For starters, I couldn’t reliably hold onto the name; my mind kept substituting “black forest” — that other color-noun cake — which then made me think of black velvet, which in turn made me think of soft renderings of sad clowns and Elvis, which made me laugh, but left me no closer to actually producing a red velvet cake. For that, I turned to the Internet, where I came upon a recipe that ultimately produced a pretty if not particularly lofty result.
But my friend missed the cake’s most beautiful stage, a captivating suspension of liquids that hung for long minutes in a shaft of late-afternoon sunlight as I melted the butter that would muddle their natural artistry: the golden yolk of one of my good hens’ eggs, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, vegetable oil, a scarlet splash of food coloring. Each element found its own depth, casting a shadow and keeping its distance from the others — at least until I added the butter and dry ingredients and brought out the beaters.
It was a sight worth capturing, and sharing, before all that spectacular singularity became … cake.