The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Rainbow Velvet Cake February 27, 2010

Filed under: experiment,Food,recipes — Alden @ 2:44 am
Tags: , , ,

Who doesn’t like rainbows? I cooked this cake for a coworker’s birthday and the result was described as “magic” and “the most amazing cake I’ve ever seen.”

I’ve had this idea in my head for a while. I had seen a picture of a rainbow cake, and was just trying to decide what flavor would be the best to make it in. And then it came to me: Red Velvet! My thought was, if you are already dying the bejeezus out of a red velvet cake, why not use other colors?

I’m an old pro at red velvet cake, by they way. Every year for Christmas since I can remember Mom has made it with pink buttercream icing. We light candles and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Odd? Yes. Especially since we aren’t even really religious. Delicious? Absolutely.

In my recipe below I make a simple vanilla icing instead of butter cream. I always thought the buttercream was a bit too rich for my taste. Try to get butter that is pale if you can, so it doesn’t affect the creamy whiteness of that icing.

I know it’s a lot of ingredients, but you have to triple the recipe in order to get enough batter for six layers, or else the layers will dry out. Also, make sure to use 8-inch instead of 10-inch pans, for the same reason. And like my mom always says “Make sure to follow the instructions EXACTLY!” (I’m bad about that.)

Recipe for Alden’s Velvet Magic Cake (Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Remixed)

  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 boxes of food coloring (the kind with red, yellow, green and blue .25 oz squeeze bottles. Found in any grocery store)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening (like Crisco)
  • 4 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 7 1/2 cups all purpose flour. (the recipe says sifted, but all flour is pre-sifted these days, so no worries on that.)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

(Note: this is what the cake looked like when I only doubled the recipe. Yes, the layers were a bit dry. So you’ll want to triple instead.)

For the icing:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • good dash salt
  • two teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar (Note for your shopping trip that that’s almost two bags worth of sugar.)
  1. Grease three 8 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Divide cocoa evenly into 6 medium bowls that are lined up in a row. (Cereal bowls are NOT quite big enough.) In bowl 1, put 3 bottles of the red food coloring. In bowl 2, put 1 bottle of red and 2 bottles of yellow. In bowl 3, put 3 yellow bottles. In bowl 4, put 3 green bottles. In bowl 5, put 3 blue bottles. In bowl 6, put 1 red and blue bottle each. Mix each bowl to make a paste.
  3. Combine the buttermilk, salt and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Divide the mixture evenly into the 6 rainbow colored bowls.
  5. Into each bowl, met out a heaping spoonful of flour and the buttermilk mixture. Mix it up. Repeat until all of flour and buttermilk mixture is mixed into the bowls. (Make sure to do this gradually, not in one big dump!)
  6. Pour batter from the purple, blue, and green bowl into the cake pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Flip them out, purple first, onto your serving tray. Put the last three colors into the now empty pans to bake, and then stack them on top. (Notice in the top picture that I mixed up my orange and red layer. Whoops! Gotta be careful!) You want it to be, from bottom up: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange red. The colors will be brighter once you slice into the cake, so don’t worry if the crust looks dull. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. To Make Icing: mix up all ingredients. Generously slather (when the cake layers are completely cool!) between each layer and all on the outside. Don’t let any color peek through.
  8. Don’t tell anyone it’s a rainbow cake until you slice into it and deliver a little piece of magic onto their plates!

My Birthday and Eco-friendly birthday presents! November 29, 2009

I’ve gotten two presents so far. Yesterday my boyfriend gave me a climbing session at Earth Treks, per my request. (I wrote about my birthday and Christmas requests in this earlier post.)

It was a great time. When I first started up a stalactite, my position felt so perilous, like I would fall backwards if I even tried to move. “Why did I ask to do this?” I wondered. But as I started to pull myself up and to the top, I remembered why I like rock climbing so much. It’s a challenge, you come off it feeling happy and strong, and it’s so much better than sitting around and watching tv!

After that Scott took me to dinner at the Wild Orchid Cafe in Annapolis. He consulted my sister for a good recommendation. They both tortured me for weeks about it. “Ohhh, you’re going to LOVE it,” Colby kept saying, without telling me what it was. As we walked up the brick sidewalk to the porch, I asked Scott, “Is it local, sustainable food?”

He grinned. “Yup.”

