Red Velvet Cake

Maybe Ash Wednesday wasn’t the best timing for this, but here goes:

Cake. Yes. Ridiculous amounts of chocolate. Dutch-process cocoa, even. Real vanilla and decadent cream cheese icing. Now this is how you celebrate a three-day weekend.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the reddest red velvet cake you’ve ever seen, but you know what? I RAN OUT OF FOOD COLORING! Every recipe I saw called for two tablespoons! Even if I had it on hand, it would seem like a little much. And now I’ll have way too much red, blue and green for the rest of my life. MAYBE I can even it out by only making green cookies at Christmas.

I used the old Hershey’s recipe for my red velvet cake, and Martha Stewart’s cream cheese icing recipe (x2).

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used milk with 1 Tbsp. of white vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
The cake part of this is surprisingly easy. I think you could easily transfer this recipe to two 9-inch round pans, but today I used a 13×9-inch pan, lined it with parchment paper (this is ESSENTIAL) and cut it in half to make a nifty rectangular cake (along with being cute, a little geometry will reveal that you actually get more frosting on a square cake than on a round cake. This was very important when we planned our wedding).
When your butter is at room temperature, beat it with the sugar in your stand mixer (or with a hand mixer). It might take a few minutes before they are blended – they don’t need to be smooth yet, just really well mixed. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to mix until smoothish.

 

 

 

 

 

Separately, mix all of the dry ingredients together and have in an easily accessible and dumpable place, like a small plastic container. While you do that, put the milk, vinegar and red food coloring together in a liquid measuring cup.


And that’s only with half the recommended food coloring! Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow the cake to set up for about ten minutes, then turn out completely on a wire rack. Make sure the cake is totally cool before you begin to frost.

Meanwhile, make the icing. You will need:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
I cannot emphasize enough how much better the frosting was with real vanilla. You can taste it in every bite. It’s worth the investment here.
Start by mixing the cream cheese and butter in the mixer for several minutes, until it’s no longer in block form and is well mixed. Then add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Store (covered) in the fridge until the cake is 100 percent cool. Don’t fudge this! Go do something else for a while.
Okay, is the cake cool? Good. Carefully slice the cake exactly in half, and move one half to the plate you cake is going to be served on. Frost at least 1/4 inch of icing on the top layer only, trying to cover any differences in altitude with frosting so there’s a flat bed for the top layer to sit on. Then, add the top layer. I usually do this piece of cake upside down, so the two “bottom” sides of the cake are the very top and very bottom of the cake. There will be gaps between the two middle areas, but you can fill those in with frosting as you do your crumb coat.

Ah, the crumb coat. The secret to really making your cake look stellar. I actually did not make enough icing, so even though my finished product tastes amazing, I think it leaves a little to be desired when it comes to the icing’s appearance.  This shot is about halfway through the crumb coat. The ideas is to give the cake a thin cover all over, evening out any spaces (like the middle)where there may be gaps, and paving the way to make a clean layer of frosting on top.

Like this. Except with fewer crumbs, because you will make two batches of icing from the beginning, right? 🙂 It’s worth it – this icing is to die for anyway.

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