Red Velvet is my signature cake, probably because it was the first cake I learned to bake and I've been making it since I was a child. I suppose, in my family, that we made it year round, but what I remember most is indulging in this cake every Christmas Eve. It's a tradition that I've carried into my adult life.
This recipe was not the first one I used, but I feel certain that it will be the last (other than a summer version). I've tasted a lot of red velvet cakes and cupcakes over the years, and two problems I seem to encounter over and over are texture and taste. Too often, the cake is dry, cottony, or lacks depth of flavor. If you've been disappointed in red velvet in the past, I hope you'll give this recipe a try.
Red Velvet Cake
2½ cups sifted unleavened cake flour
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cool room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 large egg yolk, at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 oz. red food coloring
3 Tablespoons lukewarm water
1 cup lowfat buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable shortening. Insert parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pans and lightly coat the paper with shortening, then dust with flour.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa, and baking powder and set aside.
3. In a standing mixer, set on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Beat in the red food coloring, then the water, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until well blended.
4. Using the lowest speed, beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, for a total of 4 additions, ending with buttermilk and blending well. In a glass measuring cup, dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar. Pour in and beat on medium speed until just blended, about 10 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Do not overbeat. Turn into the prepared cake pans.
5. Bake on the middle oven rack until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean, 30-35 minutes.
6. Let the cake cool completely in the pans on a wire rack, then turn out and frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lb. confectioners’sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a standing mixer, set on low speed, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and confectioners’ sugar for 10 seconds. Then beat on high speed until well blended and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and blend well.
Note: This is not the recipe to use for red velvet cupcakes. Cake flour gives it a very tender crumb that isn't sturdy enough to hold up as a regular size cupcake. If you want to make cupcakes, I would swap out the cake flour for all-purpose flour. Though the texture will be different, it's more likely to work in cupcake form.