Blue vs. Red

Blue Velvet Cake ball with an Icing Filling
It's that time, right? It's the year when the right and the left square off over what it means to be an American.

Yeah, me neither.

I'd much rather just live life, bake something delicious, and share it. THAT ought to be the "American Dream," in my opinion.

Er, back to baking. After deciding which cake ball deserved to be called s'mores, my daughter's classmates chose blue velvet and red velvet for their next taste-testing challenge. (Both frequently pop up on Pinterest, so they must be good, right?)





As I explained in a note to the class, both are really red velvet, just different recipes. One is butter based, and one has TWO cups of oil. One has barely any cocoa to help the color along, while one has SIX TIMES as much. Oh, and while both have copious amounts of food coloring, only red comes in the "no taste" variety. (Shudder.)

Red Velvet: the pink candy melts at first confused some of the
teens. Their tongues expected cherry or strawberry!
I used the New York Times Red Velvet, though I adjusted the cocoa to 6 T because I knew there is a student in the class who would appreciate it. (She--gasp!--doesn't like chocolate, but don't hold that against her!) I also used no-taste icing coloring instead of the liquid it calls for.  For the blue velvet, I used  Sprinkle Bakes' version because she'd already made some adjustments to Paul Deen's. I really like the fluffy, buttery batter this one makes, and I'll use it as a base for something else, minus all that blue.

While rolling red velvet mush into balls, I remembered that the kids seemed to enjoy the little marshmallow surprise tucked into last week's graham cracker s'more. It was too late to do anything for this batch, so I kept rolling and thinking.


I considered M & Ms, chocolate chips, and maybe a cherry, but it just so happens that the container of really stiff icing was sitting on the counter. I absentmindedly cleaned off the icing spoon (by licking it...how else?!), and it was like Proust's  "petites madeleines!"  I was instantly reminded of things past, namely my mom's mints made from cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. Bingo. I'd just had the center-making technique served up to me on a spoon! (Pardon me for a moment...See, Dad? My liberal arts education comes in handy!)

Fast-forward to block day, and Red Velvet edged out Blue, 89 stars to 83.5.  (Statistically, that might be labeled a draw, but fair is fair. I promised that majority rules, and so Red Velvet it is.) The comments on the back of the ballots were really helpful again. The red was smoother (all that OIL!), sweeter (more sugar), and more chocolatey (six times as much!). But the blue boasted a buttery flavor, light texture, a great color, and a yummy center. The complaint that it was impossible to choose between them, followed by the suggestion to mix the two recipes, was offered more than once. Blue and buttery but also smooth and sweet.

Good idea. When I get a new oven, I'll try it. (Mine died during its self-clean cycle last night. Boo, hiss.) More sugar, more butter, more cocoa, a creamy center...the perfect recipe surely lies somewhere in the middle.

Doesn't "somewhere in the middle" sound like a  pretty good rule of thumb?  Despite lots of polarizing rhetoric them-ing and us-ing us into an every-four-years frenzy, what's best for all of us is neither right nor left, but center.

Niether red nor blue, but purple, if you will.


Now there's a slogan for a new political party...
Purple, the party of Somewhere in the Middle.

Blue Velvet Stuffed Cake Balls Click here for a print-friendly recipe if you don't have a scribd.com account:

Here's how to get the icing in the middle:
Forgive the blurry image...I was
working FAST!
  1. Chill icing overnight. It will stiffen and be easier to handle. If it's still too soft, you can re-whip it, adding more confectioner's sugar. You're trying to hit the middle here, too: it should feel a wee bit like clay without tasting like it! 
  2. Spread 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop a tiny amount (1/4 teaspoon or so) of icing and just plop it right into the sugar. When you have several little blobs in the sugar,  stick the icing container back in the fridge for a minute and quickly roll each between your palms to make a rough ball. Don't fret about being precise--it won't matter. The heat of your hands will melt the icing if you work too slowly or agonize over it, so don't do either.
  3. Place each little icing ball on a plate or pan. Once you have the first batch quickly rolled, go ahead and pop the plate into the freezer. Continue rolling and freezing in small batches until you have all the filling balls you need. (About 40 if you're using the recipe above.) 
  4. Stuff the cake balls, using this simple technique:


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