Red Velvet cake is a wonderful, classic American cake. With a gorgeous bright red cake, a velvety soft and moist texture and a vanilla cream cheese frosting, it's the type of cake that after you try it, you'll never forget. It's almost Valentine's Day and if you're looking for a beautiful cake that will make someone feel special then give this Red Velvet cake a try! This is the recipe that I made commercially and I'm sharing it with you now. I called her Scarlett. And it is a pushy recipe if you want to master the red velvet cake!
Dear Readers, this is the red velvet cake I made when I used to make desserts for the Southern American restaurant. It is all mine based on so much testing and it was a recipe that up til now only appeared in my memoir that came out so many years ago but when Mr NQN bought me three dozen red roses I wanted to make something inspired by them.
Red Velvet Cake was said to originate from Maryland in the early 20th century. The fine, delicate velvety texture set it apart from other cakes. Before colouring, the colour of red velvet cake was more of a darker browny red, a result of the reaction between the cocoa and vinegar. Nowadays it is an important cake in Juneteenth celebrations (June 19th), the red symbolising the blood-shed during enslavement and in the Civil War.
My Tips for Making the BEST Red Velvet Cake!
1 - The key to this cake is the velvety texture. It's moist and the crumb is so velvety-just look at it!
2 - There is no baking powder in this recipe, only bicarb. But that's what gives it that glorious texture among other things.
3 - Buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar and lots of eggs also keep this cake moist and give it a velvety texture. The acids in buttermilk, sour cream and vinegar break down the gluten strands to produce a softer cake and eggs trap moisture inside the cake.
4 - To make quick buttermilk add enough lemon juice to milk until it curdles (usually around 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice per cup of milk).
5 - Thermomix lovers, this cake is easily made in the Thermomix from the batter to the frosting!
6 - Which red velvet food colouring to use? I always use LorAnn Red Velvet emulsion because it is thick and very vibrant so I only need 1.5 tablespoons of it. I'd really suggest using this brand as other more liquid colourings can affect the texture and flavour as you have to add so much more and it can make your cake bitter.
7 - Ok this is a weird tip but I swear by it to give it a lovely consistent texture. I pass my batter through a sieve and then rest it on the countertop in the tin for 5 minutes before I bake it! It can get a little messy but this way I have zero lumps in my batter which gives a consistent texture to the baked cake plus resting it before baking relaxes the gluten a bit. Maybe it's crazy, maybe it's superstition but this is how I bake my red velvet cake and it always comes out so velvety soft!
8 - I used 2x15cm/6inch cake tins but you can also use 20cm/8inch cake tins. Using a larger tin means the cakes will obviously be flatter and I suggest making it a 2 layer cake rather than a 4 layer cake pictured.
9 - This cake is best made across 2 days so that the cake has time to firm up. Bake the cakes on day 1 and then ice them on day 2.
10 - If you have time to semi-freeze the cut cake layers they will be easier to ice. Just trim and wrap the cake layers in cling film or parchment and pop in the freezer for 30 minutes.
11 - I brush some simple syrup on top of the cake if I am going to serve it in a day or two. The cake needs to be stored in the fridge because of the cream cheese icing but fridges dry out cakes so this is to counteract that. To make a simple syrup boil 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water for 5 minutes and then cool. I like keeping simple syrup in my fridge for matcha lattes and cocktails and it's super handy.
12 - Don't worry if your red velvet cake rises a little in the centre. You'll use some of the offcuts to decorate the outside.
13 - Use one of these tools to chop up the crumbs. The thing is that the cake is sooo moist and velvety that it is hard to crumble and make dry and this brownie spatula which was a gift from my American mum Barbara is one of the most useful tools in my kitchen.
14 - Sifting a large quantity of icing sugar is an absolute punish. I like to put it in the food processor or Thermomix and process for 10 seconds or until all lumps disappear.
So while this may seem like an intimidating cake at first, it really isn't that different from other layer cakes and the beautifully, striking appearance will hopefully be worth it to you. I thought it would be perfect for Valentines Day. And on the topic of those that you love, apart from Mr NQN of course there are my two sweet dogs Teddy and Milo. And last week was coming up to Milo's first birthday!
My little brown bear has proven to be such a different personality from Teddy. We call Teddy "Ten Second Teddy" because most people get 10 seconds with Teddy in their arms or on their lap before he thinks, "Yup that's enough byeeee" and wriggles out. Milo is most comfortable in a lap. He curls up and breathes a sigh of relief and settles in your lap until you get sick of it.
And while Milo does have the puppy playfulness, he desperately wants to be a good boy. It's a contrast from Teddy who pretty much does that he wants and will not be told what to do. Teddy's puppy phase involved numerous trips to the vet as he would eat something he shouldn't or do something that he shouldn't and he racked up an impressive vet bill.
