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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine’s Day history, Red Velvet cake, and a warning!

Does anyone know what Valentine’s day really is?  There are historical facts and legends and probably a blending of the two is what Valentine’s day is.   
I found out some info on's_Day  a little confusing though!
The name St. Valentine was used by more than one Christian person.  They supposedly died as martyrs-so the original celebration was to honor them-no romance involved.  
How did it turn in to chocolates and flowers?  

Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman] pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.  Fertility and love are kinda sorta related…

I found out some sobering information about what happened to a Jewish population in Strasbourg on Valentine’s day in 1349:   Scroll down to 1349, February 14.  

It seems no romantic love as we recognize it was associated with Valentine’s day until the author Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem about St. Valentine’s day in the 1300s-when courtly love was popular. Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration.  Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility.   Still not sure why chocolates and flowers became standard...but I'm NOT complaining!!!!

On to the cake! One of my niece’s favorite cupcakes is red velvet-perfect for V-day since red velvet reminds me of royalty's robes.   Until last year I had never made it.  I had a few boxes of white cake mix so I searched for an easy cake-mix recipe and found one on   I did alter it a bit after reading many recipes from Cookie Madness and other sites. I baked 12 cupcakes (I only have one 12 cupcake pan) and one layer of a 9” layer cake in a 9” pan.  If anyone knows of a good red food coloring replacement, please, please, please let me know!  I was going to order beet powder, but chickened out.

This recipe yields a deep-red, moist cake.  Not too dense.  I love the is perfect in my not so humble opinion!!!   I may try experimenting with beet coloring per Ashleen at The Big Bake Theory.  However, this cake is so tasty with the cheesecake pudding that I may just leave out the red food coloring and call it brown velvet cake!  Or maybe milk chocolate velvet cake.  


  •           1 box white cake mix (2-layer size)  (I used an 18 oz Duncan Hines white mix)
  •         1 box (4-serving size) instant cheesecake or vanilla pudding mix (I use cheesecake to add more flavor-red velvet can be bland)
  •         2.5  tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  •         1 tablespoon white vinegar
  •         1 cup milk
  •         4 large eggs
  •         1/2 cup vegetable oil
  •         1 ounce red food coloring (one bottle)

     Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • ·        4 ounces salted butter (1 stick), softened
  • ·        8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ·        ½  teaspoon pure almond extract, or 2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon orange extract (extracts have different strengths), or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ·        1.5 -2 cups  confectioner’s sugar (I used about 1 and ¾ cups-I like a good cream cheese flavor)
  • ·        Optional  Red sprinkles and or 1 cup  toasted chopped pecans

Directions and warning:

Make sure you wear “baking” clothing and a smock.  The red coloring is dangerous!
Preheat oven to 350 (or 325 if using dark pans).  Line cupcake pans or spray with Pam for baking.
Mix the 1 tablespoon vinegar into the milk and set aside.  Then pour the cake mix into a large mixing bowl.  To it add the box of pudding, 2 T cocoa powder, and then mix thoroughly.   Break eggs into a separate bowl and look for shells…I always do this because I almost always have shell pieces!  Add eggs, oil, milk, and food coloring to the dry ingredients.   Beat 30 seconds on LOW to incorporate everything.  Then beat 3 to 4 minutes on medium *(make sure to use a spatula a few times in between to scrape the bottom of the bowl)  until smooth 
Bake 24 cupcakes for about 18 minutes or bake (2) 9 inch cake pans for about 22 minutes. 
Beat softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth.  Slowly incorporate powdered sugar and then almond extract.   Beat until smooth.