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The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook Review and Red Velvet Cake Recipe

by on September 10, 2012 · 12 comments

America’s Test Kitchen just released The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook, and in my opinion it may be their best cookbook yet.  With recipes, tastings and product tests from all five seasons of the Cook’s Country TV show, the book is packed with great recipes, conversational, and easy to follow. The America’s Test Kitchen meticulous attention to detail is still there, and they’ve used full color illustrations and side notes very effectively so that the book flows well and entertains as it instructs. It’s perfect for the experienced cook looking to learn a few new techniques, but would also make a wonderful gift for a teen or someone with a newfound interest in cooking. I’m hoping this becomes a go-to book for Fuzz.

Cook's Country Complete Cookbook

For those of you not familiar with them, the America’s Test Kitchen team works out of a 2,300 square foot kitchen located in a farmhouse just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and The Cook’s Country TV show. If you are one of the estimated 1.7 million viewers per week, this book is a quick reference to all the recipes you’ve seen on the show. However, if you’ve never watched a single episode you’ll still love the book because it brings the show to you and takes you behind the scenes. The introduction gives the history of America’s Test Kitchen and tells a little bit about the people behind the show, while the chapters have themes.

Chapter 1 “As Good as Grandma’s” features dishes you might remember from childhood including Salisbury Steak, Chicken Divan and Chicken Florentine and a couple of types of Macaroni & Cheese
Chapter 2 “Fork-in-the-Road Favorites” includes diner specialties such as fried chicken and various regional favorites like St. Louis Style Pizza, Tennessee Whiskey Pork Chops and Cincinnati Chili
Chapter 3 “Steakhouse Specials” covers quintessential American steakhouse dishes such as Slow Cooker Onion Soup, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Baked Stuff Shrimp and of course a few different variations on steak

…and so on, including chapters titled Our Sunday Best, Tex Mex Favorites, Everybody Loves Italian, The State of Grilling, Rise and Shine Breakfasts and Breads, Great American Cakes and Cookies, Old Fashioned Fruit Desserts and Save Room for Pie.

I thought I’d like the dessert chapters the best, but my favorite parts of the book were the sections covering everyday food and perfected versions of family favorites.   There are also several versions of things I wish I was really good at making, such as fried chicken (the book has three different versions) and cinnamon buns.

This is a book you’ll use if you have 4 cookbooks or 40 million.  It’s a good, all-around cookbook with lots of bonuses including the historical blurbs (sidebars include stories about automats, Dr. James Henry Salisbury and the history of fishsticks) plus other side bars showing the differences between various ingredients and brands.  Speaking of which, recommended brands and products are featured in a table at the end of the book and include full color photos of the labels of recommended products.  I love it when cookbooks do this, especially when they’ve selected a product I’m not familiar with and need to find it at the store.

Red Velvet Cake

Okay, so the promised recipe!  Since I love red velvet cake, I’m sharing the book’s recipe for it.  I’ve paraphrased a tiny bit (for instance, I noted that I didn’t have parchment), but have kept the recipe pretty much the same to give you an idea of how recipes appear in the book.   I noticed they did clump what appear to be a lot of steps into one numbered bullet point, but that was probably due to spacing issues.

As for the cake, it’s my new favorite red velvet! They nailed the level of tartness that red velvet is supposed to have, the level of chocolate (which a lot of recipes get wrong), and are dead-on with the vibrant red color. The icing recipe is good too.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Red Velvet Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A red velvet cake recipe adapted from The Complete Cook's Country TV Show Cookbook. Make sure to use natural (as opposed to Dutch or dark) cocoa so the cake will have the proper color and rise.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups (11.25 ounces) all-purpose flour**
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt (I used a generous pinch)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (mine was room temperature)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder, do not use Dutch or Dark
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Frosting
  • 16 tablespoons (8oz) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
  • 1 pound (1 box or 3 ¾-4 cups) confectioner’s sugar
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, then line pans (Note: I was out of parchment, so I just greased the pan with shortening and dusted it with flour). Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla extract together in a 4 cup liquid measure. Mix the 2 tablespoons of the cocoa and red food coloring together in a small bowl to form a smooth paste.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture in three parts, alternating with egg mixture and scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add cocoa mixture and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper (if using), flip the cakes right side up, and let cool completely before frosting.
  3. For the Frosting: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, 1 piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt. If making ahead, keep chilled until ready to use (Bring to room temperature before using).
  4. When cakes are ready, line the edges of a cake platter with stripes of parchment or wax paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one of the cake layers on the platter. Spread 2 cups of the frosting evenly over the top, right to the edge of the cake. Place the other cake layer on top and press gently to adhere. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting
Notes
America's Test Kitchen uses 5 ounces of flour per cup. I thought I'd mention that since I typically use 4.5 ounces of flour per cup.

