Red Velvet Birthday Cake

For Mi’s birthday, I wanted to make a (easy) cake with pizzazz. I think no other cake makes more of a statement than red velvet cake. And Mi is a quite a lady herself. Happy Birthday Mi!  If you can take your mind off the bright carmine colour, the cake is absolutely delicious. It is made with buttermilk and cocoa powder, is not-too-rich, slightly crumbly and superbly moist. Red velvet cakes are traditionally iced with  cream cheese frosting, but I have seen some recipes using vanilla butter frosting.

Mi surrounded by the little people

My American friend, E, tells me that red velvet cakes are typically only found in the Southern States of the US. It’s surprising that red velvet cakes are not more popular among Chinese. After all, the colour red colour is a colour of prosperity in the Chinese culture; symbolising joy and good fortune. Brides wear red, red firecrackers are lit during Chinese New Year, and kids are given hong bao (red packets filled with money).

I have seen numerous images of red velvet cakes, but I had never tasted it, or seen one up close. So, I was surprised by just how vibrant this cake is, and how colour gets even more vivid after baking.

I made a half recipe of frosting, which is why you can see crumbs in the frosting, it is basically a crumb layer! Though I’m usually not fond of frosting, this cream cheese frosting doesn’t have a lot of sugar and is simply delicious. Making berry flowers using almond slivers is a fantastic little food hack I stole, so easy that I put my nieces and nephews to work decorating the cake (place the berries where you want them before unleashing the eager kitchen hands). Kudos to whomever came up with this neat idea.

Adapted from Allysa Torey’s More from Magnolia: Recipes from the World-Famous Baker and Allysa Torey’s Home Kitchen.

2 ¼ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups caster sugar
2 large eggs
3 ½ Tbsp red food colouring (reduce if preferred)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vinegar
½ tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175°C. Lightly grease and flour 2 x 20cm round tins. Line bottom with baking paper. Get the ingredients ready: sift flour with baking powder. Whisk together the red food colouring, cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Add baking soda to vinegar. Stir salt into buttermilk.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, combining well after each addition. Add red colouring mixture to batter and mix well.

Add flour in three parts, alternating with buttermilk mixture, beating to incorporate ingredients. Add the vinegar mixture and mix well. Ensure the mixture is completely smooth.

Divide between the two cake tins. Bake for 40 mins. Cool for 2 hours before frosting. I cooled it overnight.

Cream cheese frosting (from Kim Evan’s Little & Friday cookbook)
Makes 1½ cups frosting, double the recipe if you prefer more frosting.

250g pack cream cheese
60g unsalted butter
½ cup icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

To decorate:
Blueberries or raspberries
Almond slivers

Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy, then add in vanilla and combine well. Add icing sugar and beat until smooth.

To ice cake, slice the top off one cake to make an even surface. Spread a crumb layer, then a frosting layer. Place the second layer, then spread the frosting evenly around the layers using a spatula.

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