Twelve Layer Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Let me just say off the bat that I’m fundamentally against red velvet cake. Yes, it’s because it’s just barely chocolate (a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder, typically, so as to not overwhelm the colour) and somewhere around a bottle’s worth of red food colouring. That’s what makes it red. Give me a big ol’ chocolate cake – taste over aesthetics – any day.

(By the way, I’ve tried it with beets – it does lend the palest of reddish hues, but once cooked the beets never have the same intensity of traditional red velvet cakes made with food colouring.)

But I appreciate that other people are enamoured with it, and that’s all that matters when you’re making a birthday cake for someone. And when a that someone tweets that he will be very disappointed if no one makes him a 15 tier red velvet cake (joking, yes), you make one, right? Right? Just for kicks?

I’ve always meant to make one of those cakes that look almost like a stack of crepes, with uber-thin layers – I think mostly I love the idea of the cake:frosting ratio. You don’t slice the cake layers crosswise in halves or thirds (too tricky and crumby); you spread small quantities of batter into baking pans and bake them for a short time, so you wind up with thin cake layers that are sturdier than you might think, almost like big cakey cookies. These didn’t crumble. I wouldn’t expect a mix to produce the same results.

So last night I got it in my head that it might be a good idea to attempt such a cake. If you are like me, you will attempt this in your stand mixer and make an enormous mess, simply due to the quantity of ingredients and their proximity to the rim of the bowl. If you’re like me you’ll give up at the end and stir by hand until everything looks like cake batter.


So we put on The Fantastic Mr Fox and then I made Mike pause it approximately every 12 minutes to rotate the thin cake layers in and out of the oven. I used three 9″ pans. It wasn’t a big deal, really-they cook quickly. Flip them out, wipe out the pan and spread in some more batter. Just make sure you have the counter space. I cooled them on racks and then kept them with a piece of parchment between each layer to frost the next day.

I used cream cheese frosting, but didn’t quite make enough – this is enough to spread a peanut butter thickness on each layer, but as you can see the sides are a little stripey – I didn’t anticipate the sides needing as much frosting as it did, on account of all the space between each layer. It sucked up a lot. Next time I’d make half again as much icing, or double it, even. Yes, that’s a lot of icing – but I think next time (next time??) I’d prefer the frosting a little thicker between layers. They stripey effect would be more dramatic when you cut into it. But I did kind of like the stripey effect on the outside, even though it was unintentional.

Happy birthday Dan!

12 layer red velvet cut
12 layer red velvet cut

Twelve Layer Red Velvet Cake

Recipe link

  

September 4, 2011

  • Makes: Serves lots - people will take thin pieces because it's so high.

Ingredients

Cake

1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups sugar

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups milk

2 Tbsp red food colouring

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

Frosting

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1 8 oz (250 mL) pkg cream cheese, at room temperature

1 bag icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2-3 Tbsp water

Directions

1Preheat the oven to 350F. To make the cake, beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a large bowl - if possible in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle blade - on high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, scraping down the bowl as you need to.

2In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk, milk and red food colouring. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. On low speed, add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. You'll have to scrape down the bowl a lot, and I covered the top of the mixer with a tea towel to prevent ingredient spray all over the kitchen walls.

3Spray three 8" or 9" round cake pans with nonstick spray, and spread between 3/4 and 1 cup of batter evenly over the bottom of each. Bake for about 12 minutes, until springy to the touch and the sides are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.

4Let them cook for a minute or two before inverting the cakes out onto your hand and then onto a wire rack to cool. Wipe out the pans with paper towels, re-spray and repeat. I got 4 batches, for 12 layers.

5To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy and smooth; add about a third of the icing sugar, the vanilla and a splash of the water and beat until smooth. On low speed, add another third of the icing sugar, and then the rest, adding more water as you need it to achieve a soft, spreadable frosting. (Ensure it's not so soft as to squish out the sides of the layers, though.)

6Once the cake layers are completely cooled, start stacking them, frosting in between. I used not quite as much frosting as I would between traditional cake layers - go for peanut butter thickness to the thickness of the cakes themselves. Once you stack them all, frost the outside of the cake. Voila!

Makes: Serves lots - people will take thin pieces because it's so high.
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20 comments on “Twelve Layer Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Cheryl
    September 4, 2011 at 9:18 am

    You are so awesome.

  2. Erin
    September 4, 2011 at 9:58 am

    You do know that the original Red Velvet Cakes have absolutely NO red food dye at all?
    And the fact that you say it’s “barely got any chocolate at all” is completely false if you use an original recipe.
    They used lots of cocoa as it was the cocoa having a reaction with the buttermilk (vinegar acid). You need to use a non dutched processed cocoa, as it was the dutch processing that has over time stopped the cocoa from turning red when mixed with buttermilk.

    Sure it won’t be as deep a red as you’d get with dye, but do you really ever want to use that much red dye? (You can use beets in conjunction with the non dutched cocoa to get a deeper red.)

  3. Vivian
    September 4, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Have twice tried to leave a comment and Apache chewed it and sent it into cyberspace! All gone, but will try again as others seem to have gotten through.

  4. Vivian
    September 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Okay,here goes…hope the “Dan” got his cake (kinda like “The Donald”?) I have an aversion to neon coloured foods myself. Surely some other combo of veg and fruit could accomplish the same shade…and if not then nothing wrong with chocolate!! (I keep thinking back to the horrors of “Red Dye No. 2”!!)

    On another topic, if I may…it is fall and many of us have an abundance of ripening apples on trees…what to do with them!? I made apple fritters yesterday…used 4 (of the hundreds ready)! Am dehydrating lots more…how to make a decent apple pie from them and also any suggestions for other yummy recipes that could be frozen would be appreciated. Thanks Julie!

  5. Fiona
    September 4, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I had a gorgeous piece of red velvet cake at the Prince of Wales hotel a couple of weeks ago – with cream cheese frosting and those thin layers just like you made. I almost didn’t order it because of the thought of eating a bunch of red food coloring, but it was delicious. Maybe they made it the real way?

  6. Erica B.
    September 4, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I agree with Cheryl; you are awesome!

    I have to try this–maybe a lemon layer cake for T’s next birthday.

  7. Jan @ Family Bites
    September 4, 2011 at 11:45 am

    You really are the very best!

  8. Fareen
    September 4, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Cheryl’s right, you are awesome. Cake looks amazing!

  9. CathyH
    September 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Vivian ~ I made an awesome Apple Pie Jam, if you are into jam making.

  10. vanillasugarblog
    September 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    ahhhmazing.
    that takes mad skills.
    i am so certain dan loved this. LOL right?

  11. Gemma
    September 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Like Vivian, I would love to find out how to make apple pies or other yummy apple treats from dehydrated apples.

    The cake is amazing, Julie. How did you store and transport such a tall cake?

  12. Emily
    September 4, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Sometimes food colouring is just so fun! I also decided to bust out the food colouring for my friend’s bday. I had wanted to bake a rainbow cake for a long time and after seeing the one you posted a while back I gave it a try. I was really pleased with my final product (pictures are here: http://www.you-me-and-emily.blogspot.com/ ), but I’m wondering how you got the layers for your red velvet cake so flat — it doesn’t look like you trimmed them at all. Perhaps it’s just that the layers you baked were so thin?

  13. Devina
    September 5, 2011 at 12:47 am

    This looks so yummy! Do you have a picture of what a cut piece of this cake looked like? Just curious . . .

    • JulieVR
      September 5, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Yes! sorry, didn’t realize I never uploaded it. not a great shot (late at night at a dark party!) but you get the idea! It’s there now!

  14. Melissa W
    September 6, 2011 at 8:16 am

    THIS IS AWESOME.
    That is all.

  15. Anita
    September 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    That is one GORGEOUS cake! I agree though, with the red velvet thing – I’ve never eaten a bit of any red velvet things because I’m afraid of all that colouring. But beets! What a great idea!
    Here’s a fun birthday cake story: My mom, when she turned 16, asked for a 16-layer Vinarterta cake. My grandma (who is Icelandic, like the traditional cardamom-prune cake) actually made it. I have been threatening my mom for years that I’ll ask her to make me a Vinarterta…I turn 38 next year so maybe that’s the year. Haha!

  16. Dan
    September 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Julie, that cake was too amazing and too thoughtful. You have got to be one of the most genuinely nicest people I have ever met in my life. :)

    Now I have to return the favour! When’s your Bday? 😉

    Xo

    • JulieVR
      September 7, 2011 at 11:52 pm

      Aw, right back atcha! Not telling when my birthday is though.. maybe I’ll send out a mystery tweet cake request… 😉

  17. Willa
    September 8, 2011 at 9:21 am

    The cake looks amazing!

    I’m against red velvet cakes too…but mainly because the first wedding cake I did the couple wanted red velvet covered in white buttercream. I was not very seasoned at decorating cakes and I thought those awful red crumbs would be the end of me! Somehow I figured it out, and thanks to that order I now have become quite good at frosting cakes! :)

  18. Dana
    September 11, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    What a lucky guy, that’s a phenomenal birthday cake! The candles are too cute!

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