Red Velvet Cake


It’s probably weird to be writing all about a cake, but this cake is something I’m going to miss about Zambia.  Less than three months out now the clock has started ticking, and we’re starting to think about those things.  Trying to catch the details of these sunshine-filled days before they slip through our fingers.

A year ago if you’d asked me what I thought of Red Velvet Cake, I would have said “why bother?”  What is it anyway, just cake dyed red?  Trying to be chocolate back during the war when there was no chocolate?  And wasn’t red food coloring linked to cancer or something?  Why would I eat red velvet cake?  No thanks.

But then I moved to Africa, where any food requiring yeast or an oven is a luxury.  And then this place called Megan’s Cakery started selling cupcakes at the school on Fridays.  And then one day Jake and Eli brought one home for me, dense and sugary with real roux icing, and suddenly red velvet cupcakes are what I look forward to on Fridays.  After Mike brings the kids home from school with a bag of Taco Hut burritos, they swing in through the kitchen door and throw their backpacks on the floor.  I’m thinking, did you bring me a red velvet cupcake?  Did it just get smashed?  And I don’t think it’s because my perspective is warped or that I’ve been living in Africa for too long.  This cake, from its crumb to its frosting to the ratio between the two, is perfect.


We still don’t really know what it is, definitely not chocolate but definitely not just white cake dyed red either.  This red velvet cake is almost like a pound cake, covered in what I think is the “gravy frosting,” so-called because it’s an old french recipe made by melting flour and butter together into a roux, or something like that.  I’ve never had it before but I’ve never had frosting like this before either, so I think this is what it must be.  It’s very stable in the heat which makes sense in Zambia.  And even though the sound of gravy frosting is kind of gross, it is really good.

So Mike surprised me with a whole 10-inch layer cake for my birthday!  Jake and Eli added the umbrellas.  How are we going to eat all this cake?!


One piece at a time, that’s how.  Hmm, I just realized there is a strange resemblance here to one of my other favorite cakes…


Thanks for my pink birthday cupcakes, Mom!  It’s been about three years since the last time I had Pilsbury Pink Cake from a box.  I love the sprinkles and the flowers and all that wine back there too.



February is a busy month with lots of reasons to bake yummy things.  For Jake’s and Eli’s birthday school treats, I made 24 blue cupcakes with chocolate frosting and 24 chocolate cupcakes with blue frosting.  Eli was very concerned as I was making them that they were going to look good and taste good.  Apparently kids in second grade are already judging other kids’ cupcakes, and I learned that the frosting is especially important because “some kids lick that off first.”  Armed with my new Wilton icing bag (thanks Mimi!), I passed Eli’s appearance test, and was glad to hear after school that day that I passed the taste test too.  The blue cupcakes were more green than blue, but I guess I should have known that might happen with yellow cake mix and blue food coloring…



Then there is Valentine’s Day.



Mike made pink scrambled eggs for breakfast which tasted okay but looked pretty gross, so I’ll leave that photo out.  But the apple pie turned out great!



We had some chefs helping us.



A few bacteria showed up too but we were careful to keep them away from the food.


Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, a school party, and trying to use up all my baking ingredients in peanut butter chip brownies, chocolate mint cookies, sugar cookies, and almond pastry.  Now this weekend we are going to Livingstone!

It’s a pretty wonderful life.