Thursday, January 2, 2020

Red Velvet Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Buttercream

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake RecipesRed velvet cake is one of those cakes that I didn't start eating until I was an adult.  Even though I grew up in the South, and red velvet cake tends to be a favorite down there, I don't remember my mom making it much, if ever.  And when I did finally taste it, it was not an instant love affair.  I wasn't sure what to think of the flavor, which struck me as rather bland, or the color, although I couldn't argue that the cream cheese frosting was delicious.  It took a few years and some recipe experimentation to learn that that first red velvet cake I tasted was not a very good one, but that when done right, red velvet cake is simply wonderful.

Red velvet cake is a buttermilk-based cake that has a moist, fine crumb and a flavor that subtly hints at chocolate, but not overwhelmingly so.  I've found that I prefer a bit more cocoa powder in mine, and while many recipes only use two tablespoons of cocoa in the cake, I use four tablespoons.  This little difference adds a really beautiful depth of flavor to the cake, but doesn't transform it into a chocolate cake.  Originally, red velvet cake got its color from a chemical reaction between the cocoa powder and the acid from the buttermilk, but these days, most people help the color along with a few drops of red food coloring.




Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes




Everyone can agree that one of the best things about red velvet cake is the cream cheese frosting.  It can be made with just cream cheese and and a little powdered sugar, but personally, I find that combination far too creamy and unstable to spread onto a layer cake without it looking sloppy, so cream cheese frosting that's heavy on the cream cheese is best suited for sheet cakes or pans of cookie bars.  So I make a cream cheese buttercream with half butter and half cream cheese, a little more powdered sugar than I usually add to my standard buttercream recipes, and plenty of vanilla.  My husband gave me vanilla beans for Christmas, and I used one to flavor the buttercream for today's cake.  Aren't those little black specks just gorgeous?

Making your cream cheese buttercream with half butter also makes it a much more stable frosting that can be piped onto your cake just as you would be able to pipe a fluffy buttercream.  It seems popular to decorate red velvet cakes with crumbs of cake pressed onto the outside, but why?  Maybe it's to hint at what's inside, but we don't usually do this with other flavors of cake.  I'm not sure why the crumb thing is a thing.

I opted for some really beautiful piping on my cake, like swoops of velvet curtains swept back from the stage at the ballet.





Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes


Baking Notes:
  1. As with everything I bake, my cakes are baked at high altitude (I live in Denver), and to achieve your own perfect results, you may need to make a few slight adjustments if you live at a lower altitude or sea level.  Please read this post and this post for all of my baking FAQs.  There are many articles online that can offer advice on how to adjust your flour, sugar and leavening for various altitudes.
  2. Your dairy ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, butter and cream cheese) should be at room temperature for best results.
  3. Cake flour is best in this cake.  It makes a much lighter cake than all-purpose flour does.  Use the "spoon and sweep" method to measure your flour, and be sure to sift the cake flour after measuring.
  4. I use Hershey's Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder, which is a blend of natural and Dutch process cocoa powders.  The type of cocoa powder you use will affect both the rise and the red color of the cake.
  5. I used Wilton Tip 1M for the piping on the cake.  Note that the buttercream recipe below is enough to frost the cake, but you'll need a little extra if you plan to pipe it onto the cake in the design that I made.  Increase the butter to 1 1/2 cups and the powdered sugar to 6 cups if you'll be piping the buttercream onto the cake.


Red Velvet Cake
printable

Cake.
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cups whole buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • red gel food coloring
Buttercream.
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream, if needed
Cake.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and a few drops of red gel food coloring.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk briefly, just until combined and smooth; don't over-mix.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake on the middle rack in the oven for about 25-28 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the tops spring back when gently touched.

Set the cakes on a wire rack, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely before frosting.

Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese for several minutes until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and meringue powder by spoonfuls, mixing on low to combine.  Add the salt, vanilla and milk (if needed to slightly thin the buttercream), and whip on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally, until very light and fluffy.  Be careful not to add too much milk; cream cheese buttercream is softer than all-butter buttercream, and needs to be thicker if you plan on piping it onto your cake.

Fill and stack the cake layers with the buttercream, then frost all-over with a very thin crumb coat of buttercream; chill for 30 minutes.  Frost (or pipe) the remaining buttercream onto the cake.

The cake should be served at room temperature, but leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen




Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, High Altitude Red Velvet Cake, High Altitude Cake Recipes

2 comments :

  1. Can avocado oil be used instead of vegetable oil? And are all recipes on this blog high altitude? I live in Denver CO. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure how the flavor of avocado oil would taste in a cake, but from a baking perspective, I imagine it would work similarly to vegetable oil. If you don't want to use vegetable oil, I'd probably suggest a neutral-tasting olive oil instead. And, yes, all my recipes are for high altitude. I'm in Aurora, CO. :)

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