Really special red velvet cake

This deep red vanilla cake with a light taste of chocolate, topped with cream cheese frosting is certainly a showstopper. I made this sweet treat recently for my husband’s birthday and it did’t hang around long!The buttermilk in this recipe makes it so incredibly moist and light.

Red velvet cake is also known as devil’s food cake as it’s so luxurious and rich it must be sinful! Personally I don’t know about that but helping yourself to a piece of this delicious cake , with luxurious creamy frosting lavishly spread between each layer is sure to put you into your own little piece of heaven.

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Ingredients

120g unsalted butter at room temperature
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
20g cocoa powder
4 tbsp red food colouring (I found that 40g of Dr Oetker Gel Food Colouring in Bright Red worked well)
1 tsp vanilla extract
240ml buttermilk
300g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp white wine vinegar

For the icing:
600g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Put the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy and well mixed. You can use an electric mixer for this, in which case, use it on the medium speed setting. Once it’s all mixed together, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Then slowly pour in half the buttermilk.

Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added then beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Now fold in the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and beat until well mixed. (I like to add a small pinch of salt as it brings out the flavour of the cake, I promise it doesn’t taste salty at all!)

Meanwhile, make the icing by beating the icing sugar the remaining 20g of the unsalted butter together until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat it until it is light and fluffy.  Do not over-beat, as it can quickly become runny.

Spoon the mixture equally between three 20-cm cake tins and bake for 25 minutes and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cooled, sandwich the layers together using the cream cheese icing, and top with the remaining icing.

I like to decorate my red velvet cakes with gypsophila, berries, freeze dried raspberry crumb and a gentle dusting of icing sugar.

Tip: With the food colouring, I’ve heard that there are a few around that work well. Just make sure that you avoid any ‘natural’ colours and check it is bake stable otherwise it will turn brown when cooked.

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Summery warm lemon potato salad with fresh chives and crispy bacon

 This warm lemon and chive potato salad recipe with crispy bacon makes a really easy side dish that packs a flavourful punch. It’s a firm favourite at all our bbq’s and picnics and is much healthier and tastier than the usual potato and mayonnaise combination that normally gets left to the side. Fresh, zingy and perfectly summery, I usually have to double up this recipe because it goes so quickly!

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Ingredients

2lbs/900g new potatoes, skin on and washed
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp whole grain mustard
4tbsp olive oil (extra virgin is the best)
a sprinkle of black pepper
2 tbsp freshly chopped chives
6 spring onions
6 slices of bacon (smoked will add the most flavour)

Method

Firstly place the potatoes in a saucepan with enough boiling water just to cover them, add some salt, and simmer them for about 15-20 minutes until they are soft when cut with a knife.

Meanwhile, slice the bacon into small strips then fry slowly on a medium to low heat until they turn dark and crispy. Once they’re crispy I always take them out of the pan and lie them on some kitchen towel so that the grease can drain out.

To make the vinaigrette, finely chop the garlic then whisk in all the other dressing ingredients. You can use pre squeezed lemon juice if you like but it won’t have the same punchy flavour as fresh lemon. Roughly chop the spring onions and chives ready to garnish with the bacon.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them in a colander and transfer them to a serving bowl. Pour on the vinaigrette dressing while they are still hot, toss them around in the dressing to get a good coating, then finally scatter in the crispy bacon, chopped chives and spring onions and serve.