Red velvet is seriously good. If you haven’t tried it yet, just…I don’t care what you’re doing right now, I mean RIGHT NOW, get your butt to a shop and get baking, ok?
Our baking ancestors would use agents such as bicarbonate of soda and vinegar or buttermilk to make cakes light and fluffy, as the acidic latter ingredients would react with the bicarbonate of soda to form bubbles, thus fluffing cake appropriately to make a light and delicious treat. However, the acidity wouldn’t only react with the bicarb, ohhh no. The red part of the name comes from the fact that the anthocyanins in the cocoa powder of olden times would turn redder in the lower pH, hence the sponge would turn out red.
Unfortunately, we have to add red food colouring to get the desired effect, as modern cocoa powder is manufactured with alkalinising agents which counter this reddening process. Fear not, you can still knock up a scrumptious sponge with cream cheese icing which will both taste and look stunning.
240g unsalted butter, softened
600g caster sugar
4 large eggs
40g cocoa powder
80ml red food colouring (such as Dr Oetker)
2 tsp vanilla essence
600g plain flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g unsalted butter, softened
900g icing sugar
500g full fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5, and grease two 20cm round cake tins.
Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and mixing in the scrapings from the sides of the bowl.
In a separate, small bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla essence to form a paste. Add the paste to the batter, mixing thoroughly until the paste is completely incorporated.
Sift together the flour and salt in another bowl, then add the flour to the batter in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Lastly, in another bowl, mix the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda together by hand and add it to the cake batter, mixing it in until it is fully incorporated.
Divide the batter between the two tins. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Allow the sponge to cool completely before you start frosting.
Meanwhile, using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, and mixing on a low speed, beat the butter and icing sugar together until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is sandy in texture. Add the cream cheese and mix together slowly until everything is incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting until it is soft and fluffy.
Once the sponge has completely cooled, sandwich the two together with plenty of frosting, then proceed to cover the whole thing with frosting, or just the top if you prefer. If you like, you can slice a very thin layer of sponge off one of the cakes and whizz it up in a food processor, then sprinkle the crumbs over the top.