A boutique cake is a term I use to describe the classic sponge cake and frosting layered cakes ubiquitous across the U.S. in bakeries and grocery stores. It’s the cake nearly every American has for nearly every birthday of their lives. Having a set of base recipes to make the classic version is a must for any respectable baker. Early in the life of DFK I shared my devil’s food boutique cake and today I’m giving you my red velvet cake!
You know I always shoot you straight, and today is no exception. I don’t get the hype around red velvet cake. It’s not that I don’t like it as a cake, and give me cream cheese frosting any day, it’s just that I don’t understand people liking red velvet cake specifically. When you look at the recipe, there isn’t a hell of a lot differentiating it from a standard vanilla sponge other than the red color and a smudge of cocoa powder barely detectable by the greatest of palettes when smothered in sugary cream cheese. Now I’ve never been star struck by any red velvet I’ve ever had but we don’t just bake for ourselves, we bake for the people we love right? Well, the people we love, love red velvet and that means we should know how to make one.
There isn’t much to a basic sponge cake. Make sure your ingredients are room temperature to allow the butter to distribute evenly and emulsify well. Always take the extra time to thoroughly scrape the bowl through the process. Pull your cake out of the oven just before it’s done so that carry over-heat will continue to cook and finish the cake while it cools, making sure it stays moist. That’s pretty much it!
In terms of coloring your cake red, I’ve left the recipe quantity as needed. There are too many options out there of too many various intensities for me to put any measurement I’d feel good about. You’ll just have to measure and add color to your liking and note it in your recipe! I use powdered food color, which is professional strength and very intense. I’d recommend gel colors that are also professional grade and easy to find. If you’d rather use the grocery store variety have at it, but the quantity will almost certainly be different.
red velvet cake
340g cake flour
50g cocoa powder
5g baking soda
220g whole eggs
250g sour cream
135g whole milk
12g vanilla extract
AN red gel color
Bring your butter, whole eggs, sour cream and whole milk to room temp. before getting started.
Combine and sift the cake flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and reserve to use later.
Combine and cream the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Let the mixture mix for 5min. on medium speed.
Combine the whole eggs, sour cream, whole milk and food coloring.
Add the sifted dry ingredients and combined wet ingredients in three additions, scraping the bowl with each addition. Mix just until combined.
Add the batter to your cake pans.
Bake at 330F/165C for 10min. then rotate the pan and bake 8min. or until finished.
cream cheese frosting
550g cream cheese
330g butter unsalted
20g vanilla extract
1100g powdered sugar
40g lemon juice
Bring the cream cheese and butter to room temp. before getting started.
Mix the cream cheese in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to smooth it out.
Cut the cooled sponge, removing the domed top and cutting the remaining sponge into even layers.
Pipe a ring of frosting around the outer edge of the sponge with a round piping tip. I use a 12-14mm.
Add your frosting to the layer. To be consistent I either scale the frosting or use an ice cream scoop for fairly accurate measuring. Spread the frosting out to the piped edge using an offset spatula.
Place the next layer of sponge onto the frosting, pressing gently and evenly to adhere.
Repeat the process to create four layers of sponge with three layers of frosting. Cover the cake in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out and place it in the freezer for 5-10min. to allow the frosting to firm up.
Add a thin layer of frosting around the cake to create a crumb coat. I start with a large amount of frosting on top that I spread thin with an offset spatula allowing the frosting to work over the edges of the cake. Use the offset to spread the frosting around the side of the cake, then use a bench scraper to smooth the sides. Back to the offset spatula, carefully strike the edges clean, working from the outer edge of the cake toward the center. Place it back in the freezer, without plastic wrap, for 10-15min.
Add a second, thicker layer of frosting for a finishing coat and then add whatever decoration your heart may desire. Generally I keep things pretty minimal. I finished this sucker with graham cracker crumbs and I’m happy with my decisions.