Malted red velvet cakes

I had lunch the other day at what must surely now be the exact hipster epicentre of this city. I don’t think it had an epicentre before; it was just a nebulous region with a slightly higher concentration of hipsters than other areas. But this little café must surely have become like hipster Mecca since it has opened. Everything is just. so. ironic. From the astroturf flooring with kitschy lawn ornaments, to the creepy foot-shaped salt and pepper shakers originally souvenired from some obscure Western Australian mining town then brought to the table via the box in your crazy aunt’s attic, to the big, brightly coloured plastic cups that make you feel like you’re not old enough to be allowed to use fancy glassware just yet.

Oh and it was full of hipsters. One was wearing a dress with a cartoon dinosaur on it and a very serious expression on her face (the hipster, not the dinosaur, the dinosaur looked quite happy). The hipster couple seated in front of me wearing socks with sandals and expensive-looking architectural quiffs ordered massive soft-serve ice cream sundaes as their entrée (studded with sprinkles and cheap wafers), followed by hotdogs with potato chips out of a packet as their main. So. ironic.

For the record, I really have nothing against hipsters, except maybe when they take themselves too seriously. But then I wonder if taking yourself too seriously is an essential criterion for being a true hipster. They’re a fascinating bunch of people to look at and wonder about (“Why did she decide to use a bulldog clip to hold her skirt up? Was it for practical or aesthetic reasons?”) and hey, at least they’re expressing themselves creatively through their appearance… I think…

The point of all this is that at this hipster café, one of the things I ordered was a malted chocolate milkshake. Of course it was served festooned in multi-coloured sugar sprinkles, which even my 6-year-old niece would have possibly found lacking in sophistication (she of the “I want a cake made out of a mountain of doughnuts” fame), but it was such a good milkshake. I had forgotten how much I like malt. So there and then I resolved to make multiple (OR MALTIPLE! HA! HA!) recipes to showcase its fantasticness.

And given my history of forcing red velvet cake into strange new formats and unfamiliar territory, it was at the top of the list for a malt-based transformation. Transformation is probably a bit of an overstatement — this is just a normal red velvet cake plus about a dozen tablespoons of malt. But the flavours work so well together. I would consider not making a normal red velvet cake ever again; I think I might prefer it with the addition of malt.

This red velvet cake recipe is based on this one from Yum Sugar, which is basically the only one I’ve ever used because it works so perfectly. I’ve slightly adapted the recipe as well as converting it into metric and preferably weight measurements where possible, because I just will never understand why you would want to apply volumetric measurements to ostensibly solid things like butter.


170g unsalted butter, softened
450g sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 tsp salt
1 bottle of red food dye (50ml)
3 tbs lukewarm water
350g plain flour
3 tbs cocoa powder
5 tbs malt powder*
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tbs white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment until fluffy and light (about 5-10 minutes). Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each one. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary. Add the vanilla, salt, dye and lukewarm water and mix well.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, malt powder and baking powder into a bowl. Add about 1/3 of this into the other mixture and start beating, then slowly add about 1/3 of the buttermilk while the mixer is running. Add the next third of the dry ingredients and beat, followed by the next third of the buttermilk as before, and then repeat for the last time. Once the mixture is well combined, get a small bowl and put the bicarbonate of soda in it, then add the vinegar and whisk with a fork to make sure any lumps dissolve. Add this into the cake mixture and beat on medium speed for about 10 seconds.

Spoon the mixture into miniature cupcake papers lining the holes of a miniature cupcake pan, then bake for 8-10 minutes. Put a cake tester or skewer into one of the cakes to check if it’s done — the skewer should come out clean. If you’re making normal sized cupcakes, they take about 13-15 minutes. Once out of the oven, leave the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes (they’re very delicate when still hot) then carefully remove them onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


250g cream cheese
60g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup icing sugar
80g malt powder*

Cream the cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla paste and beat. Sift in the icing sugar and malt powder and beat again until combined. Spread it over the cooled cupcakes with a spoon. Eeeeeeat.

*I use Horlicks but I’m guessing there’ll be many different brands available depending on where you are. I usually have the choice between Horlicks (made by that friendly little company, GlaxoSmithKline) or Malted Milk (made by Nestlé, who I’d prefer not to buy from because amazingly enough they actually seem to be less ethical than a massive pharmaceutical company… plus at least GSK provides funding to legitimate scientific research**)

**None of the studies in my PhD project is funded by GSK, so I’m not flattering them for the cash moneys. One of my studies is ever so slightly funded by Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals and I’ll most likely be telling them what a piece of junk their poster-child ADHD medication is according to my research. Ha! Ha! No skulking shadow of Big Pharma on this blog! (Yet…)

  10 comments for “Malted red velvet cakes

  1. Natasha
    June 23, 2010 at 8:08 am

    MALTIPLE – hahahaaa!

