Red Velvet Cake is a southern classic that is served every Thanksgiving and Christmas at my family’s dinner table. It is tradition to order it from our local Piccadilly’s because they have the best version that we love! Their red velvet cake features three layers of cake with cream cheese frosting and is covered in pecans. For some reason, we never baked the cake ourselves. I thought it was important that I know how to make this classic cake for myself. I found this recipe from another blogger, Bakerella, which has been the best recipe I’ve tried. It includes buttermilk and vinegar, which gives the cake a subtle, tangy flavor. I wanted to give regular cream cheese frosting a slight facelift by adding cocoa powder to complement the cocoa in the cake.
I found varying stories of where red velvet cake originated, and it’s not as southern as I thought. Many fingers point to the Waldorf Astoria as the birth parent in the 1930s. Adams Extract Company capitalized on the similar recipe of Mahogany Cake and made it popular by adding its vanilla extract and red food coloring. Beet juice also attributed to the red color as a source of sugar during World War II sugar rations. It did not start to pop up on southern tables until the 1950s. For more details about the origins of Red Velvet cake, check out the New York Times article where I sourced my information.
The original recipe called to bake at 350F, but I find that the edges burn quicker than the inside with dark pans. Depending on the darkness of your baking pan, I would recommend baking at a lower temperature–around 335F for a slightly longer time to prevent the outside from baking faster than the inside.
I chose to decorate my cake with walnuts and assorted fruit. Typically, red velvet cake is topped with pecans, but walnuts were a less expensive option so I went with that. I made an arrangement with strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi. I started with arranging the strawberries first and built the sliced kiwi around it. I used a potato peeler to peel the kiwi to get an even, circular shape. Lastly, I added blueberries randomly around the strawberries and kiwi. The shine of the fruit came from a glaze of melted apricot preserve with water that I slightly heated and brushed over the fruit.
I love the look of shaved chocolate on cakes. I shaved a chocolate bar with a potato peeler to get the chocolate curls. I learned this tip from a bakery I worked at in Atlanta called Maison Robert Fine Chocolates that specializes in French pastries. If you are ever in the city check it out!
I hope you enjoy this recipe and decorating tips!
- Red Velvet Cake
- 2.5 cups All purpose Flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1.5 cups oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 oz red food coloring
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz Cream Cheese, soften
- ½ cup butter (1 stick), soften
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- walnuts (optional)
- assorted fruit (optional)
- apricot preserves (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two-8 or 9 inch baking pans with non stick cooking spray or spread with oil/butter. (Or make one large cake with one baking pan.)
- In a large bowl combine eggs, vanilla extract, red food coloring and oil. Mix with electric mixer until the eggs are completely beaten. Add vinegar.
- Combine flour, sugar, salt, cocoa powder and baking soda in a separate bowl.
- Add dry ingredients to liquid mixture to make batter. Mix on medium speed to break up any flour clumps.
- Spread batter evenly in baking pans and slightly tap pans on the counter to release air bubbles.
- Bake for 30 minutes checking ¾ of the way through. To check doneness, insert a knife to see if it comes out clean.
- Remove cake from the oven and allow it to fully cool before you frost it.
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- With a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together on a high speed to get a fluffy consistency. Add 1 tablespoon of milk to mixture.
- Sift cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar together.
- Add sugar mixture to cream cheese mixture and blend on slow to medium speed. (Beware, the sugar may splash.)
- Add additional milk if you would like a thinner consistency.