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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Kitchen Mailbox: Red Velvet Cake dresses up for any occasion; Husband's Cake a pleaser

Thursday, March 11, 1999

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Red Velvet Cake would have been a perfect cake for Valentine's Day - but then again this is a perfect cake for any day. Think green: Replace the red food coloring with green and you have a St. Patrick's Day cake - at least that's the advice from Mary Ann Devlin of Dravosburg, who has made Green Velvet Cake.

Today's first Kitchen Mailbox recipe is Quick Red Velvet Cake. It's easy - takes less than 20 minutes to prepare. The cake mix goes into a bowl followed by the next five ingredients, then a few minutes with the hand mixer and it's ready to bake. The frosting's just as easy, and is lusciously creamy (using butter really makes the difference).

The next cake recipe, Husband's Cake, called for strained beets, but we couldn't find strained beets anywhere. We thought about buying canned beets and running them through a food processor, but that would have added time to the preparation and we were committed to the word quick - so we used strained plums. The cake turned out moist (which is what the baby food does). The orange frosting adds a tangy, refreshing taste.

Quick Red Velvet cake was sent in by Marlene Smith of Steubenville in response to a request by Helen Richards of Butler.

Quick Red Velvet Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup oil
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons cocoa
5 eggs
2 ounces red food coloring, see note

Combine cake mix with oil, buttermilk, cocoa, eggs and food coloring and mix well (we beat for 2 minutes). Bake according to package directions. Frost cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 box confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 stick butter, softened

Cream butter and cream cheese; add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until spreadable.

Note: You can find food coloring in 1-ounce bottles just about anywhere they sell cake and candy supplies Food coloring also comes in paste form, which gives a more intense color.

Husband's Cake (no, this is not her husband's favorite cake - this is the actual name) was sent in by Helen Lamison of Carnegie.

Husband's Cake

2 cups sugar
11/2 cups oil
4 eggs
4 (41/2 ounce each) jars baby-food beets, see note
21/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix sugar, oil and eggs together thoroughly with a mixer. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, soda, salt and cocoa; add dry ingredients alternately with the baby food to the oil and egg mixture. Add vanilla.

Bake in a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan which has been greased and floured. Cool completely and frost with Orange Frosting, recipe below.

Note: We used plums.

Orange Frosting

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
51/2 cups sifted powdered sugar (this is approximate)

Mix cream cheese, orange juice and orange rind together. Add sifted powdered sugar (we added 1 cup at a time). Mix frosting until you get a nice spreading consistency.


Audrey J. Brett of Bethel Park requested a recipe for "roasting beef at a high temperature, turning the oven off and leaving the meat in the oven for a certain length of time to finish cooking." We received many recipes for cooking roast beef using this particular method and as much as we would like to pass the recipe along - we can't. After carefully reviewing each recipe, we questioned the health risks associated with leaving beef in an unheated oven. We checked with Cindy Javor of Penn State Cooperative Extension. Javor sent us the USDA guidelines on the safety of cooking beef and poultry. We're passing this information on to you.

The minimum internal temperatures recommended for beef are:

Medium rare - 145 degrees

Medium - 160 degrees

Well done - 170 degrees.

Leaving beef in an unheated oven for long periods of time would bring the internal temperature below 145 degrees, which according to the USDA is not safe. The USDA recommends using an oven thermometer when roasting or grilling meat. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has developed fact sheets with information regarding kitchen thermometers. To view the entire publication, see their Web site: http://www.usda.gov/fsis.

The USDA stresses: "Use a meat thermometer to take the guesswork out of cooking and to assure that a safe temperature has been reached to destroy harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli."


A.J. Bush of Penn Hills would like the recipe for Kataife. Kataife is a Yugoslavian pastry made with shredded pastry dough, nuts and honey. If anyone has this or a similar recipe we would appreciate a copy.

Does anyone know the history behind Lady Locks? A recipe would be appreciated by Kim K. of Baldwin.

Lost: A recipe for Black Russian Cake. This cake is made with dark chocolate and maybe Kahlua. It's very moist and baked in a tube or bundt pan. If anyone has or could find this recipe, Roberta Gick of Dormont would appreciate it.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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