Monday, February 6, 2012

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

I know it's a little cliche to be posting a red velvet cake recipe so close to Valentine's Day, but oh well. What's Valentine's Day without some cutesy cliche anyway?

Sure, you could go with red velvet cheesecake, or red velvet cookies, or even red velvet pancakes. I've seen them all (thanks to Pinterest). But cake is classic. And timeless. Especially this one.

This cake pretty much as classic and simple as they come. It has a nice, airy texture and pairs perfectly with sweet and tangy cream cheese icing. 

I particularly like that every once in a while you get a bite that reminds you of the little bit of cocoa in the cake. And that it's not day-glo red. The color somehow seems a little more natural this way, and there's definitely no hint of the food coloring flavor.

A note about decorating with this frosting: I find that cream cheese icing can be a little sticky and soft, so it's not the easiest to use if you want a cake with perfectly smooth sides. Instead I went with a more casual sort of striped look using a small offset spatula. You like?

Red Velvet Cake
Yield: One 3-layer 8'' cake

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup, plus 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 heaping tsp red gel food coloring
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 cups, plus 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 tsp distilled white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (or spray with non-stick cooking spray) three 8'' cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat on medium speed between each. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, vanilla, and red food coloring. Add to the batter, and mix on low speed until completely combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed to ensure all the batter is colored evenly.
4. With the mixer running on low, slowly add half of the buttermilk. Once it is mostly incorporated, stop the mixer and add half of the flour and salt. Turn the mixer to low and mix until not quite combined.  Repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour and beat until just barely incorporated.
5. Add the baking soda and white vinegar to the batter and mix on low until all ingredients are incorporated.
6. Divide batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans and bake for 31-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake pans to wire racks to cool for at least 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out of their pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Recipe Notes
  • This amount of batter with yield about 36 cupcakes. Reduce the baking time to 17-19 minutes.
  • I use Wilton brand's gel coloring in Red-Red, but you can absolutely use traditional liquid food coloring if you want. Substitute 4 Tbsp for the 1 tsp of gel coloring, and continue adding until the batter is red enough for you. Do not add more than 6 Tbsp of food coloring or the ratio of liquid may be thrown off.
  • I divided my batter using a scale and had approximately 600g in each of my three cake pans.
Recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 lb (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
24 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
7 cups powdered sugar, divided

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and half the sugar until very light and fluffy.
2. Add the cream cheese and remaining sugar and continue to cream until smooth.
3. Store frosting in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.

Recipe Notes
  • Be careful not to overbeat this icing too much or it will become too soft and won't hold its shape when piped.
  • I had about a cup of icing left over after generously icing my 3-layer 8'' cake.
  • If using refrigerated icing, be sure to return it to the mixer and beat on low just to soften it slightly so it is easy to work with. See bullet #1.

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