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Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

December 28, 2020

For the past few days my son Eli has been asking me to make cream cheese frosting. He just wanted to eat the frosting. Perfectly understandable, I mean he is a 14 year old boy. I sort of ignored him because I wasn’t just making the frosting to eat on a spoon. But he kept asking, and finally I made an offer. I offered to make a cake to put the frosting on! That’s how I ended up making red velvet cake today.

We had a start time of 10am. Bowls and spoons ready, we took out all the ingredients. Who would have thought that red velvet cake used not one (bad enough), but two tubes of red food coloring. I had to send my daughter Mia out to the supermarket to get a second tube. We finally got back to work.

Other than the amount of red food coloring, there are other things about this recipe that are surprising. You will see it calls for both white vinegar and cocoa, two things you may not have thought went into red velvet cake. Fear not! It is not a typo! They belong on the ingredients list. I promise.

While both the cake and the frosting were relatively easy to make, we need to talk about the frosting for a moment. If, or when you make this, DO NOT tell your eaters how much butter and cream cheese go into the frosting. It is delicious, but keep the amounts to yourself. It’s better that way. No one will get hurt.

The cake and frosting were a perfect combination. They were meant to be together. Forever a pair. I must give a shout out to Cook’s Country, part of the Cooks Illustrated team. It was their recipe that I blindly used with such success!


Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Cooks Country

For the cake:

2 1/4 cups (271 grams) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240ml) buttermilk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons (2 tubes) red food coloring

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar

For the Frosting:

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 cups (480 grams) confectioners sugar

2 blocks (16 ounces) cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces. softened

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

pinch of salt



Adjust the oven rack to the middle position

Set oven to 350º F

Grease 2 9” cake pans, putting parchment on the bottom of each pan. (Put the pan on the parchment and trace it with a pencil. Cut it out and place in the bottom of the pan)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and eggs

In a small bowl mix the cocoa with the old coloring until a smooth paste forms.

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high, until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Next, add one-third of the flour mixture, beating on medium low until just incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Alternate between flour and buttermilk until it is all incorporated. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Add the cocoa mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated.

Using a rubber spatula, give the batter a final few stirs.

Scrape the batter into prepared pans, trying your best to distribute evenly. Bake about 25 minutes, until a toothpick (I use a long skewer) inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, and then turn onto rack to cool completely. Peel the parchment from the bottom of each cake.


Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat the butter and the sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese, one piece at a time. Beat until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla and salt. Using a rubber spatula give the frosting a few final stirs. If you are not going to use it right away, store in refrigerator. If cold, you may need to beat again before spreading.

When cakes are cooled, spread about 2 cups of frosting on one cake layer with an offset spatula. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.


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