As a lover of all kinds of desserts, I have to admit that I was late to join the red velvet cake appreciation society. Growing up in the northeast I don’t remember ever seeing it in bakeries and it certainly wasn’t a recipe that we made at home.
But several years ago, the crimson confection miraculously seemed to be everywhere and all that people could talk about. And with that explosion in popularity, suddenly all kinds of things were being passed off as red velvet cake, whether or not they had anything to do with the traditional recipe. If it was red on the inside and frosted white on the outside that was good enough.
So I was glad to discover that Kim Nelson, owner of mail-order bakery Daisy Cakes, is on a mission to set the record straight on what is and what is not red velvet cake. “I’m surprised by the number of people who say it’s just a chocolate cake with red food coloring in it,” she writes in her new book, Daisy Cakes Bakes, which comes out on Tuesday. “I always feel the need to let them know ‘not where I come from!’ One tablespoon of cocoa does not a chocolate cake make. When that bit of cocoa combines with a touch of vinegar, a lovely reddish hue results. Adding food coloring amps up the ‘wow’ factor!”
Now that that issue is settled, please excuse me while I cut myself a generous slice of red velvet cake.
Red Velvet Cake
Vegetable shortening and flour for preparing the pans
2.5 cups Unbleached all‑purpose flour
1 Tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1.5 tsp Baking soda
.5 tsp Salt
.25 tsp Baking powder
1 cup Buttermilk
2 Tbsp Red food coloring
1 Tbsp Vinegar (white or balsamic)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 cups Sugar
.5 cup (1 stick) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large Eggs
Cream cheese frosting*
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat three 9-inch round cake pans with a thin layer of shortening with a light dusting of flour.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the sugar and butter on high speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs. Scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the bowl. Beat thoroughly on high speed until smooth, 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture. Beat on low speed just until combined. Scrape the bowl again. Beat on high speed for 1 minute. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake layer comes out clean, 18 minutes. The cakes will have pulled away from the edges of the pan, but the cakes’ edges shouldn’t be browned. Let cool for 10 minutes before turning the layers out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Once cool, put one cake layer on a serving plate. Frost the top with the cream cheese frosting, then add a second cake layer and frost the top. Add the final cake layer and frost the top and sides.
*Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 8-ounce packages Cream cheese, cold
2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 16-ounce boxes Confectioners’ sugar, sifted
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the bowl. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat on high speed until smooth, 1 minute.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar just until blended. Scrape down the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. The frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.
This makes enough frosting for one 9-inch 4-layer cake or 24 cupcakes
Reprinted from Daisy Cakes Bakes. Copyright © 2018 by Kim Nelson. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Kristin Teig. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.