  2. June 23, 2010 at 9:50 am

    These look and sound delicious.

    I have to admit, I’ve never ever eaten let alone made red velvet cake. I must give it a try one day.

    Out of interest, what was the hipster cafe with the astro turf? It sounds….interesting :)

  3. Jess
    June 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Definitely give red velvet cake a go; it’s worth it just for the texture alone (difficult to describe but I guess the “velvet” is meant to be the relevant point of reference). I hadn’t made it before until about September last year, when my friend Helena and I had a baking day and she suggested we try red velvet cake. It was seriously one of those “where has this been all my life?!” kind of moments…

    The absolutely charming establishment with the astroturf is called Flamingo and is on Winn St in the Valley, near the corner with Ann St. The food was actually reasonably good for being pretty basic (there are quite a few vegetarian options too — I had the chickpea rissole on cornbread which was enormous) and there are some random interesting things on the menu (e.g. green velvet smoothie — made with avocado, honey, banana, nutmeg and soy milk). Nothing worth going out of your way for but if you’re in the area it’s worth a shot.

  4. June 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I adore your photos, especially the styling. These look so soft and delicious, I could just grab one out of the screen (if only!). Recently discovered this space and will be back often.

  5. June 24, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Amen, sister (on the volumetric measurements. Crazy Americans)! This looks divine, and reminds me that I, too, had forgotten how tasty malt is. I’ve only ever had it in the form of Milo, Maltesers, and Malt Vanilla Milkshakes, so I’m mightily (MALTILY!) looking forward to your further experiments.

    The question remains, though, whether hipsters are ironic in the true sense or the Alanis Morisette (sp?) sense…

  6. Jess
    June 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks very much, Xiaolu. :)

    Hannah, I actually had a bit of a think about whether hipsters qualified as ironic because I’m obsessively wary of misusing the label of “ironic” à la Alanis Morrisette! I think hipsters do qualify, at least in terms of appearance and aesthetic/style sensibilities, because I think the general thing is that they do the opposite of what society expects them to do, e.g. they’re adults, and some of them dress in children’s clothing, to purposefully be subversive and sardonic. Astroturf and lawn ornaments are the antithesis of modern and contemporary café/restaurant décor, so hipsters love that stuff. So yeah… I have spent way too much time thinking this through, just because I’m a bit of a pedant for using words appropriately for their definition. I think Alanis Morrisette just mistook “ironic” for “unfortunate”, although I guess some people would use that word to describe hipsters as well… ;)

  7. June 24, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Yeah so I’m pretty sure that hipsters are required to take themselves too seriously. I think it’s the “ster” part of the word that does it. You can be hip and not take yourself too seriously. But once you add the “ster”…it’s all over.

    I love the idea of adding malt to red velvet! Must complement that almost tangy flavor so nicely!

  8. July 25, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Jess. I’m back to ask some advice if you’d be so kind. I’ve recently been having trouble with goopy cream cheese, even when I’ve used up to 3 cups of powdered sugar per block of cream cheese. This leads me to wonder how you got such lovely and firm looking frosting using only what I guess to be about 1 1/4 cup powdery ingredients (sugar + malt powder)? Thanks in advance!

  9. Jess
    July 25, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Xiaolu, sorry to hear you haven’t been having luck with the cream cheese! Are you using Philadelphia brand cream cheese? That’s the only brand available here in Australia, so that’s what I use; it’s about 33% fat and has never gone goopy for me. Other than that, I just use the cream cheese and butter at room temperature or slightly cooler (i.e. I get them out of the fridge and then don’t quite let them get to room temp), so they’re still quite firm when I beat them together. I would beat them together for a good 5 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer using a paddle attachment, scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly. At this point, the mixture is still thick and dense enough to use as frosting, so I only add a small amount of sifted sugar (compared to a lot of other recipes) just to sweeten it slightly.

    Does the cream cheese get particularly warm at any stage when you’re making the frosting? I think if room temperature is quite hot (say 35° Celsius/95° Fahrenheit or above) then it might become a bit difficult to work with. Other than temperature I’m not sure what would cause the cream cheese to go goopy, I’m afraid. Let me know if you figure it out or if there’s any more info I can provide!

  10. July 25, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks a lot! I think I may have used a cheaper store brand recently, so I’ll try it again with good ole classic Philly :) .

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