“Not So Red” Velvet Cake

Recipe by Matt Gordon, Urban Solace. I got into cooking as a way of self-defense growing up. I worked in restaurants in high school and stayed in it through college, as a sous chef. I majored in environmental politics in college, but during my junior year, I realized I already had a career — cooking.

After we left San Francisco, what we missed about all the neighborhoods we lived in were the great bistros. We wanted to bring that to San Diego. At Urban Solace, we try to buy as much responsible foods as possible, and our goal is to not have a single word on the menu that common diners don’t know. Accessibility was one of the fundamental values in opening our restaurant.

I really have to credit my wife with home cooking. I learned that if you start feeding your kids different things, they’ll eat it. I really try to cook breakfast every day for our kids (aged 3 and 1) because that’s our time together. I make really simple things like eggs and toast. My favorite dishes are comfort foods like roast chicken.

One of my guilty pleasures is a chocolate cake. It’s a surprising cake because it has beets and buttermilk and vinegar. I was just talking to a guy at the bar who was eating it and he ate a very large portion by himself.

Makes two 9” cakes

9 oz softened butter

4 ea eggs

6 oz bittersweet chocolate cut into small pieces

1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 T vanilla

3 1/4 cups cake flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 T baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 T cider vinegar

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/4 cups pureed cooked beets (fresh is best but canned can be used)

Let butter sit out until soft and take eggs out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Melt chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Heat for 60 seconds and then, if needed, in 20-second intervals. Let chocolate cool. Preheat oven to 325˚ and liberally grease two 9” cake pans and coat with flour. Shake off excess flour.

In the mixer with whisk attachment, cream the butter, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Whip for 5 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate.

In a separate mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add the salt to the mixture and mix with hands to incorporate the cocoa powder and flour to an even-colored mix.

Add the tablespoon of cider vinegar to the buttermilk.

On the lowest speed of the mixer, add the flour and the buttermilk-vinegar mixture to the batter alternatively as follows: 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the buttermilk, and then the remaining flour. Mix to incorporate. Add the beet puree and mix to incorporate.

Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake at 325˚ until a toothpick comes clean out of the center

Cool for 10 minutes and then flip out onto parchment-lined plates to cool completely. If they are not going to be assembled into a cake, wrap with plastic. Frost when cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 lbs cream cheese

2 lbs unsalted butter

2 lbs powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp kosher salt

Let the cream cheese and butter come to room temperature. Place all ingredients in a mixer with whisk attachment. Start on low speed to incorporate the powdered sugar. Turn to high speed and whip for 1 to 3 minutes until the frosting takes on a slightly pearl-like sheen. If too soft to frost cake with, let chill for 20 minutes.

Chill the two cakes. Place the first layer on a cake stand. Spread about a 3/4-inch layer of frosting evenly over the surface. Place in refrigerator or freezer for 20 minutes to harden the frosting slightly. Place the second cake on top and evenly frost the entire thing.

The cake needs to be served at room temp, but the frosting will sag if too warm!

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