Red velvet cake has become hugely popular not only in its homeland, the U.S.A. but also in Europe. To be honest I wasn’t sure about this cake and had heard positive and negative reviews … but I love it! The red colour’s created not only with food colouring but also through the chemical reaction between cocoa and vinegar, which makes this cake a fascinating experiment. If you like to play scientist while baking simple stuff you’ll love this cake! It has a delightful colour that isn’t too garish, a beautifully satisfying spongy texture and a wonderful combination of tastes with a balance between sweet and salty. An innovative addition, pomegranate seeds are sprinkled on top and between the layers of sponge lightly flavoured with cocoa and cinammon. They sparkle like red jewels on the white Philadelphia cheese frosting so even with a random design and some soft crumb showing through this is a beautiful Pomegranate red velvet cake. Excuse me one minute… just going to swoon on my sofa. 🙂
I’d been curious about this cake for a while so when I saw a version in my French Fou de Pâtisserie magazine issue 8 I decided to dive in. I’ve made various changes, with not 2 but 4 layers of sponge to better distribute the frosting. Having no access to buttermilk I made my own with milk and lemon juice. Then the quantity of cinammon and red colouring was halved and red berries not included because they soften quite quickly plus I like the simplicity of just pomegranate seeds. They can be omitted but all my cake testers loved them – they lighten the cake with bursts of freshness and flavour.
- 250g/ml buttermilk or 250ml (minus 1 tbsp) full fat milk mixed with 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- Half a tbsp red food colouring (Wilton’s gel is very effective while many other brands don’t give you bright colours) – the original Fou de Pâtisserie recipe uses 1 tbsp if you’d like a stronger colour but you can also add NO food colouring if you like (I’d like to try this).
- Dry ingredients
- 250g/1 and 3/4 cups (in humid Barcelona) plain/all-purpose flour (2 cups on converter chart)
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons/10g unsweetened pure cocoa powder
- half a teaspoon ground cinammon, or to taste
- 1 tsp/5g baking powder
- 120g/1 stick (half a cup) semi-salted butter, softened (or unsalted butter and increase the salt in the ‘dry ingredients’ to between half and three quarters of a teaspoon, to taste)
- 250g/1 cup plus 1 and three-quarter tablespoons golden (or white) caster/superfine sugar
- 2 medium-large free-range eggs, beaten (120g) and at room temperature
- vanilla seeds, scraped out of 1 split pod
- 1 tsp/7g bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 100g/ml whipping cream – 35%
- 600g/21 ounces Philadelphia cheese
- 150g/1 cup plus 3 and a fifth tablespoons icing sugar
- half to 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, to taste
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds, to taste (or seeds from 1 pomegranate)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (static oven) or 160°C/320°F (fan/convection oven)
- Butter your cake tin(s), line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and flour the sides. I used 2 low sandwich springform-clip cake tins (16cm diametre) but you could also use 1 big tin (20cm/8inch diametre and 7cm/2.7inch high).
- If you don’t have buttermilk then mix the milk and lemon juice in a bowl at least 10 minutes before using.
- Whisk the red colouring gel into your buttermilk/milk and lemon. It will look like emulsion paint but don’t worry! 🙂
- Sieve the dry ingredients into a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with a spoon until it’s the texture of hair cream (beurre pommade).
- Add the sugar to the butter and beat with a wooden or silicone spoon till it’s combined, lighter and fluffier. Then use a whisk – if the mixture is still stiff with sugar start whisking in a little egg to lighten it.
- Add the beaten egg little by little, whisking well till light and fluffy.
- Whisk in the vanilla seeds.
- Using a rubber spatula gently fold in a third of the flour then a third of the red buttermilk/milk mixture. Repeat with the next third then last till everything is combined. Don’t overwork. The batter should stay light and fluffy.
- Mix the bicarbonate of soda/baking soda in a small bowl with the vinegar. It will fizz up!
- Fold quickly but gently into the main cake mixture and pour into your cake tins, placing into your oven as soon as possible (the raising agents are already reacting).
- Bake 25-30 mins (this depends on your oven and size of cake; 30-35 mins for a bigger cake) till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top springs back when touched lightly with a finger. Don’t open the oven door for the first 25 mins of baking.
- Let the cake(s) cool 10 mins in the tin then take out and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. This cake can be quite delicate and start crumbling. Don’t worry if a few bits drop off, as you’ll cover the cake in frosting.
- Slice your two cakes horizontally in half to make a total of 4 layers, first making a mark with cornflour or icing sugar so you know where to line your layers up again. See my technique with a serrated knife and two DVDs on the coffee and walnut, carrot cake post. This cake and its layers were higher so I used thicker Big Bang Theory series DVDs to rest my knife on.
- Whisk the cream, Philadelphia cheese, sugar and vanilla together in a big bowl (it’s easier if you use a standmixer). Whisk till smooth and fluffy.
- Place your bottom layer of sponge on the serving plate.
- Separate your frosting into 4 parts (with the last being bigger) and spread the first onto the bottom layer of sponge. For a more even layer, pipe concentric circles with a medium-sized nozzle then smoothe lightly with a butter or palette knife.
- Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on the layer of frosting then cover with the next layer of sponge (lining up the cornflour or icing sugar mark you made).
- Continue till you have all the layers assembled then cover your cake with the frosting. Smoothe with a palette or butter knife (this can take patience and a few goes) then make a pattern with the remaining pomegranate seeds.
This cake keeps really well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5-6 days. It stays moist and tasty. Yum. Even on day 5 a friend was completely blown over and took the rest home. Hurray! And sob.
This cake was so exciting to make with the colour, fizz, rise and layers. If you want to have fun baking and delight your guests, this cake’s for you!! The spongy texture, taste and visual impact are amazing. Everyone loves this cake! Two climbers immediately asked for the recipe so they could make it for special family occasions and a male Catalan friend wanted the frosting recipe to eat by the spoon! It’s hard to describe the taste. The cocoa is subtle, the cinammon lovely and the background of saltiness from the butter and Philadelphia cheese is delicious. Then there’s that burst of pomegranate zing.
A little history
An early sighting of this cake was in 1873 in a recipe book and it’s considered to be southern cooking though the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan tried to take credit for the recipe in the 1920s. Naughty. Some versions are coloured with beet and the original had roux icing which takes longer to prepare and sounds intriguing. By the way, it’s called a ‘velvet’ cake because of its fine crumb and texture. And apparently it’s also a ‘black community cake’ commonly baked on days celebrating the end of slavery with the red colour symbolising the blood spilt by slaves. You can read all these fascinating facts and more in the article Red Velvet, the ‘Lady Gaga’ of cakes, wears well during the holidays.
I’m sharing this cake with Fabulous Foodie Fridays hosted by Lucy@BakePlaySmile and Lauren@CreateBakeMake and Fiesta Friday hosted by Angie@thenovicegardener, Judie@ cookingwithauntjuju and Stef@The Kiwi Fruit. Do visit them to see the lovely recipes and help yourself to a nice tall slice of this Pomegranate red velvet cake!
Wishing you a lovely weekend ahead sweet reader! With layers and layers of yumminess. Happy baking and eating! 🙂 x And stay safe.
P.S. I’m in Paris to do a cake course!! More news in my next weekly update.
P.P.S. I’d just arrived off the plane and was collapsed on the sofa for an early night when the shootings and explosions took place… hard to believe what was happening out there. Shaken and shocked. I’d already written this post before so it’s pretty cheery. I just added the last three words.
RED VELVET CUPCAKES
I made a separate post for pomegranate red velvet cupcakes. Just as yummy as the big cake and faster to bake! 🙂