I didn't grow up with a lot of red velvet cake, so even looking at recipes was a challenge as I didn't know what the resulting cake was supposed to taste like. I just knew it needed to be red. After searching library books and the internet and after testing three or four separate recipes, I came across one that I personally like and that I feel represents the cake well.
Red velvet cake is a butter cake, which is a bit confusing when you'll see my recipe below actually utilizes canola oil for the fat rather than butter, but bear with me. In my tests, I tried recipes using shortening, butter, and canola oil. I tested out all purpose vs. cake flour recipes. Almost every recipe varied its amount of cocoa. Some tasted dry. Some were too chocolatey. You can of course test all these out on your own, but in the end I used this recipe as a major guideline and jumping off point and sort of came up with my own version. I am happy with the end result, and hope that if you try this recipe, you will be too.
Red Velvet Cake
adapted from The Confetti Cakes Cookbook
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon White Lily All Purpose Flour (see notes)
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups canola or vegetable oil
2 1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 oz. or 6 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9-inch round baking pans (spray with Baker's Joy or grease and flour) and place parchment in the bottoms of each pan.
Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl.
Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.
- White Lily is only found in the South. I am sorry if you don't live here and can't get it. I specify White Lily because as a Southern flour, its protein content is lower than that of national brand all purpose flours, but slightly higher than cake flour. In my tests, I found that cakes made with White Lily as opposed to cake flours actually tasted more moist. You can try doing the same amount of regular all purpose flour. If you want to use cake flour, the original recipe called for 3 1/2 cups cake flour.
- For your information, I used Happy Home red food coloring, which I bought in a local cake supply shop. It's much more economical than what you'll find in grocery stores. While they don't supply a complete list, you can check their website to find out where it's sold near you or to order online.
- The original recipe called for more cocoa, but I felt that it turned the cake into more of a chocolate cake. I suppose you can adjust this according to your own tastes.
- I used white vinegar, but a friend tells me that red wine vinegar is good, too. I plan to try that when I'm making this recipe for fun.