The red velvet recipe differs slightly from the vanilla/chocolate cupcakes in that it adds the flour into the liquid sugar/butter/egg mixture as opposed to the vanilla chocolate cupcakes, where liquid (whole milk) is added into the flour mixture. Maybe that makes a difference in taste or affects the structure somehow, thus earning the 'velvet' title to describe its texture?
Eitherway, my boyfriend Erlend described the cake as a "very mild chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting." Kiron, a good friend, supplied another answer: "Red sponge cake with a hint of chocolate. Most of the flavor comes from the icing."
That seems a little bit more accurate. Though I would never have thought of calling red velvet as a "sponge" cake -- this appears to be a British term. Hummingbird Bakery's cookbook and website also toss the term "sponge" around a lot. But it's interesting that both Erlend and Kiron mentioned frosting in their descriptions. It really does seem as if the cake's cream cheese frosting lends a lot of flavor to the cake itself. This weekend, for instance, I whipped up a batch of red velvet cupcakes for my co-worker's SuperBowl party. Because I forgot to buy cream cheese, I substituted the regular cream cheese frosting for Hummingbird Bakery vanilla frosting. To my surprise, the cake was distinctly different. Not bad -- just different. It tasted like I was eating a Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcake as opposed to a red velvet one. Hm.
Which reminds me -- yes, you did read that right. I did make Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes this weekend. Using the unaltered, sea-level recipe I listed above. So how did those turn out?
They turned out quite perfectly.
I had been putting off making this recipe for a long time -- after seeing how the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's vanilla cupcakes had turned out (remember the puddles of goop
?), I didn't have the heart to see my favorite recipe in the same sorry state. But it turns out I was wrong. There was nothing to worry about after all.