I realize how ridiculous it is to give you a red velvet cake on Valentine’s Day. I intended to bring it to you well. before Valentine’s Day so, you know, you could do it for the day, but some recipe flaws put me back a little. I didn’t want to rush something that wasn’t up to my standards just so I could get it out on time. I hope you appreciate it and find another occasion to make this Red Velvet Cake soon!
Red Velvet Cake is another classic cake recipe that has been requested over and over again, but I never really understood the appeal. It’s just a soft chocolate cake with a ton of red food coloring, isn’t it?
What is red velvet cake?
I love learning the history of timeless recipes like this, to discover how they originated, how they became popular, and how they have changed over the years. Of course, I feel the need to share that with you, so sit back for another quick history lesson, or go straight to How to make red velvet cake.
Originally, in the 1800s, Red Velvet Cake’s color was due to anthocyanin-rich, non-Dutched cocoa, which reacted with the recipe’s vinegar and buttermilk to create a rich red / brown color. These days, even the standard cocoa powder from the grocery store has gone through a certain level of Dutch processing, which removes some of the acid and prevents color change from occurring (at least as much as it used to). . To compensate, recipes these days use a LOT of red coloring (usually in liquid form) to get that deep or bright red color.
The popularity of the cake actually came during the Great Depression. A company called Adams Extract created the Red Velvet Cake recipe that we know today as a marketing tactic, hoping to increase sales at a difficult time. Her recipe uses butter (which is cheaper than butter), Adams butter flavor, Adams vanilla, and of course Adams red food coloring. Adams distributed the Red Velvet Cake recipe for free on grocery store recipe cards, and it quickly became a hit in homes across the country.
Canadians will appreciate this: Apparently red velvet cake was a staple in Eaton’s department store in the 1940s and 1950s. Except they said the recipe was theirs. Poor way, from Eaton! You can read more about this here.
If you’ve been following Liv for Cake For a while now, you know that I prefer to stick with natural flavors and colors as much as possible. I have the occasional glossy cake where the flavors only require a touch of color, but I try to use natural dyes like lyophilized powder to give a bit of dye.
Making a red velvet cake was never high on my radar because of this. I really do I have a red velvet cake that I made a couple of years ago, but the focus of the cake focused more on the decorative icing technique, and I just happened to think that a red cake would look good paired with it. I have tweaked and improved that recipe in hopes of darkening the cake more with cocoa powder than with coloring. I did it… something.
The reality is that if you want a deep red color, just add an artificial coloring to it. I know some people have used beets to try to get the color red, but that didn’t appeal to me (although I love beets).
How to make red velvet cake
Making this red velvet cake is pretty straightforward, except in my kitchen, where things tend to go wrong 90% of the time.
I was in a bit of a rush (a common thing these days) and my butter was not yet at room temperature. I decided to make a cube and try to beat it anyway, hoping the friction would heat it up. Well, what it really did was totally break my KitchenAid palette.
This is really the second time this has happened, for the same reason. Apparently I don’t learn from my mistakes. It’s because I have the memory of a goldfish, and I didn’t remember it until it happened again.
The paddle I use automatically scrapes the bowl for me (which is a HUGE time saver), but it’s plastic and clearly brittle. KitchenAid makes a metal one with a scraper, but it’s not available for my model. Why is this not available for all models? It is beyond me, and why is it not standard on Earth? Who wants to scrape the bowl? Always??
I had no choice now. I threw away the butter in the bowl in case there were plastic fragments in it, and resorted to using my palette and scraping the bowl with my hand.
My plastic scraper paddle has made me so lazy. I made a terrible work of manually scraping the bowl, although I did it 4-5 times throughout the process (big pain in the butt). When I was pouring the cake batter into the cans, there were visible sections of unincorporated butter and sugar (laughs). Needless to say, this showed on my baked layers, and one of them sank a little on one side.
Do it better than me, people!
Anyway, as I was saying, making this Red Velvet Cake is quite simple: put butter cream and sugar, add the eggs one by one, etc. The key is that you want to add the cocoa powder and the red food coloring. before You start by adding your flour.If you try to color your dough at the end, once you have added all the ingredients, you will most likely over-mix the dough, which will result in a dense (and sometimes brittle) cake that is not perfect .
This is true for all cakes that use the cream method, so I always recommend coloring before adding the flour and milk.
