published about 1 hour ago
Deb’s recipe makes an impressive 3-layer cake with a cream cheese frosting, and I was intrigued by a few of her techniques, including the addition of a full 1/2 cup of cocoa to provide the chocolate flavor I think red velvet cake is known for, as well as her use of cake rather than all-purpose flour. Finally, this recipe calls for a full 6 tablespoons of red food coloring, which is quite a lot. Would these be the secrets to the best red velvet cake? I tried it to find out.
How to Make Smitten Kitchen’s Red Velvet Cake
You’ll start by greasing the pans in a very unique way. Add a teaspoon of butter to the pans, place them in the oven until the butter melts, then brush the melted butter over the bottom and sides before covering the bottoms with a parchment circle. Remove the pans carefully from the oven, as they are very hot.
Next, whisk the dry ingredients (cake flour, cocoa powder, and salt) in a bowl, then beat the oil and sugar in an electric mixer. You’re instructed to add ingredients gradually throughout the recipe: Add the eggs one at a time, then the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternatively, followed by a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda. I found I needed to scrape down the bowl well every single time I added another portion of ingredients. The food coloring, which you’ll add after the eggs, needed extra mixing to make sure it fully incorporated into the oil, sugar, and egg mixture.
To make the frosting, you’ll beat together cream cheese and butter with an electric hand mixer, then add sugar and vanilla and beat until combined. The frosting was thick and did not need to be chilled, but because I was icing the cake much later, I placed it in the fridge.
In Deb’s greatly appreciated “Icing Notes,” she explains how to ice the assembled cake with a crumb coat. Basically, to avoid getting the red crumbs all over your pristine white frosting, you spread a thin layer of frosting all around the sides and top of the cake, and chill it until the icing is solid. I placed the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes, then proceeded to cover the cake with frosting with the red cake layers already enclosed by the thin layer.
My Honest Review of Smitten Kitchen’s Red Velvet Cake
Deb’s cake is impressively tall, with a very deep red, more like burgundy, color. My cake layers, however, were marbled rather than uniform. This could be due to the fact that I hadn’t mixed the generous amount of food coloring into the batter. Yet, I recall that when I scooped the batter into the pans, the color was a solid deep red. I would suggest mixing the coloring in for longer and at a higher speed than the recommended low speed in the recipe. With that said, the marbled look of the cake was, in my humble opinion, really beautiful and unique, so I would not necessarily qualify it as a mistake.
As for taste, the cake has a pleasant texture with a nice crumb, possibly due to the use of cake flour. I liked that the cake had a strong chocolate flavor. The frosting itself was quite sweet, with the proportion of powdered sugar to butter/cream cheese a bit high. Overall, however, you feel like you’re basically eating cake with a hint of frosting. I missed the balance of the frosting. In terms of taste and look, this cake needed double the amount of frosting, although I do fear that it might make the overall taste of the cake too sweet.
Lastly, I didn’t love the fact that I had to use separate bowls for the dry ingredients, sugar and oil, and then for the baking soda and vinegar. I hate washing dishes, and layer cakes are already enough work!
If You’re Making Smitten Kitchen’s Red Velvet Cake, a Few Tips
Have you tried Smitten Kitchen’s red velvet cake recipe? Let us know in the comments!