Valentine's Day

Heritage Red Velvet Cake Recipe

This cake gets its heart shape from a hand-drawn template and serrated knife — no specialty pans required here.

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Ingredients

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

For the cream cheese frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Directions

For the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour 2 or 3 round 9-inch cake pans.
2. Sift flour and salt together. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy.
4. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well after each addition.
5. Add flour mixture to the bowl alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Blend in vanilla.
6. In a small bowl, mix the red food coloring and cocoa powder until a paste forms (Image 1, 2). Add to the sugar and butter mixture. Mix well.
7. In a small bowl or condiment cup, stir together baking soda and cider vinegar. This will foam and should be put into the batter immediately after well mixed.
8. After adding the foam mixture, blend on medium-high speed until batter is consistent.
9. Spoon batter evenly into pans; batter will be very thick. Level top of batter with an offset spatula.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cake springs back when pressed in the center.
11. Turn out on wire racks and cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting:
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth.
2. With the mixer on low, gradually pour in the confectioners' sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy.
3. If mixture is too thick, add a little milk to loosen it. If it's too thin, add additional powdered sugar or put in the refrigerator to firm up.

Cake Assembly

1. Trace the bottom of a cake pan on wax paper and cut out the 9-inch circle.
2. Fold it in half and cut into a heart shape.
3. Lay the paper heart on the cake and trim it down if it doesn't comfortably fit inside the cake's circumference (Image 1).
4. Red velvet cake is dense, so it carves easily with a serrated knife (Image 2). To make the crumb coating, crumble the cake scraps with your fingers (Image 3). Discard any crusty, hard or discolored crumbs. You only want the best and softest crumbs for coating (Image 4).
5. Frost, fill and stack cake layers evenly (Image 5). Note: When coating the cake with crumbs, be sure to put the crumbs on when the icing is fresh and still sticky.
6. Place the frosted cake on a serving platter lined with wax paper strips.
7. Crumb the top of the cake first, then hold the cake — serving platter and all — over the sink and press the crumbs into the sides of the cake. This will be messy, but most of the excess crumbs will fall to the sides of the cake, and a few will fall in the sink.
8. When you remove the wax paper strips, most of the excess crumbs will stay on the paper. From there you can do a little cleanup around the edges with a damp paper towel.

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