Baked Sunday Mornings: Gonzo Cake (Purple Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting)

When I saw the photo of the Gonzo Cake in Baked Occasions, I assumed that it was just a cake that was dyed purple. I was half right. While the recipe does call for some red and blue food dye, it also includes purple yam (aka ube) powder. I have never used ube before, either fresh or powdered. So I was very curious as to how the cake would come out.

Instead of using the ube powder as is, you rehydrate it first. This step is actually a bit tedious, as you have to cook the powder in water until it becomes the consistency of mashed potatoes. The process seemed to take forever, but I think it required about 30 minutes. Then you whisk a little canola oil into the rehydrated potatoes and set them aside.

The remainder of the cake recipe is pretty straightforward. You beat butter and shortening; add sugar and vanilla; and alternately add the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, and salt) and the purple yam mixture. Even though the batter was already a light shade of lavender at this point, I followed the recipe instructions to add some red and blue gel coloring to intensify the purple color. I wasn't sure how much to add, so I erred on the side of adding too little; it's quite difficult to judge how the color of cake batter will change between its raw and baked states. Then you fold in egg whites beaten to soft peaks and bake.
The frosting is a mixture of powdered sugar, butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt. It was a dark ivory color because of the vanilla extract. I leveled the cake layers, filled and frosted the cake, and then added a garnish of purple sprinkles. The cookbook says that this cake can be stored at room temperature for three days, but I always refrigerate cakes with cream cheese frosting and I thought that would be the safer route. I brought the cake come back to room temperature before serving it.
I took this cake to the office to celebrate a birthday. I was a little nervous about how it would be received -- not so much because I was concerned about how the cake would taste, but because I was worried about the cake being overshadowed by the Strawberry Supreme Cake that I was serving at the same time. We were celebrating two birthdays and so I made two cakes. I assumed that everyone would favor the more familiar and accessible strawberry cake over the exotic and weird-sounding purple yam cake. Much to my surprise, both cakes were equally popular.

This cake sliced beautifully and the frosting was smooth and creamy, with wonderful body. Even though I had added food coloring to the cake batter, the cake was an odd shade of light greyish purple that wasn't appealing. But the cake was moist and tasted good. It's difficult to describe the flavor -- definitely not sweet potato per se, but more of an earthy je ne sais quoi. It was unusual, but very pleasant. However, I think the star of this cake is the addictive cream cheese frosting.

I got a lot of compliments from tasters on this purple velvet cake. And I'll probably going to make it again -- if for no other reason than the fact that I've got a couple more packages of ube powder on hand. I bought the ube in New York City on a recent business trip; it was pouring cats and dogs as I slogged down to Chinatown on the subway, and given the miserable weather I endured to get to the Asian grocery store, there was no way I was leaving with just one packet of ube powder. I'll be happy to revisit this recipe -- and the next time I'll shoot for real purple velvet instead of greyish-lavender velvet!

Recipe: "Gonzo Cake" from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Chelly said…
LOL! I got the greyish purple color too...the batter looked purple enough before baking but I guess it wasn't. we loved it though.
Robyn said…
You have the luckiest co-workers! I'm not sure which I would have picked, this cake or the Strawberry Supreme, but let's be honest, I probably would have asked you for a slice of each! I love how the Baked recipes bring us out of our comfort zones a little bit.
sheri said…
Beautiful job with the frosting! Agree, this cake is unusual but delicious, definitely worth making again.
Unknown said…
Beautiful cake! Your frosting looks amazing! No matter how hard I try , I can never get that "look"!
Anonymous said…
Absolutely gorgeous! I'm amazed at how perfect you got your layers to be-- if I had leveled mine, they would have been so skinny. I agree with Robyn-- I would've wanted one of each. ;-) I used the exact same description-- "earthy je ne sais quoi". It's such an odd cake, but works so well, *especially* with that luscious frosting! And I too got that grayish color the first time, so I added a lot more color the second time (although it turned reddish in the oven).