This small batch Red Velvet Cake is so moist and tender, swirled with vanilla cake batter and topped with silky smooth cream cheese frosting. Plus it does NOT have a ton of food colouring!
In fact most recipes you will find have a bottle of red food colouring, and as a Food Scientist I can tell you that would be an ILLEGAL amount of food colouring. It would never be permitted to be sold in stores, so why would you make it like that at home?
I'm happy to say that this cake has just ½ teaspoon of food colouring, and that is plenty to give this cake a lovely red hue.
WHAT IS RED VELVET CAKE?
Red velvet cake is mostly a tangy vanilla cake with a hint of cocoa, and of course red food colouring to make it red!
It has origins in southern USA and is most known for it's fluffy moist texture and inclusion of buttermilk. Now, I know not everyone has access to buttermilk and also a lot of people don't want to purchase a whole liter of buttermilk for one single use.
WHAT DOES RED VELVET CAKE TASTE LIKE?
Red velvet cake mostly tastes like a tangy vanilla cake with the tiniest hint of cocoa.
It's really not a chocolate cake at all and the original purpose of adding cocoa was to add natural colouring, hence the small amount used.
HOW TO MAKE RED VELVET CAKE
- STEP 1). Sift all of the dry ingredients except for cocoa into a large bowl and whisk to blend evenly.
- STEP 2). Mix together yogurt, cocoa, vinegar and food colouring in a small bowl and set aside.
- STEP 3). Cream together butter and sugar using an electric hand mixer until pale and fluffy.
- STEP 4). Beat in egg until well combined and smooth, then mix in oil and vanilla.
- STEP 5). Add half of the dry ingredients and mix on low until just blended, then mix in milk.
- STEP 6). Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix gently until batter is just smooth but do not over mix.
- STEP 7). Set aside ¾ cup of this vanilla mixture and then gently mix the red cocoa mixture into the rest of the batter.
- STEP 8). Dollop big spoons of the red batter alternating with smaller spoons of the vanilla batter and swirl them through each other.
- STEP 9). Bake until just set and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
HOW TO SUBSTITUTE BUTTERMILK
Instead of using buttermilk, I have developed this recipe to use yogurt which is more widely available to most people in most countries. And, it's vanilla flavoured yogurt! I would normally use plain yogurt for baking, but the added vanilla flavour really makes this red velvet cake taste extra delicious!
In this recipe I use a blend of low fat yogurt and milk to make a substitute for buttermilk. I feel like yogurt and milk are much more accessible and common ingredients in most home kitchens. This way you won't need to go out and buy buttermilk specifically for this recipe.
HOW TO MAKE SMOOTH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
So many times cream cheese frosting can turn out runny. This one is NOT! This frosting is so thick, fluffy and luscious!
The key is to not use too much liquid since cream cheese is almost 60% water anyway! Also it is important to use the right ratio of butter to cream cheese. That ratio is about 1:2. One part butter to 2 parts cream cheese.
Also, hold back on the sugar! Too much sugar will not only make it taste way too sweet, but it will make it more runny since sugar binds water and turns into a syrup.
RECIPE TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- Do not over mix - it is really important to mix the batter just until it is homogeneous. Over-mixing will cause it to be less tender and also may cause holes or tunnels in the baked cake.
- Measure the flour correctly - since this is a small cake, it is important that the flour quantity is correct. If you use too much flour, it will tend to be drier and more dense.
- Make sure the cream cheese is completely softened - the only way the frosting will be smooth is if the cream cheese is completely soft. Cold cream cheese will not blend well.
How do I store this red velvet cake?
This cake should be stored covered in the refrigerator since it has a cream cheese frosting. It is best if you bring it to room temperature before serving.
What type of cocoa can I use?
This recipe works with both Dutch process and natural cocoa, however the original recipe would use natural cocoa since it has a reddish hue.
What type of vinegar should I use?
Plain white distilled vinegar is all that you need for this recipe but I also like using apple cider vinegar.
What is the purpose of vinegar in Red Velvet Cake?
Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, vinegar does not "tenderize" this cake. There is not enough acid to break down any gluten or anything like that in this batter. The original purpose for adding acidic ingredients was to lower the pH of the batter to maintain the reddish colour of the cocoa. This was before red food colouring was invented. The colour compounds in unalkalized cocoa stay red when the environment is acidic. Now, with the addition of food colouring, this is no longer the case. However it has become fundamental to the flavour of red velvet cake so it is a distinguishing taste factor.
HOW TO STORE RED VELVET CAKE
Since this cake has a cream cheese frosting, it needs to be stored in the fridge. Since it uses some oil in the recipe, it is still soft even when cold. But for the softest texture, let the cake sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
Marble Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake:
- 1 ¼ cups 180g all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup 60ml vanilla yogurt
- 1 tablespoon 6g cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon 5ml white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon red food colouring
- ¼ cup 56g unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 3 tablespoon 45ml pure sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon 5ml pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup 80ml whole milk
- ¼ cup 56g unsalted butter, softened
- ⅔ cup 90g icing sugar, sifted
- ½ block 125g cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon 5ml lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a 9x9-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together yogurt, cocoa powder, vinegar and food colouring.
- In a medium bowl, beat butter with the vanilla using an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed until creamy and whipped, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on high. Add egg and beat until well incorporated and fluffy, about 30 seconds on medium-high speed. Mix in oil.
- Add half of the flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until mostly incorporated. Add half of the milk and beat until well blended, about 10-15 seconds. Beat in the remaining flour mixture followed by the last of the milk mixture on medium speed just until the batter is smooth, but do not over beat. Set aside ¾ cup of the batter and fold the red yogurt mixture into the main batter.
- Dollop red velvet batter alternating with vanilla batter into pan and swirl it in to make a marble effect. Bake 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting, beat soft butter with icing sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in soft cream cheese one tablespoon at a time until full incorporated, thick, fluffy and pale in colour. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla until the frosting is smooth, fluffy and very creamy. Spread it over the cooled cake and decorate with sprinkles!