Birthday, Bro, and Blue Velvet Cake

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August is the month of blue.

It’s a good thing. Paul McCartney’s favorite color is blue (I’m still reeling over Outside Lands); it’s the color of Shark Week, the best week ever (don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise); and it’s the color of my close friend’s favorite baseball team (a team-that-shall-not-be-named).

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Last weekend brought on a collision of all of these tinted circumstances along with said friend’s birthday. To wish him well and secretly commemorate Shark Week at the same time, I came up with this cake that true to the theme, blue everyone away.

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This is is essentially a red velvet cake in blue form. Red velvet cake is buttermilk-based and gets its hue from the chemical reaction between the anthocyanin, a pigment in cocoa, and the acids from buttermilk and vinegar. Today’s red velvet cakes are much redder because of added food coloring, which may not be the most natural way to go, but it does make for a standout dessert that lends itself to other coloring options.

It would be fun to make this cake with each layer as a different color, since the base is the same no matter what. If any of you try this out, I’d love to see photos!

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Even though I can’t write with icing to save my life, I think I hope I was able to get the point across through these three layers of dessert goodness. With a cake-filled birthday bro and my nifty new cake carrier in tow (get yourself one here), I deem this weekend adventure as a celebratory sweet success.

All my cake dope.

Happy birthday, Shaunt!!

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Blue Velvet Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

For the Cake:

2 sticks butter, room temperature
1.5 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp blue food coloring
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda

For the Frosting

2 8-oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Simple Syrup

1:1 ratio of granulated sugar to water

Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 8 or 9-inch round pans and line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray parchment paper and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add in the eggs one at a time.
  • In a small bowl, mix together cocoa powder and food coloring and add to egg mixture.
  • Mix together flours and salt. Alternating with buttermilk, slowly add into the wet ingredients until just combined, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  • Combine vinegar and baking soda in a small bowl (it will fizz; chemistry!). Mix into everything else. Divide the entire mixture evenly between the three pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center is set when poked with a toothpick. Rotate the pans halfway throughout baking to ensure even cooking.
  • Let cool on a wire rack. Once cakes are at room temperature, unmold them from the pans and wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Frosting:

  • Beat together cream cheese and butter until thoroughly mixed. Slowly add in powdered sugar and lemon zest until everything is well-combined. Note: You can make everything 2-3 days in advance and assemble the night before if needed.

Assembly:

  • Cut out rectangles of parchment paper and overlap them onto your serving platter (in my case, the base of the cake carrier). Place the first cake on top of the papers. Generously brush the top with simple syrup and spread about 1 cup of the frosting over it with an offset spatula. Repeat with the second layer.
  • Once the third cake is on top, spread a thin coat of frosting over the entire cake and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This is your crumb coat; it ensures that no crumbly runaways show up in the final product.
  • Use your spatula to evenly spread the rest of the frosting over the cake. Once frosted, decorate the top however you want!
  • This cake is best served at room temperature. However, if it’s a hot day, the frosting will melt, so keep refrigerated if needed.

The Weekend E.AT. – An SF Cook at SF Chefs

Tented up in Union Square with hundreds of vendors and SF-themed cakes

Every year, SF Chefs takes over Union Square to serve up the best of the city and raise money for local food-related charities. This year was no different, and the downtown plaza brought on a massive collision of chefs, cooks, cuisines, and me.

Ever since I was induced into a food coma at this restaurant, I’ve been wanting to go back. With SF Chefs, I had the opportunity to return as a stage, working for food instead of dollar bills and setting foot in a professional kitchen after two years. Apron-clad with my old kitchen kicks on, I revisited the old life for two nights and remembered why I loved this industry so much…and how much cooks can drink.

Slicing up housemade bread rolls for sliders; please ignore my grimy sneakers

If you were ever wondering how 1000 bread rolls looks like, there you go. I’ve never been so proud of rolling balls.

Our contribution to this culinary evening was smoked beef brisket sliders with aioli, pickled relish, and house-made rolls. Even though I don’t eat beef, prepping, cooking, and serving food in an actual restaurant setting is chance to learn something new no matter what it is. I may forever have the aroma of meaty smoke seeped into my hair and the jalapeno heat seared into my palms (note to self: wear gloves next time), but it is always worth it, reinforcing that I can’t stay away from the kitchen for too long.

Doin’ it.

Clockwise from top left: Tequila-cantalope shaved ice; caramelized white chocolate with cocoa nibs, raspberries, and fennel; chocolate-caramel cupcakes; whiskey fudge. Let me repeat that – WHISKEY. Fudge.

Red curry crab risotto from Kuleto’s – spicy and delicious!

Our very own sliders!

Hamachi with plums

Macking on some macarons. I’m usually not a big fan of these but the jasmine tea flavored one was pretty damn good

Caneles from La Boulange, an SF staple. The caramelized outside and moist inside makes for a perfect pastry.