Before we begin, a note. What were you doing on this day, oh, eight years ago? You probably have no idea, unless you had a LiveJournal (because I wasn’t cool enough to use WordPress back then), and then you still might not have any idea. Check out my throwback blog post today, also known as “the call to humility”: September 25th–2004, 2005, 2006.
For a while after I quit law school, I ran a cupcake custom order bakery that specialized in odd, gourmet flavors. Yet, time and time again, the most popular order was my red velvet. Rich, moist, and the perfect balance of chocolatey, they were considered the best in Memphis, easily. I worked hard on those puppies!
The first time I ever cooked O dinner, here’s what happened. I made shrimp and grits, which says, “Oh, this is casual, this is whatever. But THIS IS AMAZING, RIGHT? I put bacon in it. I’m cool! I’m laid-back!”; I wore a black and grey geometric minidress and heels, because, obvs, we were going to see the Pixies at a theatre later; I met him at the door in an apron with a bloody mary, mixed with his favorite vodka that I spent an ungodly amount of money on, like “Oh, this? I always do this.”; and I made a dozen red velvet cupcakes with my famous cream cheese frosting, his favorite. It worked. We’re in it for the long haul.
Suffice it to say, I know what I’m doing when it comes to red velvet. So when I made this cake a few weeks ago, my world was turned upside down. It was better than mine.
It was so perfectly dense and perfectly moist and perfectly perfect in every way. I made it as a layer cake, which is why I used a different recipe–as a cupcake-baker, layer cakes terrify me. I’m afraid they’ll collapse on themselves, I’ll never get the crumb coat right, I’ll slide the whole thing off a plate, etc. However, I annihilated this one. I had two cake-eaters come up to me, separately, and congratulate me on the cake. I graciously accepted their compliments; it was an achievement.
If you use Pinterest at all, you’ll recognize this cake easily. The two-layer red velvet cake covered in a sweet layer of white cream-cheese-frosting roses is on everyone’s boards, it seems. Despite having only mastered the cupcake swirl, I tackled this technique for the potluck, and I came out victorious. I leaned on this tutorial for the phenomenal cake recipe and frosting technique, but I would do a few things differently. Her recipe for frosting was simply not stiff enough, and everyone preferred the taste of my own recipe. This thicker frosting will help you frost the sides of the cake and will help the roses hold their shape. Also, it will help you make anyone fall in love with you, it’s that good. Keep the recipe and use for carrot cake, cherry almond cupcakes, to frost pumpkin bread, or for filling a bowl and a spoon on a particularly classy night.
Red Velvet Roses Cake
Adapted from D*Lish
1 1/2 cups oil, I used canola
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz. red food coloring
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 stick butter, room temperature
2 package cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4-6 cups powdered sugar (To be totally honest, I just start with about two cups and keep adding until I’m pleased with the texture and taste. Make sure the frosting is very thick and has a balance of cream cheese taste and strong sweetness.)
Large pastry bag
1M tip (or any other large open star tip)
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
2. Lightly stir eggs in a medium bowl with a wire whisk. Add remaining liquid ingredients and whisk until blended. Set aside.
3. Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Mix with a wire whisk until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high until completely combined, about one minute.
4. Divide batter equally among the two cake pans (I like to pour all my batter into measuring cups to see how much I have and then divide it exactly, but obviously not necessary). Drop pans onto the counter from about 3-inches up to release any air bubbles. Repeat twice.
5. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
6. To remove cakes from pans, first, run a knife around the perimeter of each cake to separate it from the pan. Place a layer of plastic wrap on top and a wire rack on top of the plastic wrap. Holding the pan and rack together, flip so that the cake comes out of the pan onto the rack. Jiggle the pan to loosen the cake and remove. Wrap cake in plastic to retain moisture.
7. Allow cakes to cool completely on wire racks. While you are waiting, make the frosting. Using a handheld mixer or standing mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla and beat again. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, and beat until well-incorporated and to your liking.
8. Frost the cake…
Make sure your layers are perfectly flat. If they’re not, carefully use a serrated knife to cut off the dome. You don’t want to lose much cake!
Place the first layer down on the serving platter and coat the top with a thick layer of frosting. Place the second layer carefully on top. Start frosting the cake with the crumb coat–the layer of frosting that comes first and prevents specks of red velvet from showing in your final presentation. Make sure you cover the entire surface area, but don’t worry about it looking too pretty. Focus on an even coat.
To apply the icing roses, assemble the pastry bag, fill with frosting and make the roses as directed in the tutorial video below. Do not put too much frosting in the pastry bag at a time, as your hands will warm it and it will not hold its shape well, aka sad droopy looking roses.
Begin with the circumference of the cake. Start in the center of the rose. Apply constant firm pressure on the pastry bag and begin to loop around the center point tightly. Try to finish each rose in the same place, e.g. at the bottom of the cake. You will do a different number of rotations around the center depending on the size you want your rose to be. I did two rotations.
If you’re unhappy with how a rose turns out, just scrape it off, smooth the icing and start over again. I highly suggest playing around with the roses on a sheet of wax/parchment paper before starting to work on the cake.
When you’re done with the circumference, repeat the process on the top of the cake. I recommend placing the first rose in the center of the cake and working out in a circular fashion. If you are left with some dead space when you finish. Try filling the space with a swoop of frosting going in the same direction as the nearest rose.
Refrigerate the cake as soon as finished to ensure the roses hold their shape. If refrigerated, this cake is good for several days after it’s made.