Calvin’s birthday was Wednesday. Weekday birthdays are always hard, with work and school getting in the way of celebrations. So we started the celebrations early, inviting my parents for dinner the Saturday before. Of course we had to have cake at that birthday dinner, and we had to have cake on the actual day. You can’t skimp on birthday cake, especially for a mid-week birthday.
This year Calvin requested red velvet cake. It is a celebration worthy cake. The only problem was I didn’t have a go-to recipe – I have never made red velvet cake and I have only tasted it a couple of times. There are so many flavors I would rather try, if given a choice. I know the red is appealing to some, but I really can’t get past the idea of all that food coloring.
But a birthday cake request is a birthday cake request, so I researched recipes. I combined a few of the recipes to make what I thought would be the best cake. I ended up making a rich, slightly chocolatey, very red cake. And I slathered it all with buttery cream cheese icing.
I made half a batch on Saturday, for the celebration with the grandparents. We wanted to eat most of it in one sitting, so that we weren’t eating leftover cake right up until the actual birthday. I planned to make another half recipe of cake on Wednesday so that Calvin could actually have a freshly made cake on his real birthday instead of leftovers.
I baked the first cake in a round cake pan and cut it into two semicircles so we would end up with half of a round layer cake. That is birthday cake to me – my mom always made round layer cakes for our birthdays growing up. Everyday cakes were usually 9 by 13 rectangles, but she went all out for birthdays.
The second half cake I baked in loaf pans, at Calvin’s request. Once the two layers were baked, I decided they were a little thin, so I cut them in half and stacked the four layers with icing.
It ended up making a really tall, square cake. And it was the leaning tower of cake, since I got the icing a bit too soft and it was a hot day. And I was a little haphazard when I cut and stacked the layers. I managed to get the cake to stay stacked until the icing set, but it wasn’t the prettiest thing.
I can say that it might not have looked like a bakery cake, but it was four layers of red deliciousness, sandwiched with plenty of cream cheese icing – pretty much what you want from a red velvet cake. The birthday boy was happy with it, and that’s all that counts.
Red Velvet Cake
From The Cook’s Life
¾ cup butter (1½ sticks), room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy and no longer gritty. Add eggs, cocoa powder and red food coloring and beat again until well combined.
Mix flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Mix buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla extract in another bowl.
Add about half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat well. Scrape down sides with a spatula as needed.
Divide batter between the prepared pans and level tops. Bake for 22-30 minutes, or until cakes are pulling away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Try not to over bake or the cake will be dry.
Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool on the rack until room temperature before icing.
Cream Cheese Icing:
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar, approximately
1-2 teaspoons milk, if necessary
Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat until combined and fluffy. Add a little more powdered sugar if icing is too thin. Add a touch of milk if icing is too thick to spread.
Place one layer of cake on a plate. Spread top with icing, almost to the edge. Top with other layer. Ice the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing. Let icing set up for an hour or so before serving, if possible. Leftovers keep well for several days. Freeze for longer storage.