A daring cake for Daring Bakers


“Racy yet regal with just a little hint of redneck, red velvet cake is wrapped in pedigree but remains queen of the comfort food.” This catchy description comes from the April issue of Virginia Living magazine.


Yep, the red velvet cake, popularly known as the armadillo shape groom’s cake in the movie Steele Magnolias is this month’s theme for the Daring Bakers.

Nobody is really sure of the origin of the red velvet cake. One source stated that it was created in the kitchen of the Waldorf Astoria in the 1920’s to complement a red-velvet themed wedding. Another source said that it was brought over by the Acadians who were descendants of the French colonists who settled in Nova Scotia. They were expelled by the British in the 17th century where they later settled in Louisiana and became known as the Cajuns. It was there that they created their own beet flour and used it in baking for its sugar content.

            We chose our own recipe for this month’s baking go-round and mine came from the Virginia Living magazine which featured the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. Let me tell you, though I am not a fan of any food-colored cake, I am pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this. It is delicious and I would make it again for a fun event.

Red Velvet cake

            Adapted from the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

Makes one 2-layer, 9-inch cake, enough for 12 people

Time: 1 ½ hours

For the cake:

2 ½ cups sifted bleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ cup natural cocoa powder such as Hershey’s

1 fl. oz food coloring

1 tbs water

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs orange zest ( from 1 to 2 oranges)

1 cup whole or low-fat buttermilk

For the icing:

¾ cup unsalted butter

1 lb. cream cheese (softened)

3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 tbs whole milk, if needed

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Grease and flour two 9×2-inch cake pans.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together twice. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa, red food coloring and water until it becomes a smooth paste, about 1 minute, and reserve.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat 1 cup butter with an electric mixer until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating about 15 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, until the mixture has lightened in color and become fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, the vanilla, and orange zest, beating for 15 seconds after each addition. Add the red cocoa paste and mix until evenly incorporated.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture in thirds, alternating with 2 additions of half the buttermilk. To avoid overworking the batter, gently mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula after each addition, until the ingredient is just incorporated. Once all ingredients are incorporated, beat the batter 2 to 3 strokes.
  5. Divide the batter between the cake pans and spread the tops evenly with the wooden spoon or spatula. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick emerges clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in their pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then slide a thin paring knife around the edge of the pans and invert the cakes. Cool the cakes complete on a rack, with their tops facing up.
  6. In a large bowl, beat ¾ cup butter with the mixer until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and beat until the mixture is fluffy, white and very smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition, until the mixture is creamy, fluffy and smooth. If the frosting is too stiff, beat the milk into it to loosen it.
  7. Gently ice the cake layers generously. Spoon 1 cup of icing in the center of the first cake layer. Working with an icing or rubber spatula in gentle swirling motions, spread the icing from the center toward the edges of the cake until it forms an even 1/3 to ½ inches thick. (If you need to add more icing, add it to the center and work it out toward the sides).
  8. Carefully set the second layer on top of the first and ice the second layer in the same manner, beginning with a dollop in the center and working it out to the sides. Then ice the sides of the cake.
  9. Store the cake at room temperature, beneath a cake cover. If you don’t plan to eat it for 24 hours, put it on a plate, tent it with plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Remember to remove the cake from the refrigerator 1 hour or more before serving to take the chill off. Serve with glasses of cold milk.

Cooking Notes:

            I guess most of the steps are the ones for making a cake like creaming the butter and so forth. I did not have powdered food coloring as the original recipe called for so I just used a whole bottle of liquid food coloring and a tablespoon of water to make the cocoa mixture paste-like. I’ve never made cream cheese frosting before but let me say it was so good, I was afraid there would not be enough for the cake because I kept on eating it! That icing is really sinful! The recipe called for a pound (4 cups) of confectioner’s sugar but I made do with 3 cups because I felt it was getting too sweet. The cake was moist with a wonderful crumb. I think that the addition of the orange zest brought out the flavor of the cake and complemented the cream cheese frosting perfectly. I’m off to eat a piece right now so go ahead and check out the other versions of my fellow Daring Bakers!

My Kitchen in Half Cups

Writing at the Kitchen Table

Trembom in English

The Sour Dough

The Canadian Baker


La mia cucina

Jumbo Empanadas

Hester in Geneva

Food art and random thoughts

Feeding my Enthusiasms

Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

Creampuffs in Venice


All things edible

I would like to thank Ximena of Lobstersquad for the wonderful work (as usual) she did for our two logos!



