Red Velvet Cake – my daughter’s favorite. She has been obsessed with it ever since she learned there was something out there that is called red velvet cake. So it should not have shocked me that when I asked her what she wanted for her 10th birthday, she said: “I want you to invent a special challah flavor just for me – Red Velvet Cake Challah!”
Challahs these days are a changin’: they are topped with sprinkles, stuffed with pastrami or flavored with gourmet seasonal ingredients like ramps. They are unique. And while they all hold firm to their traditional braided bread roots, they are definitely a new breed of bread, not braided cake. So to make bread that is cake but still challah, I had to do my research. I looked at countless recipes…everything was red food coloring, cocoa powder, buttermilk, vanilla…all things that go great in a CAKE but, in challah dough? Not gonna work. So what do you do when you are a mommy on a mission but can’t figure out how to get your project to the finish line? You cheat.
Turns out Amazon sells bakery emulsions, which are concentrated flavor for baking that add depth without requiring excess liquid. They come in every flavor under the sun, including Red Velvet Cake. One click and two days later I had the bottle in my hands. I carefully opened it, and holy mother of cake balls, it smelled fantastic. Like cake in a bottle. Aside from adding the emulsion, I made two changes to my basic challah recipe: I removed the eggs, figuring all those yolks might affect the good red color, then replaced them with an additional tablespoon of oil and water; I also added 2 tablespoons of vanilla sugar to keep the dough’s consistency in check but add a hint of vanilla.
I didn’t want to make the challah too cakey, though I did want to kick it up a notch in terms of its red velvet cake flavor.
It turns out Duncan Hines makes red velvet cake mix. A little margarine, a little vanilla, a little cake mix and voila! An actual red velvet cake crumb topping. Add a simple glaze to the top because glaze is awesome and, believe it or not, you have a red velvet cake that is a challah.
It looked and tasted amazing, but most amazing of all was my little girl’s face when she saw her special birthday challah. All the work and planning was totally worth it…until my son requested a Jello Challah for his birthday.