Red Velvet, White and Blue

People love red velvet cake. I can't explain it. Some of our customers are completely crazed by it, and you hear about it all over the country. My hunch is that it's the tangy cream cheese icing. The cake itself is also not quite as sweet as its chocolate and vanilla counterparts, and when baked right, it's a light, airy cake that still stays incredibly moist. It also just looks cool. What are your reasons for loving it? Let me know in the comments.

I know many others (possibly including myself) think it's slightly overrated, but, regardless of where you fall out, you have to admit it's the perfect choice for a Fourth of July celebration.

I made this cake with my daughter last summer. Just double the cake and icing recipes below and bake the cake in two 12"x18" sheet pans. Then ice the cake and use raspberries (or strawberries) and blueberries to decorate it like the flag. (Feeds about 40-50.)

Here's our version... top each cupcake or slice of cake with blueberries for the full red, white and blue look:

Red Velvet Cake (makes 36 cupcakes or one 3-layer 9" cake):
5 ½ cups cake flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
8 ounces butter at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp red food coloring (for a typical grocery brand coloring, for professional brands use 1 tbsp)
2 ½ cups buttermilk
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp distilled white vinegar

Cream Cheese Icing:

8 oz butter at room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cupcake pans with liners, or spray cake pans with non-stick cooking spray, as desired.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together and set them aside.
3. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium/high-speed until it is smooth and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed until they have fully combined.
4. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula and add the eggs. Then mix on medium speed until they have fully combined with the butter and sugar.
5. Add one-third of the flour mixture and mix the batter on low-speed until just combined, about 20 seconds.
6. Mix the vanilla, red food coloring and buttermilk and add about half of it to the batter, mixing it on low-speed until just combined, about 20 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
7. Repeat the above two steps, adding another third of the flour, the remaining buttermilk and then the remaining flour.
8. Add the baking soda and vinegar and mix on low until just combined, about 20 seconds. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure all the ingredients from the sides and bottom of the bowl are incorporated.
9. Divide the batter into the prepared cupcake or cake pans and bake immediately. For cupcakes, bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating once halfway through. For cakes, bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating once halfway through.
10. When the cakes are done (the centers should spring back to the touch, or a toothpick inserted to the center will come out clean), allow them to cool in their pans to room temperature, then remove them from the pans and let them chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the icing.

For the cream cheese icing:
1. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium/high-speed until it is smooth and light in color, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the cream cheese and continue to mix at medium/high-speed until they have fully combined, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the confectioners sugar and salt and mix on low-speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.
4. Finally, add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated, about 20 seconds.
5. Ice the chilled cakes or cupcakes as desired and serve immediately or keep covered in the refrigerator for up to two days. Serve at room temperature.

© 2011 Rachel Thebault, author of Sweet Chic: Stylish Treats to Dress Up for Any Occasion