Maybe I have no soul. Perhaps I was born without tear ducts, but I (in my aged state) am not one to celebrate Valentine's Day other than to make themed edibles. So another year has passed and I've become more sarcastic than ever before, because the thought of this cake came to me early on and made Valentine's more than just another day for me.
I went with a classic red velvet double layer cake, complete with cream cheese icing. I've only made a red velvet once before, though it was cupcakes, and it was a really deep beet-purple red since I didn't actually have red food dye. The recipe for the cake and frosting came from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook, and my only substitution since I only had 1 tablespoon red dye was to add about 2 teaspoons raspberry Jello powder. Now, a red velvet layer cake has never appealed to me because it's practically in a state of limbo -- not quite chocolate, not really white or yellow. But it's red, and you're expecting it to taste like, I don't know, something other than just red. Adding the raspberry Jello powder gave it a lovely flavor that blended with the hint of cocoa powder, and that is how I will always make future red velvet cakes. I also colored and flavored the frosting with the Jello powder since I was out of red dye, and the chocolate icing was leftover from the football cakes.
This had to be the most difficult cake to slice into because it was the best cake I've ever made. Not just the cake itself, but the decoration and the design on top, it broke my heart.
I will never go to another recipe again. Soft, moist, simple to make and it bakes up wonderfully. The frosting was really good, though I added an extra cup of confectioners' sugar since the description said this was on the softer, looser side than regular frostings. It still was softer even after the extra cup, but any more would probably have made it much too sweet and taken over the tangy flavor of the cream cheese. (The recipe also says to use full fat cream cheese, otherwise it'll be too soupy.)
So Happy Valentine's to everyone, whether it was indeed happy or sad.
Recipe after jump.
Red Velvet Layer Cake
From The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Note: For the cake to have the proper rise and color, you must use natural cocoa powder; do not substitute Dutch-processed cocoa.
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder, plus more for dusting pans
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 cups cream cheese frosting (recipe will follow cake)
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Grease, line with parchment or wax paper, and dust with cocoa powder two 9-inch cake pans.
- Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla extract together. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the cocoa and red food coloring together to a smooth paste.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Beat in the cocoa mixture until the batter is uniform.
- Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Scrape the bater into the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and gently tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking (I didn't do this).
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up, and let cool completely before frosting, about 2 hours.
- Line the edges of a cake platter with stripes of parchment or wax paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one of the cake layers on the platter (before doing this, place a small blob of icing in the center to hold the cake in place). Spread 1 cup of the frosting over the top, right to the edge of the cake. Place the other cake layer on top and press gently to adhere. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting (I did a crumb coat first, then sealed the cake with more icing) and remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 4 cups
Note: Do not use low-fat or nonfat cream cheese or the frosting will turn out too soupy to work with. This frosting has a softer, looser texture than other frostings; it won't work with a three-layer cake. If the frosting becomes too soft to work with, let it chill in the refrigerator until firm.
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar (I added an extra cup)
- Beat the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla, and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, 2-4 minutes.
- Reduce mixer speed to medium-low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar, and beat until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes.
To make ahead
The frosting can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Let the frosting stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 1 hour, then whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.