Red velvet cake

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Red velvet cake is traditionally prepared as a layer cake topped with cream cheese or cooked roux icing. The cake can be a dark red, bright red or red-brown color. When foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beet juices to enhance the color of their cakes. Beets are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture. Traditionally, red velvet cake is iced with a French-style butter roux icing (also called ermine icing), which is very light and fluffy, but time-consuming to prepare. Cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting are variations which have increased in popularity. The rich red colour of this recipe makes this cake very attractive and well-known around the world.


225 oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

4 tbsp water

55 g cocoa powder

3 eggs

250 ml buttermilk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp red edible food colouring

260 g plain flour

55 g  cornflour

1 ½ tbsp baking powder

250 g caster sugar

For frosting

250 g cream cheese

40 g unsalted butter

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

red velvet cake


Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease two 23 cm/9 inch sandwich tins and line with baking paper.

Place the butter, water and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and heat gently, without boiling, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Beat together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract and food colouring until frothy. Beat in the butter mixture. Sift together the flour, cornflour and baking powder, then stir quickly and evenly into the mixture with the caster sugar.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 3-4 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together all the ingredients until smooth. Use about half of the frosting to sandwich the cakes together, then spread the remainder over the top using a palette knife.