Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cook: Delicious LA Red Velvet Cake

I finally did it!!! After eating dozens of red velvet cupcakes / slices of cake over the past 10 years, and making it from mixes (Sprinkles was the best), I finally decided to make it from scratch. The stakes were high, since I have judged and rated so many other versions - most which fell short of my expectations.

I started by doing research. I found all of the top rated recipes on the web, and read through the reviews until I picked what I felt was the most promising version. The winner was the family recipe from Pinch My Salt blog. I followed her recipe more or less, but made a few modifications. Here is the original recipe, below is my adaptation.

So - what did I think? Well, it's a bit awkward to judge my own baking, but suffice to say, I'm pretty happy with how things turned out, and my friends seem to enjoy it as well. (J gave it an "A'!) The cake was moist and light, not too dense nor dry (my most common complaints with RVC). The flavor was delicate with a subtle suggestion of chocolate and buttermilk. The cream cheese frosting was a nice compliment. If I make it again, I may try to increase the cocoa to 3 tablespoons and decrease the red food coloring to 1.5 oz (1 1/2 bottles), but this recipe is very solid, and definitely a keeper!

Delicious LA Red Velvet Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (you can also use 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 oz red food coloring (2 entire bottles!!!)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 8-inch round cake pans.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside. (I used a small whisk)
  4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add the buttermilk.
  5. Gradually beat in the flour mixture until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
  6. Make sure you have cake pans buttered, floured, and nearby. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. It will fizz! Add to the cake batter and stir well to combine.
  7. Working quickly, divide batter evenly between the cake pans and place them in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes for 3 pans. Check early, cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. To remove the cakes from the pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, then gently lift the pan.
  9. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
  10. Frost with buttercream or cream cheese icing (recipe below).
Recipe Notes: *Sift cake flour once before measuring, then sift again with the other dry ingredients per recipe instructions. Wear an apron and be careful with the red food coloring–it will stain! As you’re mixing the cake batter, use a spatula to scrape down the bowl frequently throughout the entire process. Another good trick I learned from reading reviews was to put the cake briefly in the freezer (30min) so that the layers become firmer and the red cake won't crumble and mess up the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (depending on your preference for sugar/cream cheese ratio)
  • pinch of salt
Tip: *Use a large bowl as powdered sugar can get a little messy.
With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Turn mixer to low speed and blend in vanilla extract, salt and powdered sugar. Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).
Update 3-3-11: If you do freeze the cake layers before frosting, loosen them in pan (so they don't stick to bottom when you take them out) and cover pan with saran wrap. If you do use this strategy, let cake come to room temperature before serving. We served this cake at room temperature, but it is also delicious slightly chilled out of the fridge!

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