Friday, August 27, 2010

Howdy Cakes

[Where did I go?  I certainly didn't mean to abandon the blog, but in my evergrowing frustration with self-taught web design, I kept working in Dreamweaver until I couldn't possibly sit at the computer a moment longer and stormed away.  My apologies to anyone who reads regularly and has felt snubbed... but that's probably only my mother and she's holed up in the woods for the summer so she probably hasn't noticed.]

Whoopie Pies are a New England thing and not pies at all [chalk another one up to "Yankee know-how"] but two chocolate cake discs and a gooey white filling usually made from a marshmallow fluff base.  [I've also seen the cakes in trendy flavors like vanilla and pumpkin.] Now, chocolate cake is easy and marshmallow fluff ain't hard if you know how to make marshmallows, but I thought I'd try them in a traditional red velvet as homage to my southern roots... and that, of course, means doing it old-school with pureed beets and roux frosting!
Despite the magenta batter, beet-colored red velvet cake is not as bright as the artificial kind and the rosey hue can easily be overwhelmed by the cocoa content.   The beets actually go really well with chocolate and give it a little more sweetness and earthy complexity. I wanted a chocolaty cake, but was bummed at first by the normal brown-black color of the final product. The taste, however, is fantastic and I'm not going to quibble because the tint wasn't as odd as I hoped. 
Roux frosting is traditional for red velvet cake and amazing -- if you don't try these pies you should at least try the frosting the next time you have a need. It's equal parts milk, butter, and sugar (plus a few other things) and it's got all the texture of a great buttercream but without the overwhelming sweetness and is far less likely to break into grainy bits when it gets warm. I added a little buttermilk powder and amaretto for flavor, but if you don't have those things you shouldn't let it stop you.  I'm in love with this stuff -- real love, too, not just some trashy fling.**

Recipe: Howdy Cakes
I refuse to call them pies.

Do not use canned beets in this recipe.  They are brined and pickled.  They will not taste the same.  If the prospect of roasting beets is too much for you, just save the roux frosting part and move on.
Natural or non-alkali cocoa powder will give you more of a red hue.  This recipe is the one exception to my Go Dutched rule. 1/2 lb of beets should give you more than enough puree.

makes 12 sandwich cakes

For the Cakes:
1 cup beets, roasted, skinned, and pureed until smooth*
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted or browned, and cooled
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.  Whisk together wet ingredients in a larger bowl. [If beets or butter are warm enough to cook your eggs, combine all ingredients except eggs, whisk eggs in a separate small bowl, then whisk a couple tablespoons of the batter into the eggs to warm them up, then whisk the egg mixture into the big bowl of batter.]  Pour in dry ingredients and whisk together until combined. [If you're not using oat flour, be careful not to overmix.]  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or a #30 portioner, scoop batter onto the baking sheets, 12 per sheet [3 rows of 4].

Bake for 14-18 minutes or until cakes bounce back to the touch, rotating the pans at 8 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before filling.

 For the Frosting:
1/2 cup milk [I used skim]
2 Tbs  flour
2 Tbs buttermilk powder (optional)
2 Tbs almond liqueur (optional)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan, whisk together milk, flour, buttermilk powder (if using), liqueur (if using), and salt. [The buttermilk powder will break down into little specks.  They will dissolve once it boils.]  Switch to a rubber spatula and stir frequently (but watch constantly) until mixture turns the consistency of thick pudding.  Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl to cool. [I stick it in the freezer with a metal spoon stuck in the middle to hurry this process along.]

Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Once roux is sufficiently cool add a spoonful at a time to the the butter cream and beat on high speed.  Once all of the roux is incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides before beating for another ~minute.

Use an offset spatula to spread a couple teaspoons per sandwich cake.  Any remaining frosting can be eaten immediately or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

*To roast beets, scrub the whole beets and wrap them together in a sheet of aluminum foil and bake at 450F for 1 hour.  Allow to cool completely, then rub off the skins. 
**I loved it so much I ate more than I ought and didn't have quite enough to fill all of the cakes... but I did have some leftover chocolate ganache in the freezer... this was a very naughty fling.


  1. Your mom is *not* the only person who reads this blog! :)

  2. Well then, I better get back to work!