Cakes & Bakes: Natural red velvet layer cake

Slice of home-made natural red velvet layer cake | H is for Home #recipe #cake #redvelvet

I’ve made & posted a version of red velvet cake on the blog before. Today, I’ve used an alternative recipe to produce a natural red velvet layer cake.

Ziplock bags of un-Dutched cacao powder and beetroot powder | H is for Home

I’ve done a lot of research into getting that bright red colour naturally. Beetroot powder instead of red food colouring and un-dutched cocoa powder instead of the usual alkalised type found more usually in the shops.

Plain flour, un-Dutched cacao powder and beetroot powder | H is for Home

You see, this cake is all about chemistry. It’s the pH magic that’s created when the acid of the non-alkaline cocoa powder, the buttermilk and the vinegar are introduced to the bicarbonate of soda. As an aside, our local supermarket was out of buttermilk so I had to make my own. It’s really simple and a good tip to remember. Add a tablespoonful of white vinegar or lemon juice to a cup (235ml/8⅓fl oz) of milk, allow to stand for 5 minutes – there’s your home-made buttermilk!

Natural red velvet layer cake batter in cake tins | H is for Home Cooked natural red velvet layer cakes in cake tins | H is for Home

The cake wasn’t the radioactive shade of red that you get when using food colouring. I think I’d add a little bit more beetroot powder next time to get a slightly redder shade however – my natural red velvet recipe is work in progress! Some people comment on an ‘earthy’ taste to their cake when using beetroot, but I can’t say I noticed any. A delicious taste was detected that’s for sure!

Home-made natural red velvet layer cake | H is for Home

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Natural red velvet layer cake
For the cake
  1. 200g/7oz unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  2. 420g/15oz plain flour
  3. 75g/2¾oz cocoa powder
  4. 50g/1¾oz beetroot powder
  5. 375g/13oz golden caster sugar
  6. 3 eggs, beaten
  7. 1½tsp vanilla extract
  8. 335ml/11¾ fl oz buttermilk
  9. 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  10. 1½tsp white distilled vinegar
For the frosting
  1. 75g/2¾oz unsalted butter, slightly softened
  2. 450g/1lb icing sugar
  3. 190g/6¾oz full-fat cream cheese, chilled
  4. 1tsp vanilla extractHome-made natural red velvet layer cake ingredients
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For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
  2. Grease 4 x 20cm sandwich tins and line with baking parchment
  3. Combine the flour, cocoa and beetroot powder in a large bowl and set aside
  4. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together
  5. Slowly whisk in the beaten eggs, then the vanilla extract
  6. Start adding the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches, whisking well but slowly after each addition
  7. Add the buttermilk and stir until smooth
  8. Working quickly, combine the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in a small bowl, then fold it into the cake mixture
  9. Once incorporated, divide the batter between the prepared cake tins
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
  11. Remove and cool slightly in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely
  12. Trim the cakes so they're level
For the frosting
  1. Rub the butter into the icing sugar to resemble fine breadcrumbs
  2. Add the chilled cream cheese and beat until smooth
  3. Stir in the vanilla extract
  4. Fit a large piping bag with a plain nozzle and fill with the frosting
  5. Place the first cake on a cake stand or plate and pipe large pearls of frosting on the top, starting at the outside and working your way inwards
  6. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat until all the layers are lined up and the top is fully decorated with frosting
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H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Red velvet cake

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slice of red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

 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.

unpacking red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

When we were sent these heart-themed baking accessories by Meincupcake, I decided that the day had arrived for me to embark upon my red velvet cake challenge!

red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

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!

red velvet cake dry ingredients | H is for Home

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.

red velvet cake wet ingredients | H is for Home

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!

adding food colouring to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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!

adding buttermilk to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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.

folding in egg whites to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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.

folding in egg whites to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

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.

red velvet cake batter in heart-shaped cake tins | H is for Home

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.

cooked red velvet cakes in heart-shaped cake tins | H is for Home

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.

making red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits | H is for Home

 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.

making cream cheese frosting | H is for Home

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.

frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

The resulting cake was so MASSIVE, we didn’t have a big enough plate to hold it!

detail of frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

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.
frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home
I’m really happy with my first attempt and can’t wait to have another go!

