Today’s cake was inspired by one I saw at The Eleven City Diner in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Todd and I had lunch there this week, and while we were too full to order dessert, I admired their red velvet cake from afar and made a note to bake one as soon as I got home. Mission accomplished!
I also incorporated a new ingredient called Super Red. Super Red is a soft gel paste that cake decorators use to make deep, fire engine red frosting. If you’ve ever tried making red frosting with other brands of gel coloring, chances are you went through several shades of pink before realizing it was difficult or impossible depending on the brand. But Super Red, which was recommended to me one day while I was shopping in our local cake decorating store, gets the job done. Plus I’m convinced it added a slightly pleasant flavor not unlike the flavor of the H.E.B. bakery red velvet cake. It would make sense that a grocery store bakery that decorates lots of cakes would use Super Red as their coloring, so who knows?
That said, I felt a little guilty not using Adam’s red food coloring. Adam’s Extract, which is located just down the road from here, is said to have invented red velvet cake back in the late 1800s. “Velvet” textured cakes were all the rage back then, so John Adams added a bottle of red food coloring to a velvet cake to create a stunning photo-worthy red cake. Today Adam’s sells their own brand of red velvet cake mix and publishes their recipe for it on-line. For that particular recipe, you have to measure very precisely and stick with shortening to get good results, which a lot of today’s bakers won’t do, therefore their cakes are dry failures. Because of this, many bakers have devised new and easier recipes which involve more oil and/or butter. One popular recipe calls for a full cup and a half of oil, but I’ve always found that one a little greasy tasting. This recipe, however, is not! It calls for butter instead of oil and is still very moist and rich. I think I might like it better than my old favorite recipe, Mildred’s. For a soft texture, I used a combination of cake flour and all-purpose. You can get away with using all-purpose only, but make sure to weigh it out. And of course there was the Super Red. Feel free to use whatever red coloring you have, but next time you are ordering cake supplies, try the Super Red.
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour (6 oz)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (5 oz)**
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Morton)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Hershey's natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons red food coloring ("Super Red" if you can find it)
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 ounces butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar, plus more as needed
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 9 inch round pans with flour-added baking spray.
- Stir together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
- In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla and vinegar.
- In a very small bowl (I use a custard cup), make a paste with the cocoa powder and red food coloring.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attached, beat sugar and butter at medium-high speed, scraping bowl, for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Reduce mixer speed to low and add the egg and flour mixture alternately beginning and ending with flour and scraping bowl.
- Scrape the cocoa paste mixture into the batter and beat on low or by hand, scraping the bowl well, until fully mixed.
- Spread evenly in pans and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
- Beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla
- Frost and stack the cakes.
**This frosting has a strong cream cheese flavor and can be a little runny, but I love its tart flavor and smooth texture. For a sweeter, more traditional cream cheese frosting, use 8 oz of cream cheese, 4 oz of butter and about 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.