Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake. A “velvet” cake recipe with brownie swirled throughout. This chocolate velvet cake is to die for with a rich creamy vanilla bean glaze on top.
Let’s talk about baking today.
I’m fortunate to get a lot of feedback here on A Spicy Perspective. I love to hear your thoughts on recipes and alterations you’ve made to suit your tastes.
One thing I noticed is that I get more positive, and negative, feedback on baking recipes than anything else.
I’m not opposed to negative feedback. Everyone’s taste buds and preferences are a little different. Yet I find that most of these comments are due to conditions that are out of my control.
I used to tell my cooking class students that cooking is art and baking is chemistry, generally speaking.
In cooking, you can throw in a handful of herbs or a little more butter, like you were adding a bit more orange to an oil-painting. You can make changes as you go with no major catastrophe in the end.
In baking, everything matters. One small adjustment could be your undoing, but you won’t know it until you pull your cake out of the oven.
This is not meant to discourage you from baking. It’s meant to encourage you to learn a little more about the science of baking so that you can get the result you want more often, and understand a problem, if one occurs.
Elements That Affect Baking:
When making something for the first time, read the recipe thoroughly before you start. Follow every step to a tee. Remember, the recipe developer thought each element was important enough to document, so there must be a reason for it.
Temperature Matters. If a recipe calls for cold butter, melted butter, or room-temperature eggs, remember that any adjustment will effect the outcome. The difference between putting a dough with cold butter and one with warm melted butter, in the oven, is HUGE. It results in a completely different chemical reaction. Take the time to set your dairy and eggs out ahead, if they need to be room temperature.
Measuring Matters. We Americans like to kick it old-school in the measuring department, relying on cups and spoons to give the proper proportions. Yet pastry chefs world-wide measure their ingredients by weight. The reason for this is that a cup of flour can vary greatly in weight depending on the type of flour, and how packed it is.
In a perfect world all home-cooks would use scales and metric measurement to insure exact amounts of wet and dry ingredients. As that’s never going to happen, make sure to always pour ingredients into your measuring cups, never scoop. Scooping packs the ingredient down, meaning you end up with more than you want. Always level the measuring spoons and cups with a knife or spatula.
Ingredients Matter. Different brands of butter, yogurt, buttermilk and flour have varying levels of moisture, fat, and protein. These little variations can greatly effect the outcome of the final product. Use the brands the recipe developer recommends, or find brands that suit your baking needs.
Freshness Matters. Butter loses moisture the longer it sits in the fridge. Baking powder, baking soda and yeast lose their lifting power over time. Make sure to shop often and store well.
Mood Matters. This may sound silly, but it has to do with measuring and delicacy. A pastry chef once told me that when she’s upset, her recipes don’t turn out. She’s heavy-handed while measuring and rough on the dough and batter. She is physically not in the proper state of mind to turn out a perfect baked good. Try to bake when you are relaxed and have plenty of time.
Weather Matters. Standard “room temperature” is right around 70 degrees. If you bake when it’s really hot outside or bitter cold, and the outside temperature is affecting the inside temperature, your results will be different. If the humidity is higher or lower than normal, your results will be different. That’s why grandmas use to say never to bake on a rainy day. The heavy moisture in the air effects the ability of the dough/batter to rise and dry.
I wish I could tell you to only bake when all the stars aline. Then your baked goods would come out the same every single time.
But that’s not life.
We bake on rainy days because we’re stuck in the house. We bake on days we are feeling blue, because it lifts our spirits. We bake in a hurry to finish dessert before our guests arrive.
Just try to remember, EVERY element effects the outcome. Your muffins may be dome-topped one day and and flat the next. Your cake may be ultra moist one day and light and dry the next. It all depends on the conditions.
Simply do your best to make the conditions as “optimal” as possible.
Now on to my Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake…
This recipe is essentially a red velvet cake without the food-coloring. That means it’s a rich, moist, buttermilk cake with a touch of cocoa powder. Then I added a chocolate brownie swirl just for kicks!
The frosting on top is a thick creamy vanilla bean glaze that sits up high and adds the perfect pop of sweetness.
As with all cakes, I recommend leaving this out at room temperature.
Cakes tastes better, and stay moist, when they are left at room-temperature. Refrigeration only dries them out. I make a cake no more more than 4 days before I know it is going to be completely devoured. Cover it well and it will be just fine. I’ve never had one spoil yet.
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