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Red velvet cake
Serves 12
for the cake mixture
  1. 475ml/16fl oz vegetable oil
  2. 3 large eggs, separated
  3. 1½tsp vanilla essence
  4. 6tbs red food colouring
  5. 450g/15½oz granulated sugar
  6. 440g/15½oz self raising flour
  7. 60g/2oz cocoa powder (preferably not Dutch processed)
  8. 1½ tsp salt
  9. 250g buttermilk
  10. 2tsp baking soda
  11. 2½tsp white vinegar
for the frosting
  1. 280g/10oz cream cheese
  2. 125g/4½oz butter, softened
  3. 250g/9oz icing sugar (sifted to remove any lumps)
  4. 2tsp vanilla essence
for the shortbread
  1. 125g/4oz butter
  2. 55g/2oz caster sugar
  3. 180g/6oz plain flour
  4. 1tsp red food colouring
to decorate
  1. chocolate beans, glimmer sprinkles or heart confetti (all completely optional!)
Add ingredients to shopping list
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for the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
  2. Grease cake tins well (I used the 25½cm/10-inch and 30½/12-inch heart-shaped cake tins)
  3. Separate the eggs and set aside
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the vegetable oil and sugar until dissolved
  5. Mix in the egg yolks before carefully adding the food colouring (you don't want to splash red all over yourself!)
  6. In another mixing bowl, combine the flour cocoa powder and salt
  7. Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two batches, alternating with adding the buttermilk
  8. Using an electric mixer in yet another mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside
  9. In a small bowl or teacup, mix the baking powder and vinegar
  10. Add to the batter
  11. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter
  12. Divide the batter between the cake tins
  13. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes away clean
  14. Allow to cool completely in the tins
  15. Carefully remove from the tins and slice each cake in half horizontally using a large serrated knife (like a bread knife)
for the frosting
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar until completely mixed in
  3. Cover with cling-film and keep refrigerated until you're ready to use
for the shortbread biscuits
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar and food colouring together until smooth
  2. Add the flour and mix until the the colour is uniform and the dough comes together into a large ball
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently roll out thinly until the mixture is about ½cm/⅕in thick
  4. Form into shapes (I used the smallest size heart-shaped pastry cutter) and place onto a greased baking sheet
  5. Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar before chilling in the fridge for about 20 minutes
  6. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until pale pink
  7. Allow to cool on a wire rack
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Adapted from New York Times
Adapted from New York Times
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
Sweet potato cake
For the cake
  1. 350g plain flour
  2. ¼tsp ground cloves
  3. 2tsp ground cinnamon
  4. 1¼tsp ground ginger
  5. ½tsp ground nutmeg
  6. 1tsp baking powder
  7. 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  8. ½tsp salt
  9. 350g sweet potatoes, peeled & grated (about 3 small potatoes)
  10. 235ml vegetable oil
  11. 300g soft brown sugar
  12. 4 eggs
  13. 1tsp vanilla extract
  14. 100g chopped walnuts
For the frosting
  1. 225g cream cheese
  2. 115g butter, softened
  3. 175g icing sugar
  4. ½tsp vanilla extractHome-made hot cross loaf ingredients
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and grease a pair of 23cm/9-inch circular loose-bottomed cake tins
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour with the ground spices, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the grated sweet potato, vegetable oil and sugar and combine
  4. In a measuring jug lightly whisk the eggs before adding the vanilla extract. Stir to mix in
  5. Stir in the egg mixture to the sweet potato in 3 batches, stirring well after each addition
  6. Carefully fold the flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture
  7. Add the chopped walnuts and stir in so they're well dispersed through the batter
  8. Pour the batter equally between the two cake tins before baking for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven
  9. After the 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2 and cook for a further 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake come out clean
  10. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before taking the cakes out of their tins
  11. Allow to cool completely (at least another hour). Make the frosting.
For the frosting
  1. Mix the cream cheese and softened butter until there are no lumps
  2. Add the vanilla essence and icing sugar (sieve the sugar first if there are any lumps) and mix thoroughly. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge until the cakes have cooled and are ready to frost
  3. Once cooled, turn one of the cakes over so that the top is face down on a serving plate. Cover the top generously with frosting.
  4. Place the second cake on the first, with the top facing up. Cover the top generously with frosting. Serve. The cake will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
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H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

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