Yes, folks, you read that right… I bring to you probably the best rendition, in my humble opinion, of the renowned red velvet layer cake. What could possibly make it better than the original? Simply by adding a creamy, decadent cheesecake as the middle layer in lieu of the traditional cream cheese frosting. Now, that‘s how you level up a dessert!
- 454g block cream cheese (not the spreadable kind), at room temperature
- ⅔ cup caster sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Red velvet cake:
- 3 cups cake flour, sifted (substitute: sift together 2⅔ cups plain flour + ⅓ cup cornflour)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups caster sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature and separated
- 1½ tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- liquid/gel food colouring (I prefer gel because it’s more concentrated)
- 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (substitute: 1 tsp white vinegar, then add milk until it reaches 1 cup)
Cream cheese frosting:
- 454g block cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups icing sugar, sifted (I don’t like my frosting too sweet, but you can add up to 4 cups if you prefer)
- 2–3 tbsp milk (add enough to keep the frosting smooth)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 160°C. Place a big roasting tin in the lower third of the oven (I have a small electric one, so I place it on the middle shelf). Place a kettle on the boil with at least 1L water.
- Grease the sides of an 8-inch springform tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Wrap a double layer of aluminium foil up and around the sides of the tin (to prevent the water bath seeping in).
- In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Beat in the sugar and salt until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add one egg at a time, blending after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla until smooth and combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Place the tin inside the roasting tin. Carefully pour hot water into the tin so that it fully surrounds the sides, about 1 inch high. Bake until the sides of the cheesecake are set and the centre is slightly jiggly (it will continue to cook in the tin whilst cooling).
- Remove the tin from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour. Once cooled, cover the tin with foil and place in the freezer to set completely for at least several hours.
- Preheat oven to 180°C . Grease the sides of one or two 8-inch loose-bottomed tins and line the bottoms with greaseproof paper.
- Whisk the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter on high speed until pale and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat on high until combined loosely, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add the oil and beat on high for 2 minutes (the mixture will not be smooth nor look fully combined; this is normal!).
- Separate the eggs, add the yolks to the mixture and set the whites aside for now. Add the vanilla and beat together until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the vinegar and food colouring (I prefer to use gel colouring rather than liquid since it has a stronger concentration and does not alter the consistency of the batter – I use slightly more than ½ tbsp).
- In three additions, alternate between the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry on low speed until just combined for each addition (do not overmix!). Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and carefully fold into the batter with a spatula (try not to knock too much air out of the mixture). The cake batter will still have some bits of butter remaining; this is normal and will make the cake even more buttery as it melts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tins (if you’re using one tin, measure out half the batter) and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top springs back to (gentle) touch. Overbaking will cause the cake to dry out, so keep a close eye on it.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.
- In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and combined fully. Add the icing sugar (in small additions) and milk, starting on low speed until combined (add icing sugar to taste; I give an estimate of what I usually add since I like to keep a bit of that lovely cream-cheesy flavour).
- Add the vanilla and salt (to cut the sweetness) and beat on high. If the mixture is too stiff, add 1 tbsp milk. Keep covered until the cakes have cooled and are ready to use.
- Level and cut the caramelisation off the edges of your cakes using a serrated knife so that they are the same height as the cheesecake layer (mine are normally about 2 inches high). Save your cake cut-offs – we will use these for the crumble design on top!
- On a serving plate, spread a small dab of frosting (so that your cake will not slip whilst decorating) and layer your cakes on top of each other: cake, cheesecake, cake. Place the bottom cake and cheesecake layers the right way up, then flip the top cake layer to have a level top.
- Apply a thin coating of frosting around the sides and top of the cake – aka the ”crumb coat“ – to lock in all the crumbs (this does not have to be perfectly smooth). Chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes, or until the frosting is set to the touch.
- Once chilled, apply a thicker coating of frosting on the sides and top of the cake using a cake scraper, spatula, knife or whatever you have on hand. Don’t be too fussed if the icing isn’t perfectly smooth or level – the taste will make up for it! Crumble up your cake cut-offs (excluding the caramelised bits) and apply on the top edges of the cake.
- Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Once the cake is cut, cover with cling film or keep in an airtight container in the fridge; this cake keeps well for a week or so.
I hope you will reap the delicious results of this recipe – check out the GIF of my cake below. It was so good my dad asked me to recreate it for his birthday just a week after. Happy baking!
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