A few years back, a friend and I wandered into Chelsea Market to have a break from our Manhattan shopping. While I grabbed a cup of coffee and a croissant, my friend bought a slice of red velvet cake from Amy’s Bread. Now I should say I’m not a huge fan of red velvet, but after one bite, I completely fell in love. It was moist, just slightly chocolatey, and completely delicious.
I read the recipe from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread and I realized that a lot of why I loved this cake was because of the use of swiss meringue buttercream instead of american cream cheese frosting. I won’t go into all the reasons I hate american buttercream, but let’s just say swiss meringue is lighter, more stable, tastier and just all around better. If you’re scared of swiss meringue buttercream, don’t be, it’s simple and there’s a great tutorial from the Sweetapolita blog here.
I knew I had to make this cake when I heard about my friend Melissa’s recent engagement, as red velvet is her favorite flavor. I used the recipe below, and modified the buttercream recipe with less butter and the addition of cream cheese to pay homage to the original. I also added a quick chocolate simple syrup to keep the cake moist and delicious.
Red Velvet Cake from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s bread here
Yield: one 9-inch double-layer cake or one 6-inch six-layer cake with 6 cupcakes too!
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
2 Tbs. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbs. red food coloring
1 cup boiling water
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
5 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease pans, line with parchment, and grease again. (I just use butter and flour). Whisk the sour cream, cocoa, baking soda and food coloring together and then slowly add the boiling water until smooth. In another bowl, sift cake flour, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla.
Cream butter and sugar with a paddle attachment on a stand mixer until light and fluffy (approx. two minutes). Add the egg mixture, scraping down the sides until incorporated. Alternate adding the dry (flour mix) and the wet (sour cream mixture) in three parts, starting with the dry and ending with the wet. Be sure to scrape down after each addition.
Fill the pans half way (I used a 1/4 cup for the cupcakes) and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (cupcakes-15 minutes), rotating the pans half way through baking. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes and then pop out of the pan to cool completely.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe here
2 1/2 cups sugar
10 large egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
6 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp of salt
1 8 oz. container of whipped cream cheese
Combine sugar, egg whites, and cream of tartar in a heat proof bowl and whisk over a small saucepan of simmering water. Be sure that the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk the mixture constantly until the temperature reaches 160ºF. Remove from heat, strain into a mixing bowl, and whip on high until stiff peaks form, about ten minutes. Slowly add butter, one tablespoon at a time, on medium-high until fluffy. If mixture starts to look curdled, don’t panic, just keep mixing, I promise it will come together. Add vanilla, salt, and whipped cream cheese for flavor.
Cocoa Simple Syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. cocoa powder
Add sugar, water, and cocoa powder to a small saucepan and heat on low until sugar has melted. Remove from heat and let cool before using a pastry brush to lightly soak each layer of cake.
For the cake I made, I cut the dome off each later to make it even, and then in half again for 6 total layers. I used a turntable to assemble the cake, lightly soaking each layer in simple syrup before adding a scoop of buttercream and evening with an offset spatula. I crumb-coated the sides and left in the fridge to firm up before a final top coat. Add a nice shell border on top and it’s complete.