slowly saw into the cake, removing a wedge to reveal a shade of dangerously exciting red. The dense, but moist cake tasted of pure milk chocolate, and the smooth, luxuriously rich cream cheese frosting sent me whirling into a pleasure coma, eyelids half-mast, a satisfied grin plastered across my young face. Had I known about the birds and the bees then, I surely would have sworn them off for a lifetime supply of red velvet cake.
After dinner the Kitchen Aid mixer would go back in the cabinet; the recipe card, further sepia-toned with a splash of vanilla, back into the tin recipe box. Like her fruitcake or chocolate dipped pretzels, I naively expected my father’s cake every year, but as our family schedule became more harried, tradition fell by the wayside. Leaving the dirty work to restaurants, my father’s birthday was celebrated with a meal out through high school and college.

Several years have past since my mother has made my father’s favorite cake, but there isn’t a January that goes by where my father and I don’t make a deal with God for just one more slice of red velvet.

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3 thoughts on “Red Velvet Cake

  1. Hey! You do not know me, but I just stumbled across your website while looking into teaching english in Korea blogs. But your cake sounds delicious! Wish I could see it and maybe even attempt it someday. Good luck with all your travels and maybe we’ll be hearing more about you in famous forums! :]

    PS I love gummi too. Am Scandinavian. How wonderful–its availability in European mini-bars!