Dish of the day: Red velvet cake

Lily Vanilli

red velvet cake 300x216 Dish of the day: Red velvet cakeThe red food colouring used here has been an ingredient in ‘America’s favourite cake’ since shortly after its first appearance in Southern American cookery books in the late 1800s. Though the tradition supposedly originated from the natural tendency of anthocyanin – the pigment in non-Dutch processed cocoa powder – to react with other ingredients,  giving a reddish tinge, which is likely where devil’s food cake got its name too.

If the colouring freaks you out, you could use the same amount of beetroot juice, but however you colour it (or don’t) this is a rich velvety chocolate cake with a fine crumb and hint of vanilla, perfect when offset with a light cream cheese frosting and tart summer berries.

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves: 10

115g unsalted butter, room temperature

280g caster sugar

2 eggs

1½ tbsp red liquid food colouring (optional, Dr Oetker works well if you’re going to use it)

275g plain flour, sifted

30g cocoa powder, sifted

250ml buttermilk

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cider vinegar

1 batch Cream Cheese Frosting (below)

Handful tart summer berries OR rough chopped dark chocolate

Handful desiccated coconut (optional)

Two 18cm round cake tins, greased and lined.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan assisted/gas mark 6.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, starting on medium and increasing to high speed – the mixture should be pale and increased in volume, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs gradually, then the food colouring, and beat until just incorporated.
  3. Sift together the flour and cocoa and add half to the batter, beating to incorporate evenly and ensuring you scrape down the sides. Then beat in the buttermilk and finally the second half of the dry ingredients.
  4. In a small bowl, using a clean spatula or teaspoon, mix together the bicarbonate of soda and cider vinegar (it will fizz up) and fold it immediately into the batter – do not use the mixer, just fold evenly with a spatula by hand.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two prepared cake tins and level out to the edges. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: If you are stuck for buttermilk you can make a decent substitute by adding 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to every 250ml of whole milk – just make sure you re-measure it before adding it to a batter.

Cream Cheese Frosting

125g unsalted butter, softened

200g firm full-fat cream cheese, drained of any liquid

250g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Beat the butter alone for 4–5 minutes, then add the cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes.
  2. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes, until smooth and evenly incorporated. If you’re finding the frosting too runny, place in the fridge to set & then re-beat before using, alternatively you can add a further 50–100g of icing sugar if desired.

To assemble:

Level off the bottom layer by slicing off any uneven/domed parts. Then ice between & on top of the cooled layers, dusting each with coconut & berries.

Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth is available from Cannongate books, 2012

Follow Lily on Twitter @lilyvanillicake

For more information visit

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