I enjoy making special-request cakes for loved ones on their birthdays. I was especially delighted when my son asked me to make a red velvet cake for his girlfriend, Lily, when she turned 21. I browsed through several cookbooks looking for a good recipe. My first three attempts were not pretty. The turning point came when I added strong coffee to the batter. It boosted the chocolate flavor in extraordinary ways. Now I look for reasons to make this cake!
This year, I gussied up the cake for Christmas Eve with pomegranate seeds and rosemary sprigs! So pretty!
While researching red velvet cakes, I learned the Adams Extract Company, maker of food coloring and flavor extracts, is credited with making this cake popular during the Depression. As a marketing strategy, the company placed point-of-sale tear-off Red Velvet Cake recipe cards under the grocery store shelf’s food coloring bottles. The idea took off, and Red Velvet Cakes became all the rage.
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (not low-fat)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
½ cup freshly brewed warm coffee
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Mise en Place:
Preheat oven to 350º. Place a cooking rack in the center of the oven.
Prepare Cake Pans with Liners:
Grease two 8 or 9-inch cake pans or a bundt cake pan with cooking spray or butter. Dust insides with flour. Tap pans upside down over a trash can to remove excess flour.
If making a layer cake, line the pans with parchment paper (waxed paper will work) as extra insurance the cake will not stick to the pan. Even when I grease the living daylights out of cake pans, some cakes still want to stick to the bottom. This is one of them. Liners guarantee they will drop out easily.
How to Make Liners for Cake Pans:
Draw an outline of the cake pan on two sheets of parchment. Cut out the paper disks. If you trim to just inside the outline, your disks should fit nicely inside the pans. Place a liner inside each pan.
Make the Cake Batter:
Beat together the oil, sugar, and eggs for three minutes at medium speed.
Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl: buttermilk, vanilla, food coloring, vinegar, and coffee. Mix on medium-low speed for one minute. The batter should appear smooth. Beware, any speed higher than medium-low will cause red batter to spread all over you and your kitchen!
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients with a whisk: the flour, chocolate, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Spoon one-third of this dry mixture at a time into the mixing bowl and stir at low speed until the flour disappears. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you mix. Mix until dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.
Place pans on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through cooking. Use a knife to check cake centers for doneness. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, set the timer for five more minutes and recheck. Be sure to test each pan. When done, remove pans from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
Next, run a knife around the edges of the pans to release cakes from sides. Turn pans upside down on a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. Invert cakes and cool to room temperature. Once cool, store in plastic bags until ready to use or frost them.
Butter and Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-ounce bar cream cheese, softened
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3¾ cups (1 pound box) confectioners’ sugar
2-3 tablespoons whole milk
Add vanilla and beat 30 seconds more. Add milk, one tablespoonful at a time, to thin frosting to desired spreading consistency.
Recently, I needed an elegant cake that would serve twenty. I decided to make a taller version of the cake by preparing one and a half recipes. This gave me three 9-inch layers. I increased the frosting recipe by half. The cake looked beautiful and regal on the dessert buffet. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo.
Triple Decker Cake Ingredients List
(I’ve done the math for you –and for me)
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
4½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups sugar
1½ cup canola oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1½ cup buttermilk, room temperature (not low-fat)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ ounce red food coloring
1½ teaspoon white distilled vinegar
¾ cup freshly brewed, plain, warm coffee
I LOVE when readers send photos of their creations from the blog. Here’s one from our friends-who-are-family, Markham and Cati, who made red velvet cupcakes for Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t love them more!
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