For ages I’ve admired all the images of red velvet cakes that show up in my Pinterest stream. The cakes, which are an American phenomenon, look amazing but I had no idea what they tasted like.
As far as I could tell from the photos I’d seen, most red velvet cakes adhere to certain rules; layers, cream cheese frosting and a propensity towards flamboyance!
I need to point out, I used the Rowntree cocoa that I already happened to have in the store cupboard. It was Dutch processed, meaning that during production, it has been ‘alkalised’ to give it a smoother flavour. I could tell by looking at it that it had been processed because it’s quite dark brown. Unprocessed cocoa is often referred to as cacao and is much lighter in colour.
Unprocessed cocoa is called for in the recipe (although it’s not absolutely necessary) as all kinds of alchemy are involved in the making of the cake! The cocoa, buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar all commingle to produce the most moist, light, heavenly cake you’ve ever tasted – with the brightest, reddest crumb!
Now that I’ve got the Dutched versus un-Dutched details out of the way, let’s get on to the business of cake-making!
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of science involved in making red velvet so the order in which the ingredients get added really makes a difference.
The buttermilk and the vinegar add acidity to the mix producing a bubbly chemical reaction with the alkaline baking powder and helping make the red colour really bright.
The eggs are separated and the egg whites whipped into peaks and folded in gently at the end to add even more lightness to the sponge.
I think I mentioned previously that big cakes are just too much for just the two of us (even with me being a greedy cake eater!). So, instead of making a 4-tiered cake, I made a large 2-tier and a smaller 2-tier cake, giving one of the cakes away to friends.
I wanted to use both my newly-acquired accessories in this recipe, so I thought I’d use the pastry cutters to make red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits to adorn the cake.
I love cream cheese frosting, especially on carrot cake. Next time though, I’ll tweak the recipe so the mixture is firmer and less runny.
It’s delicious either way, but when it’s firmer you’re able to pipe the frosting on the top and have a thicker layer of it in the middle.
The resulting cake was so MASSIVE, we didn’t have a big enough plate to hold it!
I think I remained very restrained with my cake embellishments – I was considering red edible glitter, hundreds & thousands… in the end, I just studded it with a few little chocolate beans.
I’m really happy with my first attempt and can’t wait to have another go!
- 280g/10oz cream cheese
- 125g/4½oz butter, softened
- 250g/9oz icing sugar (sifted to remove any lumps)
- 2tsp vanilla essence
- 125g/4oz butter
- 55g/2oz caster sugar
- 180g/6oz plain flour
- 1tsp red food colouring
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease cake tins well (I used the 25½cm/10-inch and 30½/12-inch heart-shaped cake tins)
- Separate the eggs and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the vegetable oil and sugar until dissolved
- Mix in the egg yolks before carefully adding the food colouring (you don't want to splash red all over yourself!)
- In another mixing bowl, combine the flour cocoa powder and salt
- Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two batches, alternating with adding the buttermilk
- Using an electric mixer in yet another mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside
- In a small bowl or teacup, mix the baking powder and vinegar
- Add to the batter
- Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter
- Divide the batter between the cake tins
- Bake for 40-50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes away clean
- Allow to cool completely in the tins
- Carefully remove from the tins and slice each cake in half horizontally using a large serrated knife (like a bread knife)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese
- Gradually add the icing sugar until completely mixed in
- Cover with cling-film and keep refrigerated until you're ready to use
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar and food colouring together until smooth
- Add the flour and mix until the the colour is uniform and the dough comes together into a large ball
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently roll out thinly until the mixture is about ½cm/⅕in thick
- Form into shapes (I used the smallest size heart-shaped pastry cutter) and place onto a greased baking sheet
- Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar before chilling in the fridge for about 20 minutes
- Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until pale pink
- Allow to cool on a wire rack