Making a delicious dessert from scratch is easy with this mix-by-hand, one-bowl red velvet layer cake.
A moist crumb with the most gorgeous vibrant color, topped with a sweet cream cheese frosting – this is red velvet simplified and done right!
This cake obviously would be a perfect treat to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but really, I find red velvet extremely desirable any time of year. 🙂
One of my New Year’s “resolutions” (read.. vague goals) was to bake more layer cakes. I have always found layer cakes extremely stressful. On more than one occasion, the process has reduced me to tears. (Another perennial goal: effectively manage emotions.)
There are just so many single-point-of-failure moments, plus, I only dream of the gorgeous, Instagram-worthy frosting skills I see in the many (many) hours I spend browsing other cooking and baking blogs. But, I know that practice makes perfect, so I set out to practice more.
The only catch is, I don’t really have that much bandwidth for practicing with complex recipes right now. Working, mothering, walking the dog, running the blog, etc. etc. Tale as old as time, right? We all need more hours in the day. So SIMPLE layer cakes are my jam.
Thing is, I figure simple layer cakes might be your jam, too!
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Because layer cakes are inherently festive and impressive, and if you can produce one in just a few minutes without having to haul out the mixer or dirty a sink’s worth of dishes, well, why wouldn’t you?
Now, I know that some may look at this recipe and quibble that it’s not true red velvet, because it lacks a key ingredient that is almost universal in red velvet cakes – white vinegar.
I could tell you that I am a baking scientist who thoroughly researched the pros and cons and exhaustively tested a dozen cakes before concluding that you must include precisely 1.28 teaspoons of the stuff or your cake will be horribly sub-par. Unfortunately, all of that would be a lie.
What I CAN tell you is that this red velvet cake recipe is adapted from the hands-down best and easiest red velvet cupcakes I’ve ever made or eaten, from my tried and true beloved One-Bowl Baking by Yvonne Ruperti.
That recipe does not include vinegar, and I’m not one to fiddle with stunning success purely for the sake of it. Rather, I’m here to test and share recipes that will make your family and friends fall down at your feet. So, here we are.
As always, enjoy! ♥
One-Bowl Red Velvet Layer Cake
For the Cake:
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces, 170 grams) unsalted butter softened, plus extra for greasing the pans
- 2 cups (14 ounces, 400 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cup (320 milliliters) buttermilk at room temperature
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons red food coloring
- 2 2/3 cups (13.3 ounces, 380 grams) all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting the pans
- 4 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
For the Frosting:
- 10 ounces (285 grams) cream cheese chilled
- 6 1/2 tablespoons (93 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 1/4 cups (369 grams) powdered sugar
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Thoroughly coat the inside of two 8-inch round cake pans with softened butter, then dust lightly with flour, tapping to shake out the excess. Set cake pans aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the 3/4 cup butter, granulated sugar, and salt, mixing by hand until creamed together. Whisk in the oil, followed by the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and food coloring, whisking until mixture is smooth.
- Sprinkle the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda on top of the wet ingredients, then whisk gently just until combined.
- Divide batter evenly between the two pans, and bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs, and the sides just start to pull away from the edges of the pan. Allow cakes to cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
- To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using either a hand mixer or the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated, then add the vanilla, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat 2-3 minutes more. Frost cake as desired.
- Because of the cream cheese frosting, I personally like to store this cake in the fridge if it’s going to be kept overnight or sit out longer than 3-4 hours; it has the nicest texture if you can plan to leave it out at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before serving.
- I have not personally tried this recipe using 9-inch cake pans, but I suspect it would work alright, simply yielding thinner layers. If using 9-inch pans, I would recommend beginning to check the cakes for doneness around 18 minutes, as they will mostly cook significantly more quickly.
- Cake adapted from One-Bowl Baking by Yvonne Ruperti, which I know I have talked about too often, but it just really is that great of a cookbook; frosting adapted from The Brewer & The Baker, Everyday Annie
As a side note, I almost didn’t post this because I’m not sure the photos do the cake justice. But, I thought, well, people deserve the opportunity to have this cake in their lives right now, before I remake and rephotograph it. Especially as Valentine’s Day is coming up, and this really is the perfect fast, easy, yet impressive Valentine’s dessert.
And, on the off chance you’d like a visual on why I often stop taking photos before I’m wholly satisfied with the results:
Just look at that little hand outreached to grab the food, the camera, or – usually – both! Extra eager when he knows it’s a cake, naturally. Kid’s no dummy. But of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. ♥
Craving More Cake?
If you like this, you’ll LOVE this one-bowl chocolate cake with mocha buttercream frosting! A butter yellow cake with chocolate buttercream is a classic to me, champagne layer cake makes any occasion elegant, and for something a little more casual, when you just want cake right NOW, don’t miss this “everyday” chocolate snack cake. Pin it now, have cake when you want it!