Traditionally, and by "traditionally" I mean three years in a row, I've made Chuck a birthday treat in the spongy styling of Angel Food Cake. It started as a cutesy contrived little project in 2006 -- Angel Food Cupcakes -- a ruse to show my new boyfriend that contrary to my predilection for Super Potato Oles, I could in fact wrangle an oven mitt AND use a tube of green frosting as a writing utensil.
That went over well. Turned out his mom used to make him Angel Food Cake, which Chuck referred to as "Football Cake." Nothing says "Happy Birthday" like reminding a dude's tongue of when it was 6.
So I made this cake again the next year. And the next.
This year Chuck had a request. He wanted to buck tradition: How about a Red Velvet Cake?
I've never had Red Velvet Cake. In fact, I've only heard of Red Velvet Cake in recent years of scouring food blogs. If I had to guess, I would have assumed it was a kin of Rum Bundt Cake. I believed it was saturated in something flammable, giving it a velvety texture. Like licking an Elvis wall hanging, one that had been doused in the king's actual sweat.
I found a recipe online for something called Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake. A brand-name cake. Sort of like using Prada pans, and Jimmy Choo eggs. This recipe has an associated urban legend: Customer seeks recipe for delicious cake, it costs $1,000. You've certainly heard a similar story about some famous chocolate chip cookies. The expensive recipe legend is the hook-hand, lover's lane, story of baking.
So I made it. I forgot a crucial ingredient, per usual, but the three mini cakes turned out red, so I kept going with my project. The frosting was a mix of butter, sugar, and vanilla. Not at all the cream cheese frosting Chuck envisioned his cake slathered in, but I accidentally stumbled on the recipe for hot buttered rum. Not a bad mistake.
This cake was a disaster. It was dry. I bit into it, and a puff of flour from an un-blended pocket burst in my mouth like I'd detonated a smoke bomb. Sure, we tugged at it a bit. Fake ate it through fake smiles.
Not to mention that it looked like a cartoonish drawing of the Hamburglar.
Eventually, I heaved the screw up into the garbage can. Thud.
Last night I tried again with a new recipe. Something with the word "Southern" right in the title, and the call for an entire pound of cream cheese for the frosting. I made this one while Chuck was at work, double-checking the ingredients, mixing for longer than the recommended mixing time. By the time I finished making the frosting, I'd seen the light: Ah. This is Red Velvet Cake.
Of course, I spread frosting like a palsied finger painter, so it's still an ugly cake.
One of the best things about Chuck is that, after a bit of hinting and deep sighs, he gave me permission to have a piece before he even got home from work. Unfortunately, I couldn't get myself to do it. That seemed a little rude.