Christmas is my mom's favourite holiday and it also happens to be her birthday. I wanted to make her cake this year and since I can't eat nuts while I have these train tracks strapped to my teeth, the usual carrot cake was off the table and we decided to try something different. Red Velvet seems to be the cool kid in baking right now. The Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies I made last week were delicious enough to seal the birthday cake deal. This cake was a bit more work than my usual baking but it looked and tasted good enough to make the extra effort worth it.
You need two cake pans and a spring form pan to make this cake. I made this at my mom's house and had the luxury of being able to use two ovens at once. I made the cakes a few days before, iced it the next day, and served it on the third day. I bought a cake turntable at Michaels a few weeks ago (for 50%) and it helps a great deal when icing a cake this size. You can see it in the photo below. The cake is iced in two parts. First, it gets a light coating of icing, a.k.a a crumb coat, and after at least half-an-hour in the fridge it gets the final coating. A large offset spatula is a must for icing the cake. I only had a small spatula before and it made icing a cake twice as difficult and time consuming. A larger spatula is worth the investment. As you can see, mine was not the perfect shape and I used icing to correct this rather than trying to trim the cake which would have likely resulted in me destroying the whole thing.
Here's the recipe:
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
RED VELVET CAKE:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (two 1-ounce bottles) red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Prepare the cheesecake layer: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place a large roasting pan on the lower third rack of the oven. Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil. Spray a 9-inch spring-form pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Wrap a double layer of foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan (you want to seal it so the water from the water bath doesn't seep into the pan). In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese- blend until it is nice and smooth and creamy. Mix in sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan into the roasting pan in the pre-heated oven. Carefully pour the hot water from your kettle into the roasting pan (it will fill the pan surrounding the cheesecake). Pour enough water so that there is about an inch of water coming up the foil along the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely. This can be done in several hours- or overnight.
2. Prepare the cake layers: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round metal baking pans (or spray with nonstick baking spray with flour). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar to the flour mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat for 1 minute, until blended. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans, then invert cakes onto a rack to cool completely.
3. Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla until it is smooth and creamy (do not overbeat).
4. Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer into the center of a cake plate or platter. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, take off the sides of the pan, and slide a knife under the parchment to remove the cheesecake from the pan. Peel off the parchment. Measure your cheesecake layer against the cake layers. If the cheesecake layer turns out to be a slightly larger round than your cake, move it to a cutting board and gently shave off some of the exterior of the cheesecake to get it to the same size as your cake layers. Place the cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer. Place the 2nd cake layer on top of the cheesecake.
5. Frost the cake: Apply a crumb coat layer to the cake- use a long, thin spatula to cover the cake completely with a thin and even layer of frosting. Be sure to wipe off your spatula each time you are about to dip it back into the bowl to get more frosting (this way you won't be transferring any red crumbs into the bowl of frosting). Don't worry at this point about the crumbs being visible in the frosting on the cake. When your cake has a thin layer of frosting all over it, place it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to "set" the frosting. Once the first layer of frosting is set, apply the 2nd layer. Start by adding a large scoop of frosting onto the top of the cake. Use a long, thin spatula to spread the frosting evenly across the top and then spread it down the sides of the cake too. Because you applied a crumb-coat layer, you shouldn't have any red crumbs floating around in the final frosting layer. Keep this cake refrigerated.
The original recipe recommends white chocolate shavings on the top of the cake. I was too lazy/tired to do this. The cake still ended up being pretty darn handsome. We served 12 slices on Christmas and I still had enough left over to bring it to my second Christmas on Boxing Day and serve 6 more slices. There were still leftovers. This is a lot of cake. I also used margarine instead of oil in the red velvet cake batter. Bad move. The cake was a bit dry on the 25th but improved a bit when I had my second slice on the 26th. I used half light cream cheese and half regular in both the cheesecake layer and the frosting. I also used reduced fat sour cream. I'll probably invest in a better food colouring the next time around, such as a gel colouring since you need a a fair amount the achieve the right colour. I have a giant roasting pan thanks to Value Village. It barely fits in an apartment sized oven but I bought it to use a water bath not cook a turkey. Water baths make a huge difference in how a cheesecake turns out.
Sometimes trying something different is worth it. I'm constantly learning when I try new baking recipes. If I can make a cake like this I know you can too. I'm not a trained baker, I just enjoy the act of baking. I like giving away the end product just as much. Why pay someone to make something you can do yourself? Especially when professionally made cakes cost so much. So give a cake like this one a try next time someone you love (or even like) has a birthday.