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Red Velvet, If You Please…

September 12, 2011

When I was asked to make a cake for a bridal shower, I felt honored, and a little puzzled at the same time.  The bride’s favorite cake happens to be…  red velvet.  I never made red velvet cake from scratch before, and I pride myself in not using mixes in my baking…  So the challenge was on: red velvet with cream cheese frosting, all from scratch!


Note: I utterly forgot the final picture – however, as soon as I’ll get one from the party, I’ll upload it.


Red velvet cake takes quite some ingredients:



Ingredients for two 9-inch cake sheets:

  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1-1/2 c white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa
  • 2 oz red food coloring (2 bottles)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c buttermilk (can be substituted with soured milk: put 2 Tbsp vinegar in a measuring cup, and fill it up to 1 c; stir and let it stand on room temperature for 10 minutes)
  • 2-1/2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
For a 4-layer, 10-inch cake, I made 2 and a half times this amount – I could probably have used 3, in retrospect.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees before you start – this way, by the time the dough is together, the oven is ready to go, too.
Make sure to soften the shortening first.  Then, in a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and the sugar.  Whilst the term “cream” is technically correct, the mixture will not be creamy, but flaky, almost like fake snow, with the flakes themselves soft and pliable.
Then, add the eggs – on the picture, you can still see the flaky texture along with an egg already beaten in.
Add the eggs

Add the eggs

As this mixes, in a separate bowl, combine the cocoa and the food coloring.  Mix them until they completely combine to a smooth paste.  Try not to get in any contact with the food coloring:  it can tint the skin for days!  Also, be sure to wear an apron to catch any splatters before they reach your clothes: most natural fabrics like cotton, linen or wool will never release it.
When the eggs are beaten in smooth, pour in the cocoa/coloring mix, and keep beating.
Mix the food coloring and the cocoa

Drip, drip, drip...

Blending in the colors

Color me sur... I mean, red

Mix the buttermilk, the vanilla and the salt.  Add this to the mix, alternating with the flour, still beating continuously.  The cake batter is really starting to take shape!
Vanilla, salt, buttermilk

Vanilla Splash

And now, the last thing.  In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and the vinegar.  This will be quite a reaction with lots of fizz, so be sure you have a large enough container – at least 1/2 cup size!  Finally, gently fold this mixture into the dough – do not  beat it now!
Spray your cake pan with cooking spray: the single batch is enough for two 9-inch round pans, but you can bake it in a rectangular pan as well; I used a 10-inch springform pan.  Pour in the batter, and gently tap the bottom of your pan to the counter a few times.  This settles and evens out the batter, and helps the air bubbles escape, rather than make holes in the cake.
Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Bake the cake for 30 minutes in the 350 degree oven.  Do not open the oven door for the first 10 minutes though – this may cause the cake to get a cold draft and collapse / never rise.  When the cake looks done, insert a toothpick or wooden skewer in the center; if it comes out clean, the cake is ready!
The cake, baked


Transfer the cake to a wire cooling rack.  Be sure to cool it completely before filling it – the hot steam escaping from the cake as it cools may cause the filling to spoil.
Oh, the filling!  I used a simple cream cheese frosting for it.
In a bowl, beat together an 8 oz. block of softened cream cheese with 1/2 cup (1 stick) of softened butter; then add 3 to 4 cups of powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it) and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and beat it smooth.  Spread some between the sheets of the cake, if you do a multi-layer cake, or just frost the outside.
Cream cheese frosting
… And this is where the final results would be pictured, however…  in the last minute rush of decorating, I completely forgot to snap one.  I apologize – I will update the post with one as soon as I get the pictures from the party!
– Enjoy your meal!
10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2011 18:46

    It’s my father-in-law’s favorite cake. So pretty!

    • September 12, 2011 21:16

      Glad you like it, Aimee! You should try the recipe, it’s actually pretty simple (and with a stand mixer, you don’t even need to turn the mixer off!)

  2. September 12, 2011 18:36

    So, red velvet cake confuses me still- is it really just a red-colored chocolate cake, or is there something else that’s special about it that I’m missing? Buttermilk?

    • September 12, 2011 21:16

      As far as I know, it’s a very dense, red colored chocolate cake. I’m pretty sure it would turn out mostly the same without the coloring, though I would add water instead of the food coloring (4 tablespoons).
      Buttermilk gives it the density – rich and moist!

  3. September 12, 2011 03:18

    Looks amazing. You know, you could use beetroot to give it the red colour – it doesn’t take on the taste and gives it a nice texture.

    • September 12, 2011 04:39

      Thanks for the idea! I have heard of beetroot coloring before, but I haven’t tried it in cakes yet… and as this was a gift cake, I didn’t want to take any chances. I will definitely try next time though!


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