31 thoughts on “A daring cake for Daring Bakers

  1. Thanks Jenny – I like the fact that you made 2 cakes and one was your grandmother's
    Hi Helen – I need to learn your decorating skills your cake was lovely!
    Thanks Bril, your comment alerted me to the fact that i missed the cream cheese ingredient in the icing recipe. I used two packs of cream cheese. I'll update the post to reflect this when I get the chance.

  2. I love that opening quote, Veronica! Your cake is so high and beautiful. I also like the recipe you tried. If I make this one again I may have to try yours.

  3. I agree this was a fun cake to make, but I think I'll file RVC under novelty for novelty's sake. I like your addition of orange zest.

  4. Ya done good, Sis.. real good. =)

    I love the vibrant red of your cake – not to mention the addition of the orange zest right in the cake.

    I'm glad you went with that recipe – it's quite a bit different than most of them, so now I'm curious to see how different they taste.. looks like another RVC might actually be in my future after all. hehehe


  5. Yes, I'd be tempted to try this one if I were to try another RVC! The orange zest (or lemon even) would be a real interesting flavor to introduce.
    You used a 1/4 c cocoa and still got a really red cake
    I say yours is a very successful Red Velvet Cake!!

  6. It's such fun for those of us who don't bake very often to follow the escapades of the Daring Bakers. Love Ximena's logo for the group, too. I've never been tempted to make a Red Velvet cake, but I love looking at the photos and reading about the different recipes each of you has chosen. Thanks!

  7. It's so "painful" to see these Daring Bakers posts – I'm here half a planet away and all I want to do is to grab that piece of cake and eat it very slowly, savoring every bite! 😀

  8. What a great opening quote and a clasic rendition of the cake. You cake seems to be a lighter red, which I like a lot. The icing really is great, isn't it? Beautiful photos, too.

  9. I have heard a story (probably not true at all) about a lady who dined
    at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. She liked the Red Velvet
    Cake so much she asked for the recipe. When she received her hotel
    bill, she had been charged $100 for the recipe. (This was during the
    Depression. It seems this version of the story has been adjusted for

  10. I loved the history part of your post as it was not part of the history I had uncovered and it added to the "where in the world did this cake from mystery". Your cake is lovely and red and I was tempted to use the Lee Bros recipe so I'm glad one of us used that recipe!

  11. Thanks everyone. It was hairy working with food coloring for the first time. Got some on the kitchen towels…(oops I said too much..hope the hubby does not read this)
    Lis – though I thought I'll never make this again, seeing how interesting it looked and tasted… it'll have a future.
    Tanna – I was surprise with how red the cake got.
    Peabody – the Lee brothers book is nominated for a 2007 James Beard award in the Food of the America's category so it must be good!
    Karin – I read about that too in the magazine, it said it might be an urban legend like that $250 recipe for the Neiman Marcus Cookies

  12. Your red velvet cake looks fantastic! What color! I love seeing what you guys come up with every month 🙂 And the logo is really fab 🙂

  13. Veronica, your cake is beautiful!! the icing is so perfect!!! I loved the fact that you have orange zest in the batter.. and the beet flour from the French colonists has made my mind wonder. How interesting!! I am also not one for artificial colouring but this cake did taste delicious – I tried Peabody's recipe. The icing hit a soft spot with me.

  14. For a really great local version, try the red velvet cake at Table 9–it's truly wonderful (and impossible to resist when your there!).

  15. Thanks gilly – i am extremely pleased with the color.
    Thanks joey – Ximena really did a fantastic job with the logo.
    Hi Valentina – isn't the cream cheese icing simply phenomenal. It was the first time I made it.
    Hi Sandi – well I'm really happy to get your approval since you are from the south and familiar with the cuisine. Yes, definitely try this recipe, you will not be disappointed.
    Thanks for the tip Brandon. Table 9 it is!

  16. Hmm, this sounds and looks delicious. I'm thinking Red Velvet cupcakes for an event coming up this weekend. Think these would transfer well to a smaller size? Also Veronica – when you use the plain "nut cups" for your cupcakes, do you just bake them free-standing on a cookie sheet? I love your blog – keep it up!

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