Sunday, we celebrated my younger daughter’s 18th birthday (though her real birthday isn’t for another couple years — she’ll be five!). For her gift, we all went together and got her a camera, and I got her this book on photography, which I’m looking forward to reading.
Her meal requests were specific: Captain Crunch for breakfast, chef salads for lunch, and honey-baked chicken for supper. The birthday cake, though, was entirely up to me. I could make whatever I wanted, she said.
I tossed around a bunch of ideas before finally settling on a red velvet cake. It felt a little risky, though. I’ve never found a red velvet cake that I like — they usually seem dry and/or flavorless, and the bright red feels garish — but then I happened on a post in which the writer had tested a whole bunch of red velvet cakes and then shared her favorite. If she said this cake was the best, then I’d trust her — she’d done her homework, after all — and then I proceeded to knock out two batches of cake in one afternoon.
Turns out, it’s the best red velvet cake I’ve had. In fact, I think it might be my new go-to recipe for festive occasions. Something about it — the deep red color, perhaps, or maybe the kiss of chocolate — feels special. Lush, even. Seductive. Just thinking about it makes me happy.
For the filling, I went with my copycat Costco-esque cream filling — sooooo good. I worried the cream filling would sploosh out the sides of the cake — two recipes of cake, a whole heck-of-a-bunch of layers high — but I kept popping the cake in the refrigerator whenever I wasn’t working on it, and it held its shape just fine.
For the icing, I made a double batch of cream cheese frosting with a little extra butter to help it set up firmer. The frosting was too sweet: an Italian Meringue Buttercream would’ve been better, I think, but I didn’t make it because my daughter isn’t a fan.
For the decorations, just fresh strawberries and red raspberries, and I wrapped the top tier in a chocolate cage. It was my first time making one — I used this tutorial — and it was shockingly simple: minimal effort, big impact.
The cake-and-cream filling combo was my favorite part. Add in a fresh berry — heaven.
My mom asked why I don’t just ice the whole cake with the Costco filling; she might be on to something.
Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from Divas Can Cook.
The recipe calls for one to two ounces red food coloring. I used one and it was perfect.
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup oil
½ cup coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ounce red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Sift together the dry ingredients in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Combine the two and whisk well.
Divide the batter between two greased, parchment-lined cake pans. Bake at 325 for about half an hour. Watch closely — do not overbake! Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack and removing the parchment paper.
Once the cakes are completely cool, ice and serve, or wrap the cakes in plastic and freeze for later.