I really enjoy making birthday cakes for my friends. Partially this is because yes, I do like making cakes but when it’s for someone you know you have a chance to think about what that person likes and dream up something special just for them.
This cake was made for a good friend who I’d been told was especially fond of red velvet cake. Truth be told I didn’t have a red velvet cake recipe I liked (most are too oily or taste like a weak chocolate cake…but red), but after scouring the interwebs for a bit I came upon this recipe. The author addressed all my red velvet concerns so I gave it a go.
After trying the cake, the birthday girl told me, “Wow, I actually really like this red velvet cake!” This surprised me because, well, I figured she always liked red velvet cake since it was her favorite. It turns out she thought red velvet cake was interesting because so many western people were fascinated with the flavor, and when she moved to Canada it was something she looked forward to trying. But she didn’t actually really like red velvet in particular. Except for this one!
Anyways, I loved this cake too and I’m not a huge red velvet person either; I thought the texture was perfect and it baked up beautifully. I dressed this simply with my go-to cream cheese frosting and some sugared cranberries, which has been my garnish of choice this season — they’re quick and easy, and they taste good too!
Finally, I got the news yesterday that my instagram account was included in Saveur’s list of 20 Favorite Food Instagrams of 2016! It was quite a surprise and I’m honestly shocked to see my name next to some insta-stars. I’ll admit, I was a bit of a latecomer to the insta-game (Snapchat in 2020, anyone?) but it’s become my favorite form of social media and the source of a lot of my kitchen inspiration. I’m happy to share a little of what I do there, the successes and the failures — and am grateful for the many talented people I’ve met along the way!
Now for some cake!
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugared Cranberries
Makes 1 3-layer, 6 inch cake | Serves 8-12
Cake recipe adapted from Cake Paper Party
- 85 g butter, room temperature
- 58 g vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk (or 1.5 eggs — crack the second one, weigh it, and add half), room temperature
- 85 g AP flour
- 70 g cake flour
- 1 T natural cocoa (not dutch process)
- 3/4 t baking soda
- 1/2 c buttermilk, room temperature
- 60 g sour cream, room temperature
- 1/2 T white vinegar
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 T red food coloring (preferably gel) or red velvet essence (I used essence)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
- Beat butter, oil and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
- Combine buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar and vanilla and whisk to blend.
Sift together flours, baking soda, salt and cocoa. Add dry mixture to butter mixture and stir on low until just combined. Add half of buttermilk mixture and stir until it is just incorporated. Add remaining liquids and stir to combine.
- Gently stir in red food coloring and mix for about 30 seconds, scraping down once.
- Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. Cool for at least 15 minutes in the pans before turning out onto a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting. (I recommend freezing the cakes, wrapped in plastic, until firm before assembly as this cake is quite tender.)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 225 g unsalted butter, softened
- 270 g powdered sugar, sifted
- 300 g cream cheese, COLD and cubed
- Beat butter until pale, about 2 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar and continue beating until frosting is very pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add cream cheese and beat until just smooth. Beat on low for a minute or two to get rid of any air bubbles. Best used immediately.
- A couple large handfuls fresh cranberries
- 1 egg white, beaten (I use pasteurized)
- 1/2 c sugar, preferably caster (you can grind granulated sugar in a food processor, or just use granulated — caster will give you a more “snowy” effect)
- Spread out a piece of parchment paper big enough to hold all the cranberries in a single layer.
- Coat the cranberries with the egg white set them on the paper to soak up some of the excess liquid (if they’re too wet, the sugar will clump).
- Toss the cranberries in the sugar and set them back on the parchment to dry completely before using and / or eating!
- Level your cakes (this is easiest to do when they’re completely cool; I like to stick them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes right before assembly). Choose a layer for the bottom and put bottom-side down on a cake board.
- Spread about a 1/2 cup of icing evenly over the first layer. Repeat with the next two layers. Add a thin layer of icing over the entire cake. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to set the crumb coat.
- When the cake is chilled, add a second, thicker layer of icing over the entire cake. You can keep the sides smooth, or use an offset spatula / butter knife to create the swirl effect. Hole the spatula at a 45-degree angle to the cake while spinning your turntable, slowly, all the while slowly dragging your spatula to the top. Repeat on the top, starting from the outside and drawing your spatula in to the center.
- Decorate with sugared cranberries and a few sprigs of rosemary, if desired. Keep the cake refrigerated; bring to room temperature about an hour before serving.