Sunday, June 16, 2013

Red "Velvet" Cake

Full disclosure:  I'm not particularly enamored with red velvet cake.  

Most of my aversion stems around the artificial color.  Not that I have a spectacularly sophisticated palate, but I can taste the coloring (sort of in the same manner I'm able to taste the can from canned foods and beverages).  

My other pet peeve with red velvet cake is that most of what I've been served is not what I would consider to be velvet.  In my opinion - and this is totally just "Dawn on cake" - if it doesn't have the fine crumb and delicate texture of a true velvet cake, it's nothing more than a mild cocoa cake with red food coloring.

Which is pretty much what I made.  

I have a few recipes for red velvet cake, but decided to use the one that was in a King Arthur Flour (KAF) catalog I had recently received.  As with most recipes, it was just a suggestion.   KAF sells what they called "Red Velvet Cake Flavor".  I didn't have any of that and not much intention of ever buying any.  (Side note:  I realize KAF is in business to sell their products but the recipes that use ingredients you can only get from them, and in my case only by ordering, is another of my many pet peeves.)  Instead of red velvet cake flavoring, I used a one ounce bottle of red food coloring and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  It also called for white vinegar (as many recipes do); however, that bottle in my pantry that I would have sworn was white vinegar was actually apple cider vinegar.  I used lemon juice instead.  I also thought the one teaspoon of salt called for by the KAF recipe was a little much so I reduced it to three-quarters.  Beyond THAT, I followed the recipe.  For the most part.  I think.  

So given my aversion to red velvet cake, why did I make one?

One of our student employees was celebrating her 22nd birthday on Friday.  I said I would make a cake for her.  She's from China so we were sort of giving her the American birthday experience.  I think she was kind of excited. 

In theory, it's probably not the best idea to test a new recipe when baking for others.  It's a lesson I've not yet learned though.  I tried some of the trimmings of the cake the night I made it.  It didn't impress me and I was fully prepared to send the recipe to file thirteen.  My colleagues, who tried their slice of cake before I did, thought it was great.  While I will say it did actually taste better the next day, it's still not going to be on my top ten list. But if you're a fan of mild cocoa cake with red food coloring, here you go:

Red "Velvet" Cake
(Adapted from The Baker's Catalog)

14 g cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
113 g unsalted butter, room temperature
265 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 fl oz red food coloring (one bottle)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
270 g all purpose flour
227 g buttermilk *

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare two 8" cake pans with cake release and parchment paper.  Sift together the cocoa powder, salt and baking soda and set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for three to five minutes, stopping at least once to scrape the paddle and bowl.  Slowly drizzle in the beaten eggs, no more than one tablespoonful at a time, stopping to scrape the paddle and bowl about halfway through.

Reduce the mixer speed to low.  Add the cocoa mixture, food coloring, vanilla extract and lemon juice.  Mix briefly until the coloring is evenly distributed.  Add one-third of the flour, followed by half of the buttermilk; repeat, ending with the flour.  Mix just until the flour is incorporated.

Pour the batter evenly in the two pans (I like to set my pans on a baking sheet) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for ten minutes.  Remove the cakes from the pans to the wire rack to cool completely.

*I used the classic buttermilk substitute of two tablespoons of lemon juice in my measuring cup and adding milk to one cup.

For the icing, I had some leftover white chocolate buttercream (about 1 kg) to which I added one box (227 g) of softened cream cheese. 


  1. Believe it or not, I LOVE red velvet cake. I've never tried this frosting on it, and would be willing to give it a try. I use a particular, cooked flour, frosting that is traditional in the part of the South from where my family is from. I detest the cream cheese frosting, which is a favorite among many. I love the rosette swirled top and I certainly understand why any girl would love to receive a cake like one you presented to her. Good job, and remember, if you need extra tasters (as if!), I'm your girl.

    1. Obviously I don't LOVE red velvet cake, but I certainly don't despise it - I mean, it's cake! However, the usual cream cheese frosting with its pound of confectioners sugar is just gross. It's too sickly sweet for me. Ordinarily, I'd mix the cream cheese with plain vanilla buttercream but I wanted to use what I already had.

      A coworker is getting married next June and has been talking to me about cake. Red velvet is one of her favorites. There will likely be many more versions of red velvet cake between now and then.

  2. Love the cakepan !! :)

    1. I thought about using the one with the flowers on it, but this one was easier to carry.

  3. This is a beautiful cake -- love the flowers on top!

    1. Thanks, Susan! I'll be trying your red velvet cake recipe as well!


What do you think?