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Red Velvet Cake

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Red velvet is what I like to call a “feature” cake. It’s the dessert that everyone oohs and aahs over-it’s tall, dark, and handsome, with deep crimson cake layers and a thick coating of cream cheese frosting above, around, and between. It’s about as southern as a cake can be, and I don’t know anyone from Georgia to Texas who doesn’t have a granny who makes “the best” one. Now brace yourselves-mine veers from tradition. While customarily just a couple of tablespoons of cocoa get added to the batter, I throw in a whole one-half cup, giving the cake this delicious devil’s food-like flavor and a deep crimson color. It’s really rich and decadent, and even big eaters will be all set with a small slice. Unlike many cakes that dry out over time, this one just continues to get better, moister, and more delicious the longer it sits in the fridge. So don’t be too shy to bake a cake for four (or two) devotees-you’ll be enjoying it for days to come.

Make ahead: You can make the cake layers up to 3 days in advance. The filled and frosted cake keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Let it stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Variation:

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Follow the recipe above, making a half-batch of the batter(unless you have two 12-cup muffin tins, in which case you can make a full-size batch) and deceasing the baking powder to 1 teaspoon. Bake until the cupcakes are domes and resist slight pressure, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting with a half batch of the cream cheese frosting.

Cooking Methodbaking

CostModerate

Easy

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturecreamy, sweet, tangy

Type of Dishcake, dessert

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (1-pound) box light brown sugar (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1(2 pound) bag confectioners' sugar (about 7 1/4 cups)

Instructions

To make the cake:

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with 1 tablespoon of butter each. Add 2 tablespoons of the flour to each pan and shake the pans to coat the bottom and sides. Tap out the excess flour and set the pans aside.

Sift the remaining 2 1/4 cups of flour with the cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) cream the remaining butter with the brown sugar, food coloring, and vanilla on low to combine. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and pale, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition and using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and add one-third of the dry ingredients followed by half of the buttermilk. Repeat, finishing with the final third of the dry mix. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans, spreading it out as evenly as possible.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the center of the cake resists slight presuure, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then run a paring knife around the edges of each pan to release the cake from the sides; invert the cakes onto the cooling rack. Cool for 1 hour, and then wrap each cake in plastic wrap for at least a few hours.

To Make the Frosting:

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add a few cups of the confectioners' sugar, incorporating it into the cream cheese mixture on low speed until combined. Repeat with the remaining sugar, adding it to the mixer in two additions. Once all of the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

To Assemble the Cake:

Unwrap the cake layers. Slice off the rounded top 1/8 inch of each cake and place the trimmed-away portion in the bowl of a food processor. Slice each cake in half horizontally(you'll end up with 4 layers), working over a baking sheet to catch any crumb. Add the crumbs to the food processor and pulse until fine.

Place one cake layer on a cake round or large plate (make sure that the diameter of the plate is at least 1 inch larger than the cake). Use an offset spatula to evenly spread a heaping 3/4 cup of frosting on the first cake layer. Repeat with the remaining three cake layers, ending with a bottom half of a cake on top, browned-side up (so you don't get cake crumbs in the frosting). Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake (the sides dont have to look perfect-you're going to cover them with cake crumbs anyway). Gently press a handful of the reserved crumbs into the side of the cake until all of the sides are evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

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