Seeing Red

Beyond Wonderful Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake is at once delicious, gorgeous and irresistible!

This moist, rich classic cake will tickle your taste buds with a hint of chocolate and thrill with its festive color. Red velvet cake has been around for almost 90 years, beginning as a signature dessert at New York’s famous Waldorf Astoria hotel. In a land of angel and devil’s food, vanilla and chocolate, this cake stood out like a drop-dead gorgeous lady wearing a hot red dress in a room filled with basic black.

I first made red velvet with the standard recipe that you find everywhere on the web. Its flavor and moisture were OK but not sensational. The screaming color was actually a little scary, and not at all sophisticated. I hit the kitchen and started playing with the ingredients: cake flour, cocoa, salt, sugar, butter, vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar. With a few adjustments—mainly swapping out the butter for double the amount of vegetable oil and a bit more sugar—things improved dramatically. An additional tablespoon of cocoa toned down the red color and added more depth of flavor.

Next, bubbles—lots of air bubbles caused by the intensity of multiple acidic ingredients. Since I’d balanced the ingredients as much as possible, brute force seemed the best approach. So, I banged the cake tins on the counter several times to release the bubbles, then ran a knife gently through the batter. Perfection!

As my red velvet baked, I made a huge bowl of cream cheese frosting. Once the cake was thoroughly cool, I slathered it generously with the frosting and tried selling the beaters to everyone circling me in the kitchen. They were not amused and came at me with their outstretched spoons. Licking my fingers, I had to admit pure love for the baker that invented this stuff. How can anything taste so good?

Red velvet love; how sweet it is.

Beyond Wonderful Red Velvet Cake

Beyond Wonderful Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces red food coloring*
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon distilled vinegar

1 recipe Ultimate Cream Cheese frosting

Grease two 9-inch or three-8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt together in a spacious bowl. Set aside.
  2. Beat the sugar and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy—approximately 2 minutes.
  3. Set the mixer to low speed and slowly add the oil.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Pour the red food coloring into the buttermilk. Mix well.
  6. Set the mixer to medium speed and alternately add the dry mixture, buttermilk and wet mixture ending with the dry mixture. Mix until combined after each addition, but do not overbeat.
  7. Combine the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl and let it fizz for a moment. Fold it into the cake batter.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  9. Remove the air bubbles by banging the pans firmly against the counter, then run a knife quickly through the batter to remove any remaining bubbles.
  10. Place the cake pans on the middle rack of the oven and bake 25–30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes, then invert on cooling racks.
  12. Wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight before frosting. This helps control the crumbs.
  13. Remove from the refrigerator and frost with Ultimate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Place paper liners in muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees

  1. Fill the liners 2/3 full. Do not overfill.
  2. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 22–25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  3. Cool the cupcakes thoroughly in their tins before frosting.