Can I let you in on a little secret…? Our wedding is 3 months from today! I can hardly believe it, but it seemed very appropriate to post my first attempt at Red Velvet Cake on this day above all others, as we’ll be serving an even better version of this classic dessert at our reception. I’ve always been a huge fan of red velvet cake, ever since I was a little girl and tasted one of what I consider one of the world’s most amazing versions, which is served at The Bubble Room in Captiva, Florida. The Bubble Room is a truly magical place, and I have such fond childhood memories of going there for dinner with my family while we were on vacation. Maybe that’s why I have an extreme soft spot for red velvet cake in my heart. But what’s not to love? Red velvet cake is, in essence, nothing more than a moist chocolate cake died red and frosted with cream cheese, which in my personal opinion, is much more appetizing than an over-the-top sweet chocolate frosting. I just love it, and I have yet to find anyone who disagrees.
As I delve further into my baking adventures, I still get nervous each and every time I try to make a cake from scratch. It’s such a huge chemistry experiment, and although I’m a scientist, something about baking soda, vinegar, yeast, etc. makes me very nervous. I just really don’t understand what’s going on in a cake and what magic happens once the oven door closes, and that’s just scary to me. But alas, I still attempt these recipes now and then, but I always start by selecting a recipe from a trusted source. Once again, I borrowed this gem (and it truly is a gem) from my favorite food blog, The Smitten Kitchen, but I ran into a few issues that caused me to make this cake twice before I was confident sharing my version of the recipe with you. First of all, the original recipe states that if you can’t find liquid red food coloring, you can dissolve red gel food coloring in water and achieve a similarly bright red cake. I found this to be completely false, even after using two entire tubes of red gel food coloring. The second time around, I stuck with the liquid form, and it worked perfectly. The other thing I struggled with was the actual icing of the cake. This is a huge cake, and it’s very dark, which makes it difficult to ice evenly with a lightly-colored frosting without mussing up the cake underneath and achieving a very spotty, crumby cake coating. I decided that I needed to double the frosting amount, without doubling the butter called for, so that I was able to fully ice the cake twice – once to mess up and catch all the crumbs, and second to make it beautiful and smooth. I find that my second cake was lusciously moist (I decreased the original bake time by about 5 minutes), beautifully bright red, and my frosting, although doubled, was not achingly sweet or too intense; it was perfect. It was white on the outside, cherry red on the inside, and just delicious. Make this for a birthday cake to serve a crowd – like I said, it’s enormous.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter [100 calories]
3 ½ cups (465 grams) cake flour [1400 calories]
½ cup (48 grams) unsweetened cocoa [120 calories]
1 ½ teaspoons (12 grams) salt
2 cups canola oil [4320 calories]
2 ¼ cups (534 grams) granulated sugar [1620 calories]
3 large eggs [210 calories]
6 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup buttermilk [190 calories]
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 ½ teaspoons white vinegar
2 8 oz. sticks cream cheese, softened to room temperature [1600 calories]
1 stick butter, softened to room temperature [800 calories]
4 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar [2160 calories]
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Makes about 25 slices
Calories per slice: 500
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place one teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch cake pans and put the pans in the oven for about 1-2 minutes to melt the butter. Once butter is fully melted, remove the pans and use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides of each pan well with the butter. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
Whisk the cake flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, combine the oil and the granulated sugar, and then use an electric mixer on medium speed to mix the two ingredients, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between each addition of the egg until just combined, about 30 seconds for each egg. Set the electric mixer to low, and slowly add the red food coloring, being careful not to splash it all over your kitchen counter (it stains, trust me – I ruined a pretty decent wooden cutting board on this step). With the mixer still on low, add the vanilla.
Add about 1/3 of the flour/cocoa/salt mixture, and beat on low until well mixed. Add about ½ of the buttermilk, combine well, then repeat with another 1/3 of the flour/cocoa/salt mixture, the other half of the buttermilk, and then the final ½ of the flour/cocoa/salt mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and beat on low until just combined.
In a small dish, add the baking soda and then stir in the vinegar with a small whisk. With the electric mixer on low, add the baking soda/vinegar mixture to the cake batter and beat for 10 seconds.
Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans, and then place in the oven, two side-by-side on the top rack, and one on the bottom. Bake for 15 minutes, and then swap the pan positions in the oven, top to bottom. Bake for another 15 minutes, check for doneness with a cake tester, and if the center is still gooey, bake for another 5 minutes before removing from the oven.
Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Carefully flip the cakes out of the pans, and allow them to cool fully before attempting to assemble and ice the cake.
While the cake is cooling, combine the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Using the electric mixer, beat on medium for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the sugar, a little bit at a time, beating to combine between each addition. Add the vanilla and beat on medium briefly to fully combine.
To assemble the cake, trim off any rounded cake tops to make them even, then use as much icing as desired to fill between the layers. It appears to be extremely tough (unless you’re a professional baker) to frost a dark cake with white icing, so I iced the entire cake, put it in the refrigerator to set up for about 30 minutes, then added a second layer of icing to hide all those little red bits that ended up in the first layer of icing. The result was perfection, pure, white, and yummy.
This recipe is straight off of my favorite food blog, The Smitten Kitchen. If you don’t know already, Deb has a new cookbook out and it’s fabulous. Go buy it now! We altered the bake time and the frosting, but other than that, we stuck pretty close to the original. If you want that version, it can be found here
Red Velvet Cake.