Recipe: Red Velvet Cake from the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington

Pastry Chef Josh Short shares his red velvet cake recipe Photo: Josh Short

WASHINGTON, December 17, 2013 —Pastry chef Josh Short is a master of confections.  Working from a galley at the rear of the catering kitchen atop the roof of the Hay Adams Hotel, his narrow workspace is a study in discipline and control. 

Spotless, gleaming stainless steel is the backdrop for delicate pastel macaroons, jaunty meringue snowmen topped with 10-gallon chocolate hats, colorful Christmas tree sugar cookies, the very first log of seven-buche de Noel series and a torso-tall croque en bouche that towers above them all.

The time to create these holiday treats has been smuggled into an already improbably intense pastry schedule, which includes turning out all of the desserts for the Hays Adams’ restaurant and private parties, creating customized cookies for young guests and baking fresh daily bread and biscuits.  (Short’s fist-sized ham and cheese breakfast scones are reason enough for guests to venture down to the dining room for breakfast.)

Short is known for notching up classic recipes, as he did with this recipe for red velvet cake.  (Note the absence of vinegar.)  By relying on self-rising flour this red velvet cake is simpler for the home baker and even more delicious, he insists.  The proof is in the tasting.

Red Velvet Cake with Marshmallow Icing

Red Velvet Cake

8 oz. unsalted butter

1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

2 cups self-rising flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

¾ cup buttermilk

¼ cup red food color

Marshmallow Icing

4 egg whites

½ tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup granulated sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Scrape down the bowl.
  3. Add eggs one by one.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa powder, buttermilk, and red food color. Beat on low speed until combined.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 8 inch cake pan lined with parchment. Smooth the top.
  6. Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until a cake tester is inserted and comes out clean.

For the Icing:

  1. Place egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  2. Heat over a double boiler and whisk for 4 to 5 minutes until thick.
  3. When thick, remove from heat and whip 3 to 4 minutes until cooled to room temperature.

*Do not let the icing stand too long or it will begin to set.


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Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

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