My family is fairly obsessed with red velvet cake, so one year I decided to give it a new twist for Halloween. I took my red velvet cake recipe and simply swapped the red food coloring for black. Then I gave my cream cheese frosting a new flavor profile with fresh orange zest and juice. The resulting cake is enough like the original to satisfy my family, but different enough that it's become a yearly treat we look forward to.
Black 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. black food coloring (Note: It's possible 1 oz. will suffice, but only if it's a high quality food coloring. Otherwise, it might be more of a charcoal gray)
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 orange cream cheese frosting.
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1. Blend the cream cheese, butter, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla in a large bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium speed, until smooth.
2. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy – about 3 more minutes.
Note: There is a Black Velvet cake recipe that accompanies my feature in Better Homes and Gardens, but it is a different version that their test kitchen came up with. I will have to try their recipe. If I like it better than mine, I'll be back to let you know!
Tomorrow, I'll post a playlist of songs to accompany this type of Halloween gathering.
Title photo by Monica Buck