Red Velvet Cake

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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

480ml buttermilk

2 tbsp white vinegar

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g unsalted butter, softened

900g icing sugar

500g full fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)


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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.



Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

After stumbling across and ordering a whoopie pie tin on Amazon (whilst looking for hair curlers…yeah, I don’t know how that happened either), I’ve been dying to try this recipe out. I would stress the importance of not overfilling the holes if you do use a tin; if you do, as I did, you won’t end up with these:

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You’ll have yourself a few of these brutes:

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Aren’t they pretty?

This recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery’s Cake Days, but I used this Betty Crocker filling recipe rather than the one provided in the book.


For the sponge:

120g unsalted butter, softened

200g soft dark brown sugar

1 large egg

120ml buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, just add 1 tsp lemon juice to this quantity of milk and leave to stand for five minutes before use)

1 tsp vanilla essence

340g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

30ml red food colouring (do not, I repeat, DO NOT use ‘natural’ food colouring as it will not be strong enough to produce the red that you want for red velvet)

For the filling:

170g cream cheese

90g unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla essence

120g icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 170°C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Using a handheld electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in texture. Add the egg whilst mixing on a low speed and whisk until fully incorporated.

Mix the buttermilk and vanilla essence together by hand, then pour into the creamed mixture whilst mixing on a low speed. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together and add to the batter in two batches, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the red food colouring and increase the speed before giving the batter a final mix to ensure an even red colour throughout. Refrigerate the batter for 20-30 minutes to allow it to cool and set slightly.

Once cooled, spoon or pipe the batter onto the prepared trays (you’ll probably get eight to ten mounds per tray, each being about 3-5cm across and 2-3cm apart). Bake for 10-13 minutes or until springy to touch, then allow to cool completely.

While the sponges are baking, make the filling. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla on a low speed until fully combined. Add the powdered sugar bit by bit until all is incorporated. Beat for 1 minute. Be careful not to overbeat as the cream cheese can quickly cause the mixture to become runny, which is not what we want. Place the filling in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Once the cakes are completely cooled, spread about a tablespoon of filling onto the flat side of one of the sponges, then stick a sponge of similar size on top of it. Repeat with the remaining sponges and filling.

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