I have a terrible confession to make.
Red Velvet Cake has, in the past, been for me a glorified cream cheese frosting delivery method.
It’s not that I don’t like the cake, but cream cheese frosting is my jam. Vanilla, chocolate, lemon, coffee. Regular buttercream is kinda dead to me. I’m just not interested. Cream Cheese is sweet, but the tang of the cheese cuts through the sweetness and is just so delicious.
This Red Velvet Cake is sooo good that it’s more than just a vehicle for delicious frosting. Ohmigosh.You’re going to love it because the cake itself is soo delicious, moist and delicately chocolatey, and it’s the perfect pairing with the tangy cream cheese frosting.
I’ve tweaked the original Hummingbird Bakery red velvet to add a bit more buttermilk, and – crucially, melted dark chocolate. The resulting cake is so moist, tasty and chocolate-y – it’s more than just a pretty colour! And with that frosting? It’s out of this world!
With three layers of vanilla and chocolate enriched red velvet sponge, filled and topped with decadent cream cheese frosting, this cake is sure to be a winner!
Note – in order to cover this cake properly, with plenty of frosting between the three layers, a thick crumb coat and enough frosting on top and the sides so it’s completely, beautifully white with no cake peeking out, you need quite an obscene amount of frosting. But trust me, you’ll need it all for a pretty cake. If you’re not so bothered, stick with the reduced quantity I give below.
- For the cake:
- 120g soft unsalted butter
- 330g caster or golden caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 50g cocoa powder
- 1 tsp red gel food colouring - Sugarflair, Home2Bake or Wilton. Do not on any accounts use a liquid food colouring!
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 50g melted plain chocolate
- 300g plain flour
- 260ml buttermilk
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- For the frosting:
- 150g unsalted butter
- 350g cream cheese
- 750g (about) icing sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- For the cake:
- First, preheat your oven to 180c/375f/gas mark 5 and prepare your baking tin. I wanted a taller, elegant cake so I used a smaller7" tin and cooked the layers in batches. You can use anything from a 6" to a 9" tin though.
- Next, combine your very soft butter with the sugar and mix vigorously by hand or in a stand mixer until they are very fluffy indeed. Add the eggs one at a time, and then sieve in your cocoa powder (important as it tends to be lumpy) and add the vanilla.
- Meanwhile, melt your plain chocolate in the microwave in a small bowl, and pour into the cake batter, and mix to incorporate.
- At this point, drop in your gel food colouring and see your cake batter turn red! I usually add at least a heaped tablespoon of gel food colouring - sometimes more! Keep adding until you get to a red you're happy with.
- Next, alternate between adding the plain flour and the buttermilk to the bowl - I usually add half the flour, half the buttermilk, and repeat, with the mixer running.
- Finally, add your pinch of salt, and then prepare your vinegar mixture - simply pop your white vinegar into a small cup or bowl, and then pour on the bicarb of soda. The mixture will fizz up, so quickly stir and pop it straight into the cake batter, and mix to incorporate.
- Please note - the cooking time for this cake will depend on whether you're planning to bake it in layers (ie using three pans) or as one whole cake that you'll then cut up. For three pans, plan to bake for 20 minutes, for a large cake using all the batter, it could need up to 45 minutes. Keep a close eye on the cake/s and test them frequently.
- I had only one 7" pan, so I first made one layer using a third of the batter, and then got lazy and cooked all the rest of the batter together - however, it was easy to cut in half without crumbling once it had cooled.
- For the frosting:
- I have a new method for baking cream cheese frosting and it's foolproof, but a little strange! Firstly, I recommend always making it in advance, so I'd make it at the point where your cake goes into the oven. You won't need to use it for a few hours, but that will give it time to go into the fridge and firm up.
- First, melt your butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave, until its very soft and on its way to be completely liquid. Remove from the microwave, and use a whisk to mix, until it's completely smooth and yellow, with no lumps whatsoever.
- Next, drop your cream cheese into the bowl, and use the whisk to combine the two into a thick mixture.
- Then - sieve the icing sugar into the cream cheese mixture. I like to measure it all out, then use a scoop or cup measure to transfer around 150g at a time to the sieve and into the bowl. After you've incorporated each portion of icing sugar, use a wooden spoon (ditch the whisk!) to very gently and slowly mix together.
- Repeat until all the icing sugar is incorporated, taking care not to stir vigorously - gentle is the key. You may need slightly more or slightly less icing sugar than what is given here - keep going until you get to a consistency you're happy with.
- Finally, add vanilla bean paste (for gorgeous flecks) and lemon juice - fresh if you have it. This really lifts the frosting without making it taste lemony. Cover and pop into the fridge until your cake is cool and ready to frost.
- To frost your cake, place on a pretty plate and choose a sturdy base layer, then dollop plenty of frosting on top. Top with the next two layers (if using three) - making sure that the top cake is placed on upside down for a flat top. If it's very domed, you may want to trim it a little with a sharp serrated knife.
- Spoon around 5 tbsp of frosting onto the top of the cake, and then use an offset spatula to work the frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake, until it's all covered with a thin layer. I find it especially tricky to cover the bottom of the cake where it meets the plate, but just do the best you can. Pop the cake into the fridge for the first coat of frosting to set, ideally for up to an hour.
- Once the first layer of frosting is set, simply add more frosting and repeat the process until you're happy with the look of the cake - for me, it took three coats. It's not essential - you could add all your frosting at once and the cake would taste just as delicious, but if you want it to look perfect, you'll need a little more time.
- Finish with spinkles or red velvet crumbs from your cake trimmings.