At that point, I started squealing with delight. I’m so happy there’s a place like this in Annapolis! From their website:

Our cuisine is based primarily on the local produce and humanely raised animals of the Chesapeake Bay area…Chef Jim Wilder and team of Certified Chefs incorporate the finest seasonal seafood, game, and fresh local produce into the cuisine. For this reason, some have referred to our style as “Californian” meaning, we are well-known for creative preparations using the freshest and finest local products, which makes for stunning plate presentations with a natural, simple beauty…

And then today, Mom presented me with a beautiful blanket created from all my college t-shirts! I was so taken with it. And apparently, my sister’s husband liked it so much, he’s presented Mom with all his old nerdy/cool band t-shirts. I took a picture of them lined up and ready to be sewn, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise so I won’t post it here.

And I’ll just end with this. I was listening to Marketplace on NPR the other day, and there was a piece on the “value waste” that happens every year at Christmas. It’s because we pay money for gifts for other people, like what we think are a cute pair of gloves. But the receiver might not have paid so much for the gloves, or wouldn’t want to pay at all. So that money is wasted. The guest contributor, Joel Waldfogel, author of  Scroogenomics, put present waste at 20% of holiday spending. Really?? Thats 12 to 13 billion dollars a year of money that could have been saved, paid for better food, or a mortgage, or something else. Maybe we should rethink this.


A hippie’s dilemma: eco-friendly presents October 28, 2009


So you might have noticed lately that I’ve been trying to pare down my life a bit. I’m avoiding buying anything that isn’t necessary, which has served me well. (Exhibit 1: losing my umbrella but borrowing one from the roomie until I could snag one off the mom. Win!)

But now my birthday is creeping closer, and then a month later, Christmas. The whole point of presents seems to be either to ask for something you can’t afford yourself, to ask for something super boring you need, or to ask for something that you would never buy for yourself.

We all know the latter is always the most fun option. I remember reading a piece in Vogue a while back where the author said that you should always pick out something for a friend that is beautiful and a little impractical. “Skip the ever-useful black gloves and go for the baby blue!” she said. It’s an adorable thought, but goes against everything I’m trying to achieve. And with my luck, I’m sure I would get something expensive that I will never, ever use, but can’t get rid of because it would be insulting.

As for the second, boring option…it goes against my personality. And the first option, well, none of my friends make more money than I do, and I feel bad – after my sister’s big wedding this summer AND my graduation present – making my parents shell out for something extravagant.

Ok, so, what do I ask for? Let’s brainstorm stuff that doesn’t require a lot of resources but is fun:

  • Movie, concert, symphony, or show tickets
  • Entrance to an exclusive gallery opening or party
  • A spa treatment
  • four-wine
  • A delicious bottle of organic vodka, gin, or wine
  • il_fullxfull.93697757
  • Anything from Etsy earth
  • A homemade batch of organic cupcakes
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  • Fair trade organic chocolates
  • Dinner at a restaurant that serves  organic or local food
  • A wine tasting
  • A donation to a good cause
  • Or something that plays off a friend’s skill! (Elisabeth, I’m looking at you! <-awesome scrapbooker)


Raise your hand if you have, like, a bajillion t-shirts. I know you do. They take up a full third of all my drawer space. But I just can’t stand to get rid of any of them! They remind me of concerts and music festivals, parties, clubs and causes, field hockey, 10k runs, and Greek life. I must have at least 30 of them. So even if I didn’t do laundry for a month, and worked out every single day, I still wouldn’t run out.

Solution! I asked Mum to make a blanket out of them. I’ve been wanting a yummy blanket, and now I will have one that means a lot to me, one that reminds me of all my most funnest times in college and even high school. She’s already started crafting her plan of attack. (“I’ll get your sister to help me design it, and borrow Sharon’s surger…”) Win! (If you want to get a place to make one for you, check this company out.)

Now, what do I ask for from my boyfriend? Ah, I always pity the boyfriend who has to pick out a present for a girl. Senior year of high school, Scott actually yanked a handful of roses out of a plastic grocery bag and handed it to me. ::Sigh:: He’s a bit more mature now, but I have super-picky taste in jewelry and clothing, and he knows that. Hmmm, think Alden!

(Wow, I’ve been thinking for ten minutes here!)

Got it! Ok, so while I was home for a couple days, we knocked around the idea of  going to a rock climbing place in Maryland called Earth Treks. So this is what I want: an intro lesson to rock climbing, so we can spend the day together belaying each other up the indoor facility’s walls. (Yup, a girl can belay a heavier guy too!) After a hard day of burning calories (900 per hour, apparently) I want a dinner at a good, organic restaurant. That’s a low-impact, high-fun way to spend the day. Perfect.