Frosting a layer cake can be scary and stressful – there’s no denying it. Even trained pastry chefs have anxiety about icing cakes when it’s not one of their daily duties. I will let you in on a little-known secret, though: We practice what’s called a crumb coat. It’s essentially a practice run, where a thin layer of icing is spread onto the outside of a cake to catch all of the messy crumbs. You then place the cake in the fridge or freezer to set and after that, icing the cake is, well, a piece of cake. An offset metal spatula is an inexpensive investment and will ensure your icing looks its very best, every time.
Red velvet cake, a staple dessert in the South, is also a festive last bite for your holiday meal. I hadn’t perfected my recipe for the cake until recently; this red velvet layer cake is a favorite of mine and my business partner, Nancy. We both have more than a decade of experience as pastry chefs, but neither of us had ever come across the perfect red velvet cake recipe until we combined the best of both of ours. Bake the cake in a 9-inch cake pan for a traditional presentation, although this recipe will also yield three-dozen cupcakes or one large Bundt cake.
Christy Augustin has had a lifelong love affair with all things sweet. After working as a pastry chef in New Orleans and St. Louis, she opened Pint Size Bakery & Coffee in St. Louis’ Lindenwood Park in 2012. She calls herself the baker of all things good and evil. See more at pintsizebakery.com.
Red Velvet Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields | 1 9-inch cake |
- cooking oil spray
- 5 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 cups canola oil
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup liquid red food coloring
- 2 cups buttermilk, divided
- 3 8-ounce packages room-temperature cream cheese
- 1½ cups room-temperature unsalted butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- pinch kosher salt
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
| Preparation – Cake | Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans with cooking oil spray, and line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift next 3 ingredients, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip eggs, sugar and salt on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine oil, vinegar, vanilla and food coloring. With mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly pour oil mixture into egg mixture. On low speed, add a third of flour mixture, alternating with half of buttermilk. Repeat, and mix only until combined. Divide batter evenly among 3 prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Unmold slightly warm layers, and allow to cool to room temperature.
| Preparation – Frosting | In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat all ingredients on medium speed until smooth. Refrigerate 15 minutes to firm slightly.
| Assembly | Using a long serrated knife, trim tops of 3 cake layers, creating a flat surface. Spoon a little frosting onto a platter to help anchor cake. Place 1 layer in center, and spread with 1¼ cups frosting. Repeat with remaining layers, inverting final layer, cut-side down, so the bottom becomes the top. Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes. Frost cake with remaining icing. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.