 

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Published on September 10, 2012

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Katrina September 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I record all their PBS shows every Saturday. I’ve always thought their kitchens would be such a fun place to work. And those little stinkers do seem to get things right on! ;)
Speaking of ATK, those brownies I made, I think you have a different recipe because this one was specifically supposed to be their version of a boxed brownie. Glad you have found a great red velvet cake. I should try it because the one recipe I tried a couple years ago was not good at all.

Jen September 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Your old favorite red velvet cake was my favorite red velvet cake so I will have to try this one. Several family members consistently request red velvet cupcakes for all holidays. Do you think this would work just as well as cupcakes?

Sue September 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

After this weekend’s cake I’m kind of caked out for the time being but I’m glad to read the review of this recipe and book. They both sound like keepers.
What brand of cocoa does the book recommend and what brand did you use? Love your photo of the cake. It looks like it came out of a book!

Anna September 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Katrina, I need to type up that brownie recipe for you. It’s actually from CI and it uses cake flour.

Jen, my old favorite is still really good. Here’s the link for anyone interested in it.
http://www.cookiemadness.net/2010/11/red-velvet-cake-2/

Sue, I used Hershey’s natural cocoa powder. At the end of the book they have Hershey’s Natural as their recommended natural cocoa powder. They said they liked it for its complex flavor and notes of coffee, cinnamon, orange and spice. They chose Droste (which is Dutch) as a runner-up. So for the recipes that call for Dutch, I guess Droste is what they used. And thanks for the photo compliment. One of my lights is broken so I’m having a tough time making the light fall just right. I guess things fell into place last night!

Chewthefat September 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm

That photo is spectacular–Tastespotting-worthy! I love how much I learn about history and regional preferences from Cook’s Country. I live in the Northeast, which is supposedly so cosmopolitan, but I once heard someone say that no one is more provincial than a New Yorker. It’s true, because if I hadn’t gotten into food I never would have learned about stuff like Cincinnati Chili. I’m not even a pork person, and those whiskey chops sound intriguing…

Holiday Baker Man September 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

I love these guys…the vodka pie dough on the companion show is amazing!

beth September 12, 2012 at 7:01 am

Thanks for reviewing this book. I am soooo one of the 1.7 million viewers. I love the show. In fact I just watched an episode about tomato mac and cheese and they gave a history of the automat. I am sure the cookbook is great, but The Daily Cookie is #1 on my Christmas list. I cannot wait for Nov. so I can give myself an early present.
beth

Anna September 12, 2012 at 7:07 am

Thanks Beth! Your comment made my morning.

That tomato mac & cheese is definitely in the book. When I first saw it, took me back 30 years to a day when my mother attempted to incorporate tomatoes into our usual macaroni and cheese. It did not go over well.

Jackie September 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hi Anna

I have a web subscription to cooks country, so really I don’t think I need to buy the book. If I need a recipe, I just go online to get it since the book have every recipe in it from the TV shows.

Heidi November 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Cooks Illustrated Red Velvet cake has been my favorite for a few years now. I’m not sure when they first published it but I tore out the page from my original magazine and have made it multiple times since. The page is splashed with red batter and is a little crunchy but I still have it in my super big unorganized recipe binder! I always use my own icing recipe but you just cannot beat their cake recipe! I also think it’s the perfect red tint and perfect amount of chocolate favorite.

You make me want to order their new cookbook! I don’t need another cookbook but it’s so tempting!

Anna November 6, 2012 at 8:40 am

Heidi, it’s a good all-purpose cookbook. The recipes are for the usual things, but done in the ATK way with lots of tips.

Leslie March 14, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Thanks for the great summary! I love Cook’s Country too :)

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