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Layered Red Velvet Cake
© 2016 Tessa Huff

Red Velvet Cake

ALTHOUGH WIDELY CONSIDERED A SOUTHERN DESSERT, red velvet cake was actually first served at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. While many of the recipes today pair the cake with cream cheese frosting, red velvet cake was originally frosted with ermine or “heritage” icing. Made from cooked flour and boiled milk, this not-so-sweet icing is much softer and fluffier than cream cheese frosting. To be completely honest, it took me a long time to appreciate red velvet cake. Most versions I had tasted seemed to be just plain cake with a gallon of red food dye, smothered in sickeningly sweet cream cheese frosting. After countless requests for red velvet cake at my bakery, though, I finally gave in. If I could create a recipe that I personally enjoyed, then it could be an acceptable item on the menu. Finally, I developed this recipe about six years ago and have been making it ever since. It is supermoist, and the hint of cocoa gives this luscious, “velvety” cake a subtle chocolate flavor.

For the
Butter or nonstick cooking spray, for the pans
1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons (235 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (180 ml) grapeseed oil
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons red gel food coloring
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

For the
1 cup (240 ml) milk
¼ cup (30 g) all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks / 225 g)
unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the
1 (6- to 10-ounce / 170- to 280-g) block white chocolate

Make the
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour three 6-inch (15-cm) cake pans and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the oil and sugar on medium speed until combined. With the mixer on medium-low, gradually add the eggs one at a time, the vanilla, and the food coloring. Mix on medium until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
4. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer just as the last streaks of flour disappear and scrape down the bowl.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and vinegar. With the mixer on medium-low, add
the baking soda mixture. Mix for an additional 30 seconds to combine.
6. Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Make the
7. In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk, flour, and salt to remove any lumps. While stirring with a wooden spoon, cook the flour mixture over medium heat until it is thick and pasty. Remove it from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until it is cool.
8. After the flour mixture has chilled, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high for 2 to 4 minutes. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and add the flour mixture and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Make the
9. Microwave the block of chocolate at medium power until it is ever so slightly softened. Try first heating it for 20 seconds, then in 5- to 10-second intervals until the desired softness is reached. Depending on the microwave, it should take a total of about 35 seconds. Test the softness by scraping a vegetable peeler against a smooth, long side of the chocolate block. If the chocolate curls without the curl shattering or breaking, it is warm enough. Do not overheat the chocolate, or it will not curl. Continue to make 1 to 2 cups (55 to 110 g) of chocolate curls with the peeler, letting them fall over a piece of parchment paper, reheating the block if necessary.

10. Once the cakes have completely cooled, halve them horizontally to create six even layers. Level the cakes and choose which layer will be at the bottom. Place it on a cake plate or serving dish. Spread on ⅓ cup (80 ml) of the frosting with an offset spatula. Top with another layer of cake and repeat. Finish the cake with the remaining frosting using a smooth or rustic finish (see page 31). Before the frosting sets, very carefully place on the white chocolate curls. Gently snuggle them into the fresh frosting if they do not stick on their own. Place the curls two-thirds of the way up the cake, as pictured, or create your own design.

baker’s notes

Hold the block of chocolate with a piece of parchment paper so that the heat from your hand does not transfer to the chocolate and melt it. Once a curl is created, you may quickly manipulate it to create your desired shape before it sets. Once set, try to avoid touching the curls as much as possible. You may use red liquid food coloring in the cake recipe instead of gel, if desired. The cake will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Layered: Baking, Building and Styling Spectacular Cakes by Tessa Huff. Out now from Abrams Books.