True confession: I’m not really a huge fan of red velvet cake – I always want it to be more chocolatey than it is, which means I’d really rather be eating a piece of good chocolate cake. BUT, when you pair layers of tender red velvet cake with a light and tangy cheesecake filling, as in this recipe, I’m all over it, because it’s REALLY DELICIOUS! It reminds me of a cake I loved as a child, one that came from our local bakery. Though this cake is not at all hard to make, it is a little bit of a project, so save it for a special occasion, such as Valentine’s Day or a birthday (or Flag Day or Arbor Day).
Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10 to 12
Red Velvet Cake Layers
- 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (18 grams) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ¾ cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 large (100 grams) eggs, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/3 cup (71 grams) neutral vegetable oil (such as safflower or canola)
- ¾ cup (181 grams) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (80 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- 2 teaspoons white or cider vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons Christmas red gel food coloring
- 1 cup (242 grams) whole milk, divided
- 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin (this is less than a full packet, so measure carefully)
- 12 ounces (340 grams) Philadelphia cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (232 grams) heavy cream
- 1 cup (242 grams) sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 1 cup (232 grams) heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- Crispearls, for garnish (optional)
Make the cake layers
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚ Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment rounds, then dust the sides of the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Stir gently with a handheld whisk until well combined, then add the sugar and whisk again until blended. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together until blended. Whisk in the melted butter, vegetable oil, buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla, vinegar and food coloring.
- Place the bowl of dry ingredients on the mixer stand fitted with the paddle attachment and begin mixing on low speed. Gradually add the buttermilk mixture, continuing to mix at low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Increase the speed to medium and beat until well blended, about 1 1/2 minutes. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Place the cake pans on wire racks and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes, then invert onto the racks and cool completely.
Make the Cheesecake Filling
- Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake layer horizontally in half to make 2 layers (or a total of 4 layers). Place one of the cake layers cut side up in the bottom of a 9-inch springform cake pan; set aside.
- Place 1/2 cup of the milk in a small container. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the milk and set aside to soften.
- Place the remaining 1/2 cup milk, the cream cheese and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the cream cheese melts and the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the milk and gelatin mixture and whisk until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled one-third of the way with ice water and let it sit, whisking occasionally, until completely cool. Meanwhile, continue with step #8.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the cream, sour cream and vanilla paste at medium-high speed until the mixture just begins to form soft peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cooled cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream mixture. Scrape one-third of the filling into the pan, covering the cake layer. Top with another cake layer, then top with another third of the filling. Top with a third cake layer and then the remaining filling (reserve the remaining cake layer). Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours, until the filling is set.
Make the Whipped Cream
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, begin whipping the cream and vanilla at medium speed. When the cream begins to form soft mounds, gradually add the sifted confectioners’ sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until firm peaks just start to form.
Finish the Cake
- Release the clasp and remove the side of the pan. Transfer the cake to a cardboard cake round or serving plate, if you like. Break half of the remaining cake layer into chunks and place in a food processor (reserve the remaining cake half to snack on!). Pulse a few times until it just forms fine crumbs (but don’t over-process, or it will become mushy).
- Set aside about ¾ cup of the whipped cream in the refrigerator to garnish the top of the cake. Use the remaining frosting to frost the side of the cake, making it as smooth as possible. Sprinkle the side of the cake with the red velvet cake crumbs. Put the reserved whipped cream into a disposable pastry bag fitted with a medium plain or closed star tip. Pipe dollops or shells of the whipped cream around the top edge of the cake. Garnish with Crispearls, if you like. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.