Red Velvet Birthday Cake

I decided for my birthday this year that I would make a layer cake. I’ve never made a full-on cake before, and I presented the idea to myself as a 30th birthday challenge! Plus, red velvet is one of my favorite types of cake and I was happy to have an excess of it to eat on the day that I entered into a new decade of life.

I’m quite well-versed in the art of cupcake-making, but making a whole cake is a bit of a different thing. The hardest part is making sure that the layers stay straight and that the cake doesn’t collapse on itself. According to the vast research I conducted before initiating this endeavor, one way to ensure a unified finished product is to make sure that all the layers are COMPLETELY cooled before stacking them. So I actually made the three layers in the evening, left them to cool overnight, and then layered and frosted the cake the following day. It worked pretty well, and the cake stayed in one piece! I just wrapped the individual  layers in Saran Wrap to make sure they didn’t dry out.

The other challenge I had with this specific cake was the coloring – I didn’t buy enough of the red food coloring (I blame this on confusion in converting American ‘ounces’ to European ‘milliliters’), and the cake came out of the oven looking almost brown! I think this was also due to the ratio of cocoa powder to red food coloring. So next time, I’ll be sure to use the fully recommended amount of red.

Regardless of the slight color mishap, the cake tasted absolutely amazing (the shockingly large amount of butter and sugar used no doubt being contributing factors…) and I will certainly be making it again! Decorating was no less fun – I used an array of heart-shaped marshmallows and silver sugar circles, but one could also use chopped pecans or top with red raspberries.



For the Cake Batter:

  • 2 sticks butter (226 grams), room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Butter, for pan

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese (453 grams), softened
  • 2 sticks butter (226 grams), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar


For the Cake Batter:

Preheat oven to 350 F (276 C). In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make a paste out of the red food coloring, cocoa and salt. Mix paste by hand into the creamed butter.

In a measuring cup, stir eggs with buttermilk and add to batter. Mix in vinegar and vanilla, and then add flour and baking soda. Mix until combined but do not over mix.

Butter a sheet pan. Lay parchment on top. Butter the parchment. Pour 1/3 batter into pan and smooth the top to even the batter out, using an offset spatula. Bake cake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan.

Let all three layers of the cake cool completely before stacking and icing.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.


Mixing the cocoa, salt and red food coloring paste.


Adding the creamed butter and sugar,buttermilk and eventually flour.


Layering the cake.


Finished product – decorated with marshmallow hearts and silver sugar circles.


The birthday Red Velvet cake!


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