Happy July 4th!

When it comes time to celebrating birthdays we take our cake making responsibility very seriously, and for years we’ve struggled to make the perfect red velvet cake. Our many efforts have been foiled by flawed recipes: too much oil; not enough cocoa; too much butter; not enough cream cheese. We were close to giving up on the whole red velvet thing when we came across an inspired comparison of red velvet cakes and methods on The Way the Cookie Crumbles blog. We gave it one last shot and all we can say is we’ve finally made a great red velvet cake.  (Of course, since we can never follow directions to the letter, we did do a little fiddling with the recipe.*)

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From The Way the Cookie Crumbles:

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (from Apple a Day, who adapted it from www.saveur.com)

Makes 1 8-inch 3-layer cake

After making this recipe a few times, I’m finding that it’s actually too moist from all that oil.  A number of commenters have agreed.  When I make the recipe now, I often reduce to the oil to 1 to 1¼ cups.

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa powder* (we used 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil* (we used 1 cup of safflower oil)
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

For the frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened* (we used 18 ounces)
12 ounces butter, softened
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups chopped pecans (optional)

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

3. Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

4. Divide batter evenly between 3 greased and floured 8″ round cake pans.

5. Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely.

6. For the frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes.

4. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, level off with a serrated knife, and spread one-quarter of the frosting on top. Set another layer on top, level, and repeat frosting. Set remaining layer on top, level, and frost top and sides with the remaining frosting. Press pecans into the sides of the cake, if desired. **Tip: after leveling cake, turn it upside down to reduce numbers of crumbs. I also did a crumb coat on the outside, let it set for ten minutes, then finished with remaining frosting.

5. Chill for 2 hours to set frosting.