Recipe for Red Velvet Cake

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This week’s guest blog is a recipe for Red Velvet Cake from Pixie Hall Cakes to help you share the love this Valentine’s Day.

Red Velvet Cake

Excuse me, has anyone seen January? I’m sure it was around here somewhere but suddenly, all I can see is February.  I’m really not sure how this has happened but I’m sure there’s nothing I can do about it so I’ll just enjoy the fact that it’s getting closer to spring and the days are getting longer.

I was quite lucky with the scheduling of this post actually as it meant I could make something special for Valentine’s day. I’m sure lots of you will be going out for a fancy dinner with your partners or have something else special planned. For those of you that are cooking a meal to share at home, I have the perfect dessert for you to make.

This red velvet cake is quick and easy to put together and looks fantastic. It also happens to be delicious! Red velvet is a traditional American cake and is a vanilla cake with a hint of cocoa and a fair bit of red colouring. Classically, the chemical reaction from vinegar and buttermilk mixing with the cocoa has helped to enhance the red colour of the cake and keep it fluffy and moist.  The cake is filled and covered in a delicious cream cheese frosting which complements the sweetness of the cake with its natural tangy flavour.

I have experimented with red colouring in my quest for a beautiful red velvet and I have found that supermarket food colouring labeled as “natural” will not make your cake the show stopping red that you want. Your cake will be a reddish brown and, while still tasting delicious, will lack the wow factor of a brighter hued treat. You should look for concentrated paste colours or the traditional liquid colours for best results.

You can buy buttermilk in supermarkets but I don’t tend to bother. You can substitute the buttermilk with plain yogurt or mix 1tbsp lemon juice into 235ml milk and set aside to curdle before adding to the cake.

Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients:

340g plain flour

400g sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

350ml oil (sunflower or other flavourless oil)

235ml buttermilk

1 tbsp vinegar  (white vinegar or cider vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla

Red colouring (the amount you use depends on the brand and how red you want the cake)

For the frosting:

200g softened butter

60g caster sugar

400g cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 23cm round tin.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda with a whisk to ensure it is combined well.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and colouring together until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth and uniformly coloured.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 45-55 minutes or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat again.

When the cake is cool, slice it in half and spread some of the frosting evenly on one half, place the other half on top and then smooth the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake.

To make the decoration I cut a heart shape out of a piece of paper and used it as a stencil, pouring red sugar sprinkles onto the frosting. They should keep the shape of the heart well and remain in place as you remove the paper.

Slice and enjoy with your loved ones.

Linds Hall runs Pixie Hall Cakes in Fakenham and can be found selling her delicious baking at Fakenham Farmers’ Market on the 4th Saturday of each month.

Photographs by Keith Osborn Photography

How to reduce Draught Marks on your Carpet

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This week’s guest blog is from Glyn Charnock, Owner of Chameleon Cleaning.  Glyn is also Training Director of the National Carpet Cleaners Association, helping to keep members up to date with the latest cleaning methods and products.

Draught Marks on Carpets

Have you got dark lines on the carpet under your doors, straight dark lines across the room, a dark line around the skirting boards, or even patches of little dark spots in rows around the edge of the room?

If so, you have got a problem called Draught Marking or Filtration Soiling.

It probably looks something like this >>

Draught Marking

What Causes Draught Marks?

Well the cause is pretty simple. It is air moving across the surface of the carpet where there are gaps under the skirting and doors, or blowing up through the carpet where there are gaps between floor boards. The little patches of dark spots near the skirting board are where the carpet fitter has stretched the carpet with their knee kicker whilst fitting and punctured the back of the carpet – this isn’t the fitters fault, they do have to stretch it in pretty hard! In fact, it can even happen at the bottom of full length curtains which almost touch the carpet. In this case it leaves a wiggly line where the curtain hangs.

The carpet acts a filter, trapping any dust and dirt in the air. This is often quite greasy soil as tiny particles of grease and oil in the air, from cooking or traffic fumes in towns and cities, are also trapped. This is why they are so difficult to clean out.

This phenomenon actually shows how good carpets are at filtering the air in our homes.

What Can Be Done?

If you have draught marks, you have probably tried to clean them yourself, and they are probably getting worse, so what can be done about it?

Well, a good professional carpet cleaner should be able to reduce their appearance significantly with products specifically designed for this type of soiling. Although these marks may not disappear entirely, especially on lighter coloured carpets, because sometimes they are coming up through the back of the carpet. Draught marks can also be more difficult to remove from man-made fibres like polyester and polypropylene because they are oily.

I would suggest using members of the National Carpet Cleaners Association, ( NCCA ), as they are properly trained and carry full treatment risk insurance. There is a “Find  A Member” section on the website.

The only problem with cleaning these mark is that unless the causes are eliminated, they will always return over time.

Prevention is the Only Cure

Stopping the movement of air over or through the carpet is the only way to prevent draught marks completely.

This is most easily done when the carpet is first installed, but if the marking is bad, it can be worth lifting the carpet and correcting the issues before re-fitting the carpet’

The measures to take are;

Seal gaps between skirting and floor boards with flexible mastic

Lay hardboard or chipboard sheets over floor boards, taping joints to prevent air leaks.

Laying paper over the boards adds another layer of draught proofing.

Fit flexible draught excluders to the base of doors (this may not work if the house is particularly draughty – air can still be forced under the door).

If the carpet already has knee kicker marks, stick heavy duty tape on the back of the carpet where the marks are before re-fitting.

Is It Definitely Draught Marking?

There is one common cause of dark marks around the edges of carpets which isn’t draught marking.

Would you believe, it’s poor vacuum cleaning technique?

Both upright and cylinder type vacuum cleaners never get right up to the edge of carpets, despite what some of the manufacturers  may claim. There is always a thin strip which they miss along the skirting board. Unless you use a crevice tool, (the thin flat pipe which comes with all vacuum cleaners), to vacuum right up to the edge of the carpet, the dust and dirt will build up along the skirting leaving a dark line around the room. This will quite quickly become sticky – just like dust on a shelf left for too long – and will become difficult to remove. It is well worth taking a few extra minutes each time you vacuum to make sure you get to all the edges.

If you have any questions about maintaining your carpets in the best possible condition please email us – info@chameleoncleaning.co.uk or call on 01603864758.