Baker’s Red (Cookie) Roses

I like the idea of red velvet, even though I know that it is mostly red food colouring. Red is exciting! However, I have only ever made red velvet cake once – and being a chocoholic back then, I pretty much double the amount of cocoa powder. Unfortunately, this means it lost its red colour and looked like any other chocolate cake, and I never tried again.

This Valentine’s Day, I decided to research a few recipes and do a Valentine’s Day special for my colleagues (and this blog). I decided against cake because it’s way too much effort to distribute, what’s with having to cut it up and serve on plates and eat with utensils… it’s just easier if it’s in bite-sized form and portable.

Cookies it is then. Red velvet cookies… if this is at all possible.

There are tons and tons of red velvet cookie recipe online. I was inspired by this post but when I followed the recipe (but substituting butter for shortening, as I can’t seem to find shortening… and yes, I think that might be the recipe killer), the painstakingly piped roses turned into boring old round cookies coming out of the oven. Even after chilling. After adding so much extra flour (around 200g more), the batter turned into the toughest thing on the planet to pipe, it finally looked kind of like melted roses when baked on 225C on a higher shelf, but tasted like eating flour.

Then I tried the recipe again, thinking I had made the mistake the first time. But nope, second batch come out just as melted-looking as the first.

Back to square one. Is there a recipe that I can use that uses butter, not shortening, but will also keeps its shape after baking?

Viennese whirls. Of course.

With some (a lot) of experimentation and butchering of the classic Viennese whirl recipe, I have now managed this:

Red cookie roses. Mostly 1M work, but on the bottom right you can see a 2C rosette... it looks like an English rose, and the ridges are not as pronounced.
Red cookie roses. Mostly 1M work, but on the bottom right you can see a 2C rosette… it looks like an English rose, and the ridges are not as pronounced.

Using a basic Viennese shortbread recipe from here (which makes really awesome Viennese whirls), this is my bastardised version:

Bakers’s Red (Cookie) Roses
Makes: 36 flat 2″ cookies, or 18 sandwiched cookies
1 tsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp whole milk
55g icing sugar*
220g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla paste
red food colouring, either gel or powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
225g plain flour
thick cream cheese frosting to sandwich cookies, if wanted
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Mix cider vinegar with milk to make “buttermilk” and leave aside for now.
  2. Cream butter and icing sugar together. Mix in vanilla paste, and beat in buttermilk one tablespoon at a time until well incorporated. It will look like it has split initially but you just have to keep going until you get a creamy consistency.
  3. Add cocoa powder and mix well. Add enough red food colouring to get the colour you want. If you use gel, you will need to use more than if you use powder.
  4. Add flour and mix in just enough until no trace of white flour streaks can be seen. It will have the consistency of Play-Doh.
  5. Use a star nozzle (I used 1M and 2C, and I prefer the look of 1M rosettes for this) in your piping bag, and spoon around a fist-sized batter into your piping bag. Pipe equal-sized rosettes onto baking parchment or silpat, leaving an inch between each rosette. Nudge or tuck in the tail of each rosette for a neater, rounder look.
  6. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Bake in middle shelf of preheated oven for 14-15 minutes until baked through, remove from oven and rest for a few minutes. Place onto cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. Optional: Pipe cream cheese frosting onto the base of one cookie and sandwich with another of a similar size. Chill in fridge to set.
* There’s not a lot of sugar in this cookie recipe because in Viennese whirls, you either sandwich with jam or coat half of it in melted chocolate. I wanted to use frosting in this cookie, so I have kept with the low amount of sugar. I might try it with more sugar next time to see if it can be a standalone cookie.


Ta-dah! The finished product.
Ta-dah! The finished product.

I’m not 100% sure if the short buttery biscuit and the soft cream cheese filling goes together, but what is done is done! And I’m not certain I got the red velvet taste right even with the vinegar and the minimal cocoa addition, but I am also convinced it is not possible to get the whole red velvet taste in a batter that keeps its shape when piped because… texture. Red velvet is all about texture as well as taste and colour.

As I am distributing these to my colleagues, I may get some feedback (or they could be too scared to tell me the truth…).

Anyway, I have to go and eat as many Viennese whirls as I can now just so I have space to cook in the kitchen. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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