I will be the first to admit that I am opinionated about cake. But with most types of cake I believe there is wiggle room as to what makes a perfect cake. Chocolate can be dense and rich or light and moist, vanilla can be open crumbed and fluffy or tender and compact. When it comes to Red Velvet Cake though, I believe there is one gold standard of perfection and this recipe achieves just that.
Red Velvet cake should be light and moist and tender with a noticeable buttermilk flavor and a lingering complexity brought about by a splash of vinegar and a touch (and just a touch) of natural cocoa powder. Some bakers overwhelm Red with chocolate flavor but with too much cocoa all of the lovely nuances are lost.
This recipe was developed over years of Red Velvet Cake making. My cake binder is loaded with recipes I have tried and variations I have mixed up. But I believe this recipe encompasses the best of what Red Velvet should be.
Here are the reasons this recipe makes an excellent Red Velvet Cake:
- A combination of all-purpose and cake flour to achieve a tender and light but also open texture.
- Both butter and oil are included to aid in moistness and improved texture as well as the flavor of this cake.
- A full tablespoon of cider vinegar not only provides flavor but acts as a reactive agent with baking soda for a very light, tender cake.
- Natural cocoa powder adds a mild and subtle chocolate essence while contributing acidity to leavening processes as well.
- The dairy component includes buttermilk and sour cream which provide the ideal combination of flavor and moisture.
I mixed up a simple sweet White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting to top off this not-so-overly-sweet cake but if you prefer less sweet desserts you may want to add Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
This would make a lovely treat for your Valentine as the lovey holiday approaches. When my son was three he used to call this cake Red Vomit Cake. I think he misheard me say the name and was more accustomed to the word “vomit” than “velvet”. So, if you don’t have a Valentine, make this cake for yourself and I won’t be offended if you call it Red Vomit Cake in opposition to all things dealing with love.
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces, or 170 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (4 ounces, 115 grams) vegetable oil
- 14 ounces (400 grams) granulated sugar-2 cups
- 3 large eggs
- 6 ounces (170 grams) all-purpose flour-1 ¼ cups
- 5 ounces (140 grams) cake flour- 1 ¼ cups* (see end of recipe for substitute)
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) natural cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons (7 ½ milliliters) baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ milliliters) salt
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
- ½ cup (120 grams) sour cream
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) vanilla
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) red food coloring
- 12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese
- 8 ounces (230 grams) good quality white chocolate, chopped or callets
- 24 ounces (680 grams) unsalted butter, softened-3 cups or 6 sticks
- 24 ounces (680 grams) powdered sugar-6 cups
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
- Beat butter, oil and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
- In a 2 cup measuring cup combine buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar and vanilla and whisk to blend.
- Whisk together flours, baking soda, salt and cocoa (sift if there are noticeable lumps of cocoa or flour after whisking). Add dry mixture to butter mixture and stir on low until the dry ingredients just start to get moistened. Add half of buttermilk mixture and stir until it is just incorporated. Add remaining liquids and stir to combine. Gently stir in red food coloring and mix for about 30 seconds, scraping down once until the batter is uniform and smooth.
- Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Be sure this rich tender batter is fully done or you could encounter structural problems Cool 20 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. Cool completely if using immediately, or wrap in two layers of plastic wrap if using later. I suggest working with this cake when it is chilled since it is very fragile. Frost the cooled cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream or your buttercream of choice. Enjoy!
- *Cake flour substitute: Use 125 grams all-purpose plain flour and 15 grams cornstarch or potato starch in place of cake flour.
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl soften the cream cheese until warm. Stir in the white chocolate and microwave on high for 45 seconds and stir to melt the white chocolate into the cream cheese. If needed heat in 15 second intervals and stir until the chocolate is melted. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to cool while you prepare the rest of the frosting.
- Beat the butter with the paddle attachment of a standing mixer for 3 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix slowly, increasing speed when the sugar is incorporated, until all the powdered sugar is added. Add the vanilla and beat on high for 30 seconds to lighten.
- When the cream cheese mixture is cool, gradually add it to the frosting in the mixer bowl with the speed set to medium low. When all the cream cheese mixture is added beat for one minute on medium high. Use immediately or rebeat for one minute on medium high before using.