Some find a little bit of heaven in their red velvet cake; others think it’s overrated. My thoughts—I love red. I love cake. So, why not?
“You’re only human. You live once and life is wonderful, so eat the damn red velvet cupcake!” – Emma StoneThe Fact: The Red Velvet Cake was invented during the Great Depression when food was a rare commodity, let alone cake and food colouring agents. To up their sales, the food colouring company Adams Extract lured customers by creating the Adams Red Velvet Cake recipe. They also gave away free Red Velvet Cake recipes at grocery stores to sells the red extract. The ploy worked. The cake became an overnight hit. The Inspiration: With Valentine’s Day just round the corner and every website and restaurant featuring their oh-so-glorious red velvet cake, I just had to give this advertised cake a try… especially since I’ve never made the cake before. So, irrespective of the grief I got from some of my friends about conforming to tradition and expectations and all the clichés surrounding this day, attempt it I did. The outcome, though not the ideal ‘red’, was a pleasant surprise and a lovely dessert for just about any day of the year.
The IngredientsServes approximately 12 to 15 people Cake
- 2 ½ cups sifted cake flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (regular or Dutch-processed)
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated white sugar
- 2 large or 3 small eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, you can make some in a few minutes; read here)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons liquid red food colour
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners’, icing or caster sugar, sifted
- 1 ½ cups chilled heavy whipping cream (or any cream that forms stiff peaks when whipped)
Making the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) with a rack in centre. Ready your baking pans (either one or two 9 inch pans) by spraying them with grease or lining them with butter. Preferably, also line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
- In a separate bowl, using a hand or electric mixer, beat the butter for about 2 minutes or until soft.
- Add the sugar and beat for about 2–3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Then, add the eggs, one by one. Beat well after each. Finally, add the vanilla extract and beat just until combined.
- In a measuring cup, preferably a glass or stainless steel one, whisk the buttermilk with the red food colour. The red colour stains easily. Try to use glass or stainless steel equipment as far as possible to prevent staining.
- Alternate the flour mixture, the buttermilk and the butter mixture and combine by whisking on low speed (to prevent you and your kitchen from bring splattered with the mixture). It’s a good idea to begin and end with the flour.
- In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. The combination will fizz; before the effervescence dies down, quickly fold it into the cake batter.
- No work quickly. Pour the batter into your pan (divide your batter evenly if using 2 pans). Smoothen out the top with a spatula and pop the pan(s) into the oven.
- Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 30–40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the cake(s) on a wire rack.
- After the cake has cooled sufficiently, use a blunt knife and pry the cake away from the cake tin. If you’re not a fan of the frosting, you can eat it right away.
- If you’re going to frost it, refrigerate the cake after wrapping it in plastic or shrink wrap for at least an hour, if not overnight. A chilled cake is much easier to frost because it doesn’t crumble as easily.
Making the frosting
In the bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined. Gradually add the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is rich and thick. If you don’t have heavy cream and it doesn’t form stiff peaks easily, beat the cream separately and then add it to the cream cheese. Taste the frosting and add sugar or cream as per your liking.
Assembling the cake
If you’ve baked two separate cakes, you can assemble them straight away, and build a two-layered cake, with one layer of frosting in between. Alternately, using a serrated knife, you can cut your cake into four layers, horizontally. You can also use twine, wrapped around the cake, and pulled together to cut the cake evenly across.
Place the top of the cake onto your serving plate (since this is the least even layer of all). Spread a layer of frosting over it. Place another cake layer over the frosted layer and add a layer of frosting to the second cake layer. In the same way, frost the remaining layers. You can serve the cake as is if you want the lovely red layer to stay on top, or then, you can go ahead and frost the outside and top of the entire cake stack. I don’t like too much frosting or decoration. I love the plain ‘ol cake, or then, with one layer of frosting. You can do it as you like it.
Top the cake with anything you like. Some of my options are cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, red velvet cake crumbs (the easiest to do), strawberries, and so on.
I would eat this cake any random evening, but make sure you have someone to show it off to. The hard work’s got to be worth it! 🙂 Bon appétit!