The day before Milo's first birthday I made him some turkey jerky for his birthday present and even when I dried it in the oven at a very low temperature and he saw the door ajar he didn't try anything on like opening the door which he could have easily done. I marvelled that we had almost made it to first birthday without a visit to the vet (apart from his necessary shots of course). I guess like human siblings, dog siblings can be so different from each other.
That evening we were eating dinner and watching tv and Mr NQN had absent mindedly left the chicken bones on his plate on the side of the couch. I was in the kitchen and heard this crunching and like a dog parent just knows, that sound is no good when you haven't given them anything to eat. On the eve of his first birthday Milo had helped himself to the cooked chicken bones which are very dangerous bones for a dog to eat as they splinter in their digestive system.
Within seconds I was calling the emergency vet panicked and since he had only eaten a couple of bones they said that it was a wait and watch situation and to look out for vomiting and lethargy. I hung up and still worried I asked Mr NQN "What else should we do?". He looked it up and said, "Feed him some bread." So there I was feeding Milo some bread and then Teddy poked him little nose in and wanted some too. "Whyyyy did I say that about making it one year without a vet visit?". We watched and waited and Milo was fine, the same bright eyed and bushy tailed puppy that he always was. He passed the bones without incident and I decided that I will never tempt fate again by saying vet related milestones out loud again!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever think that saying things out loud is tempting fate? And do you like red velvet cake?
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Red Velvet Cake
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by 2 readers
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 75 minutes plus chilling time (this cake is best made across 2 days)
Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 2.5 cups/375g/13ozs. cake flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarb
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 225g/8ozs. softened butter
- 1.5 cups/330g/12ozs. caster or superfine sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup/125ml/4flozs buttermilk
- 1/2 cup/125g/4ozs. sour cream
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- 1.5 tablespoons LorAnn Red Velvet Emulsion
- 1/2 cup simple syrup* recipe below
- 112g/1 stick butter, softened
- 200g/7ozs. cream cheese, softened
- 675g/24ozs. icing or powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Pinch of salt
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 160C/320F and line two 15cm/6inch round tins (you can also do these in 20cm/8inch tins but they will spread out more). Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
Step 2 - In the bowl of a mixer beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy for around 3-4 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time beating well between additions. In a jug whisk the buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar, vanilla and colouring. Add this red buttermilk mixture to the batter and beat until combined.
Thermomix directions: Add the butter and sugar in the Thermomix bowl fitted with a butterfly whisk and set to speed #3.5, 4 minutes. Remove the MC and crack in eggs one at a time and set to speed 3.5 for 5 seconds after each egg. In a jug whisk the buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and colouring. Add this buttermilk to the batter and set to speed #3.5 for 10 seconds.
Step 3 - Make a well in the flour and gradually add in the red batter in 4-5 lots folding it in making sure there are no streaks of flour. Then place a sieve over a large bowl and sieve the batter to remove any lumps. Scoop into the prepared tin, tap gently a couple of times to get rid of any large bubbles and rest for 5 minutes on the counter. Then bake for 40 minutes (bake for 30-35 minutes if you are using a 20cm/8inch pan) or until the centre springs back when gently pressed. Cool on a rack and then wrap in cling film until the next day.
Step 4 - To make the frosting beat the butter and cream cheese together until you get a smooth, homogenous mixture. On low speed add in the icing sugar, vanilla and salt and beat until you get a smooth frosting and it is completely combined. Place some frosting in a large piping bag and snip off the tip.
Thermomix directions. Place the icing sugar in the Thermomix bowl and set to speed #7 for 10 seconds. Then add the butter and cream cheese and set to speed #5 for 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides and set for another 15 seconds Speed #5. Place some frosting in a large piping bag and snip off the tip.
Step 5 - Take each cake and trim the top reserving the leftover cake. Then split each cake in half and rewrap so that you have 4 cake layers. If you have time place these in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Step 6 - Take one cake layer and place on a cake disc on a cake turntable. Brush with the cold syrup and then pipe the cream cheese frosting in a spiral. Place another cake layer on top and then repeat until you have used all 4 cake layers. Then add some frosting on the top and sides but not too much. You are going to make a crumb coat that catches all the red cake crumbs. Crumb coats are not thick and you should be able to see the cake underneath it (see pic). Place the cake in the fridge or freezer to firm up the frosting.
Smoothing the final coat
Step 7 - Then ice the cake with most of the remaining icing on the top and sides. This takes time to make it smooth so keep scraping the cake with a tall cake scraper and turning it on the cake turntable. If there are any gaps in the icing which there will be, patch it with some frosting and then keep scraping and turning. This can take anything from 5-10 minutes.
Step 8 - Crumble up the reserved cake and mash with a metal spatula. I find it easiest to add the crumbs by taking small amounts with the spatula and then scraping the spatula upwards which distributes the crumbs evenly and not too heavily. Some people prefer using their hands, it's up to you. Cover the sides and top of the cake. Then cut roses with a 2 inch stem and tape them around the stem cut and insert them on top of the cake.
Simple syrup: To make a simple syrup boil 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water for 5 minutes and then cool.