It's no secret that I like to bake cakes year round, but there's something about red velvet cake in the summer that doesn't appeal to me. By Valentine's Day, I'm usually done with it until the fall. But this year I wanted to make a version that felt a bit lighter, more appropriate for the summer months. I started with the recipe I traditionally use, researched lots of other recipes, and determined the ways in which I wanted to alter the texture and color (wanting more of a clear red than a deep red) and reduce some of the tanginess that I love in the winter.
But the real find was this whipped cream cheese frosting recipe that I'd pinned. It seemed like a good alternative to the traditional cream cheese frosting, so I made my recipe changes based on the frosting - which meant I needed the contrast of a slightly sturdier cake than what I typically make. The problem, of course, with sturdier red velvet cakes is that they tend to be dry. I could have made an oil based cake, but I find I can always taste the oil, which I don't like. So I did an experiment and mixed butter with a smaller amount of oil. It worked, as did the frosting.
This cake is good at room temperature, but I really appreciate it cold. And while you might be tempted not to split your cake layers, I think it provides the right balance of frosting to cake. To make it easier, I refrigerated my cake layers after they'd fully cooled (wrapped in plastic wrap) and split them with a knife while they were still cold. But if that feels too difficult, you can always bake four thinner layers (you'll just have to experiment with the cooking time).
Finally, a red velvet I can live with in July.
Summer Red Velvet
(makes one 8-inch 4-layer cake)
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
3 tablespoons cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 ounces red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar (not apple cider vinegar)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat two 8-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 medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.
3. Cream the butter, sugar, and oil in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in the food coloring on low speed.
4. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Add the vanilla extract.
5. In a glass measuring cup, dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and stir into the batter, blending all ingredients as little as possible.
6. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool cakes on a wire rack, then unmold.
7. When cakes are fully cooled, wrap the layers in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours. Before frosting, split the layers evenly with a serrated knife and frost with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting.
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting:
(from Not So Humble Pie)
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream to nearly stiff peaks, then add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and beat quickly to combine (don't overbeat).