The fascination for me has always been more fad than taste. The origins of red velvet are hard to pinpoint. Is it Canadian? Was it born out of food scarcity during World War II? Is it now back in style because of pop culture references? There is no doubt that red velvet is a hit. The cocoa undertones have always been secondary to me in terms of it's overall flavor. Red velvet, when done right, is a darn good cake. It is often paired with a cream cheese frosting. Together it is finger lickin', fork lickin', and bite-tastic!
I recently attended a baby shower where there was a photocake ordered from the famous Lords Bakery in Flatbush. Lords Bakery was one of the first bakeries on the East Coast to offer photocakes. What is a photocake? I'm sure you've seen then advertised in your local grocery bakery. Submit a photo and voila! The image is printed on an edible sheet of icing with the consistency of fondant and gum paste. It's strong, chewy, and the image will hold as if it were printed on paper.
Imagine the excitement when we found out that it was a red velvet cake. The cake was gigantic and all ours! We did not have to wait in a line with a cupcake bouncer nor did we have to travel far and wide for this sugary sweet confection. Then came the squeals.
It can get pretty gruesome when you cut into a red velvet photocake. The knife to the face reminded me of Sylar's signature move from NBC's now defunct Heroes. Mmm my what tasty brains you got there. Nonetheless, the cake was absolutely delicious. It was perfectly moist, rich, and had a healthy slathering of cream cheese frosting. Of course the Cake Man Raven was brought up in comparison but when what you've got on your plate is Lords Bakery, there is only one winner: Lords.
The red velvet photocake got me thinking. The last time red velvet made national headlines was a year ago when American Cupcake in San Francisco debuted red velvet fried chicken. The internet article spawned a week long vacation to the Golden State for my friend and I with American Cupcake being our first stop right off of the airplane.
How far would you travel for some fried chicken? I must admit I felt a slight bit of smug satisfaction knowing that we lucked out and got the last servings of chicken. American Cupcake makes a limited amount each day. The recipe calls for marination and the result is the perfect balance between sweet and savory. The Red Velvet Fried Chicken was similar to Chinese roast pork. It shares the same dyed effect of pink flesh but have no fear of the outer color. This chicken is cooked. Some say the chicken looks burnt. It isn't. The batter of the chicken becomes crispy, protects the inside from drying out, and the coloring darkens when fried. The
Cupcakes and goody, goody gumdrops aside, American Cupcake is more of a grownup place where grownups stop by to eat real food like truffle parmesan popcorn, Heirloom tomato salad, and red velvet fried chicken. The desserts are paired with beer and wine samples. American Cupcake is a fully functioning restaurant and bakery complete with a chef, sous-chef and all. Fried Chicken is worth having if you ever make a trip to American Cupcake. It also comes with a side of cream cheese mash and cocoa vinaigrette cole slaw.
As much as it is popular and of the moment, I think red velvet is going to stick around. It's just come a long way from the form of an armadillo groom's cake. Did we think that was tasty back in 1989?
Photography Credits: Rox, Jennifer Cheng
2135 Nostrand Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210
1919 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123