You want to add the coloring just after the eggs and keep adding it until it turns deep red. This took about 1/2 to 2/3 of a 0.75 oz bottle of Americolor Super Red color gel. I didn’t measure it, just kept adding until I had the right color.
If you prefer, you can use liquid red dye. You will need 1 to 2 oz. Of this. But I like that the color gels are more concentrated and that you use less. Americolor are also better at not leaving a strange taste like a little food coloring does.
A quick note on the crumb at the top. I did this because I wanted something to decorate the top with, and I didn’t just want to use cake crumbs. Also, I never have any, as the cake layers are baked every time.
The crumb was a huge pain in the butt to do. I tried to do it from scratch, but after 5 failures in total, I gave up and opted for the cake mix. After 5 more tries, I finally had something like what I had imagined.
I had planned to use this between the layers of the cake for a certain crunch, but I didn’t love the taste of it, so I used it on top as a decoration. It is completely optional!
What is the flavor of the red velvet cake?
The red velvet cake has a subtle chocolate flavor and a light butter flavor of whey. Mine has a little more of that chocolate, because I thought it was silly to have just a tablespoon or two in a recipe.
The cake alone, while delicious, is not one of my favorites. Is that something weird to say about my own recipe? I mean, it is Okay, but there are better cakes out there. However, I’ve never been a big fan of red velvet, so take it with a grain of salt.
What the red velvet cake really does, I think, is the combination of the cake with the cream cheese frosting. It is truly a unique and delicious pairing. One or two pieces of this cake may have quickly disappeared shortly after I took the photos.
If you’re a fan of Red Velvet, I hope you like my modified version of this classic cake recipe!
Looking for more red velvet desserts?
Tips for making this red velvet cake recipe
- The recipe as is will work on two 8 “trays or three 6” trays. However, the layers will be thicker than in the previous recipe (three 8 ″ trays), so you will need to increase the cooking time.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time; start checking at approximately 15 minutes.
- I used Americolor Super red to color the layers of the cake because it is concentrated and does not leave an after flavor. If you want to use a liquid dye, you should use about 1 to 2 oz.
- The following icing recipe is enough to completely freeze the cake. If you just want enough to bake a cake like I did, use 2/3 of the recipe.
- The crumble is optional, see post for more details. I did it solely for aesthetics.
- To help ensure cake layers bake nice and flat, check out my Flat Top Cakes post!
Red velvet cake
Classic red velvet cake! Tender and rich layers of red cake with a hint of chocolate combined with a spicy cream cheese frosting.
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Red velvet crumble (optional):
Cream cheese glaze:
- 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 12 ounces chilled cream cheese, full of fat, block not tub
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
Red velvet cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 8 “rounds of cake and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, beat together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, buttercream and sugar at medium heat until well combined (about 3 minutes). Add the oil and beat another 2 minutes until pale and fluffy.
- Slow down and add the eggs one at a time by fully incorporating them after each addition.
- Add vanilla, vinegar, cocoa powder, and enough red gel to achieve the desired color. I used just over half a 0.75 oz bottle of Americolor Super Red.
- Alternate adding flour and whey mixture, starting and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Full incorporation after each addition.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost always clean.
- Place the cakes on the rack to cool for 10 minutes, and then place them back on the rack.
Red velvet crumble (optional):
- Preheat oven to 350F and cover a baking sheet with parchment. Add enough color gel to the melted butter to make it deep red.
- Place the cake mix in a medium bowl. Add a little or butter and stir with a spatula. Add more butter until the cake mix begins to lump together. Don’t add too much !! It is easier to add liquid if it is too dry, but if you add too much butter you must start again.
- Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for approx. 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Break crumble apart if necessary.
Cream cheese glaze:
- Beat the butter until pale and fluffy (2 minutes). Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Whisk in the cream cheese. Add the vanilla and beat until fluffy.
- Place a layer of cake on a serving plate or cake stand. Top with about 1 cup of frosting and spread evenly. Repeat with the next layer.
- Lay the top layer of the cake on top and coat the cake with the crumb. Add 1 cup buttercream to the top and smooth until it hangs down the sides. Swirl the top with a large offset spatula, and then use a softer frosting to smooth the sides and create a top edge with the frosting.
- If desired, sprinkle a little red velvet crumb around the top.
Nutritional information and metric conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. If this is important to you, check with your favorite nutrition calculator and / or the metric conversion tool.