This week’s red velvet cake is not the first one I’ve made. I’ve tried several recipes in the past and wanted to try a new one this week, but I knew what I was looking for and luckily found something close in the The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook (I’ve made a few edits of my own). The result was a red velvet cake that was incredibly moist and had wonderful flavor:
1) More cocoa powder: Some red velvet recipes called for too little cocoa powder, typically a tablespoon and even as little as a teaspoon. Red velvet cake isn’t supposed to be a chocolate cake in disguise, but it definitely needs that mellow flavor of chocolate, which for my taste buds a tablespoon just doesn’t cut it.
2) Easy on the acid: I’ve made a red velvet cake in the past that just had too much acid for me, the addition of buttermilk and vinegar was a little too much. I think just sticking to buttermilk which is tangy will keep the cake very moist and is perfect.
3) Lots of red food coloring: Call me picky, but there is nothing more disappointing than cutting into a red velvet cake that isn’t red. Well okay, so there are worse things in life than fuchsia colored cake, but half the joy of eating red velvet cake is the visual aspect. So I added PLENTY of red food coloring in mine to give it that deep red color. However, if that scares the health pants off of you, there are substitutes you can find at health food stores that use natural beet coloring.
4) Cream cheese frosting: It’s my favorite so that’s what I’m using.
WARNING: Use an apron. Better yet, if you’re as clumsy as me, wear head-to-toe black. Red dye does not come out!
- 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tbsp of sifted pastry flour (pastry flour has less gluten which makes for lighter cakes but you can substitute with 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour)
- 2 tsp of salt
- 2 tsp of baking powder
- 1/4 tsp of baking soda
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 oz red food coloring
- 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter, softened, plus more for greasing pans
- 2 cups of sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup of buttermilk
- 2 sticks of butter, softened
- 1 1/2 pounds (3 packages) of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 cups of confectioners sugar, sifted
Baking the Cake
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 9-inch cake pans with butter and line the bottom with cut out parchment paper circles
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and red food coloring together until it turns into a thick maroon paste.
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the 2 sticks of butter for about 30 seconds until it is creamy. Add the sugar 1/4 cup at a time, beating for about 15 seconds and scrapping the sides down in between. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture until the egg is incorporated before adding the next. Add the red food coloring and cocoa paste and mix until the it is evenly incorporated and scrape down sides if necessary.
Add the flour mixture in thirds alternating with half of the buttermilk. Beat just until it is incorporated. Be careful not to overmix the batter, because it will make your cake tougher.
Divide the batter between the two pans and using a spatula even and flatten out the batter as much as possible. Place the pans in the oven on the middle rack. Cook for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through cooking.
Allow the pans to cool on a rack for 10 minutes and carefully move a small knife around the sides of the pan to ensure your cake isn’t sticking to the sides. Invert the cakes and remove parchment paper. Be careful that your cake doesn’t break or tear, otherwise it will make frosting the cake a pain as the exposed red crumbs will get caught in your pristine white frosting.
Making the Cream Cheese Frosting
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for about 30 seconds until creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until evenly incorporated. Add a third of the sugar and start up your mixer but on a very slow speed until all the sugar is absorbed, otherwise you’ll have powdered sugar flying everywhere. Repeat until all the sugar is incorporated into the frosting.
Assembling the Cake
When your cakes are completely cooled, use a serrated knife and trim the rounded tops of both cakes so it is flat (save these scraps for cleaning out your bowl of frosting with). With three large rectangular pieces of parchment or wax paper, lay them in an overlapping triangle shape so they mostly hang off the edge of your cake stand, like giving your cake stand a bib. Place one cake on the bottom, with the flat un-trimmed side face-up, holding the parchment papers in place.
Put a big dollop of frosting in the center and using a frosting spatula (or something similarly long and flat) push the frosting towards the edge of the circle creating a even layer of frosting about 1/3 inch thick. Place the second cake, trimmed side down on the frosting. Add another big dollop of frosting on the top and working outwards, frost a layer on the top. Continue to frost the side of the cake by adding and spreading the frosting around with your spatula.
*If you get some red crumbs into your white frosting, do an initial layer of frosting and put the cake into the refrigerator until the frosting hardens. Then add another layer over the first one and your red crumbs will be covered.
Before and after second layer of frosting
To smooth out your frosting, run your spatula under hot water for a few seconds and lightly run the spatula over the rough edges. Remove the parchment paper carefully, and you will have a pristine white cake with a vibrant red surprise inside!
The Red Velvet, ready for its close-up…The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook)