This classic cake from the American south is a showstopper. The tender buttermilk cake base is lightly flavoured with cocoa and tinged a deep, flaming red. It’s traditionally iced with a sweet and vanilla cream cheese frosting. Buttermilk can be inconvenient to locate in the markets, so we’ve left it out and replaced it with simple instructions for making your own buttermilk substitute.
Recipe serves 12-16
Preparation time:1 hour
Cooking time:30 minutes
For the cake:
1 cup milk
4 teaspoons white vinegar
1½ cups fine grain sugar
85g unsalted butter, softened
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the cream cheese frosting:
500g cream cheese, softened
227g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
[Optional] Sugar or buttercream roses to garnish cake
1. For the buttermilk substitute, stir vinegar into milk and let it sit until thickened. This will take about 15 minutes.
2. Place oven rack in the middle spot and preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter two 20cm round cake pans and line the bottom with waxed paper.
3. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar with the butter and salt on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Mix in the eggs, food coloring, and vanilla until smooth.
5. Mix in the milk-vinegar mixture you made in step 1.
6. Sift the cake flour, cocoa and baking soda into the bowl and mix until smooth.
7. Divide the batter between the pans and bake until the cakes are just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs. This takes about 30 minutes.
8. Cool the cakes in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
9. For the frosting, use the cleaned mixer to whip all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy - this takes about 5 minutes.
10. To assemble the cake: place one cake on a serving plate and spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting over. Place the second cake (bottom of the cake facing up) on the top and use the remaining frosting to frost sides and top of cake. Use a pastry bag to pipe it if you like.
11. Decorate with buttercream or sugar roses.
In her former life in the United States, Yvonne Ruperti was a pastry chef, bakery owner, magazine writer, and cooking show co-host on America’s Test Kitchen TV. Now based in Singapore, she still writes for SeriousEats.com and maintains her own food blog. When not at work, she is busy concocting up recipes for a new cookbook.