Red Velvet cake has a cloudy history with several stories claiming to know its origin. I’m going with the idea that this regional specialty began in Texas-around Austin. There was a food coloring factory there that made its name by mass producing recipes that used their food colorings-red velvet cake being one of its most popular. After a couple of decades, red velvet cake was no longer just a regional delight-it had jumped state boundaries and was all over the West, Northwest and Midwest. Somewhere along its journey, the recipe found its way to New York’s famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel-where urban myths suggest a chef sent a patron the recipe with a $300 bill for reimbursement. Nice story but it appears to be just that-a story, not fact.
There was a lull in the popularity of red velvet cake, and then it hit the big time: Steel Magnolias, a 1989 film, featured a red velvet groom’s cake shaped like an armadillo. Popularity was steady for a spell and red velvet cupcakes once again brought the recipe to the most wanted list.
It has always been a family tradition for our family, as I suspect it is for most families with southern roots. I discovered a new twist on the tradtional presentation and it is now our family fav-red velvet trifle. I began by making it in a trifle bowl-made for a lovely presentation-especially at holiday time. THEN, for a recent gathering when I served pork tenderloin, coleslow, black bean salad, corn w/shrimp, I decided the trifle bowl had a bit more of an elegant feel than the rest of the comfort food buffet. Enter a recent craze-mason jars. I found 1/2 pint jars with lids, made the trifle layers in the little jars a day ahead-put the lids on-put them in the fridge until the party. Removed the lids, added a long teaspoon and served this darling red velvet trifle to a round of oohs and aahs. Please don’t tell my mother, but I did use a boxed cake mix (which turned out just fine) but I suggest you find/use your favorite version if you feel the boxed mix is forbidden by the gods of southern cooking.
For the white creamy layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
*If you don’t have mascarpone, sub all cream cheese, so a total of 12 ounces.
In a large bowl with a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and slowly pour in whipping cream. Continue whipping until mixture resembles soft whipped cream. This took about 10 minutes.
For the chocolate layer:
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup dark chocolate chopped
Warm the half and half in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow it to almost boil, but don’t let it boil. As soon as is it really hot, remove it form the heat and stir in the chocolate. Stir until melted and allow it to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Once it has cooled (at room temperature), it is ready to be used in the trifle
Arrange a single layer of red velvet cake chunks on the bottom of the trifle dish. Spoon about 1/3 of the ganache on top of the cake cubes, then spoon about 1/3 of the cream cheese frosting onto the ganache. Sprinkle the frosting with mini chocolate chips. Repeat layers until you run out of room in your dish (which took 3 layers for me).
This made 18 of the little 1/2 pint mason jars. I hope you try this-you will love your guests reaction to the presentation in the trifle bowl or the mason jars.