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What icing suits a red velvet cake?

Red velvet cake with buttercream icing

Red velvet cake with buttercream icing

I’d want to know who was baking one day and thought, “I know what will perfect this recipe, a large quantity of red food coloring!”

Such a strange missing ingredient, yet it transforms a simple chocolate cake into something rather delicious.

To be quite honest, I’d never hopped on the red-velvet bandwagon.

I’ve tried a few cupcakes over the years but have never been persuaded of their excellence.

I retract my statement. Take one bite of red velvet cake with buttercream icing and you’ll be transported straight into a happy place.

Red velvet cake traditionally includes cream cheese icing, but substituting it with American-style buttercream ‘frosting’ elevates it to a whole new level.

The silky and creamy frosting cuts through the richness of the ruby-red cake, and the soft crumb yields as you bite.

You’re much stronger-willed than me if you can avoid going back for seconds.

Making the batter

The procedure is a little different from your standard cake recipe.

Actually in the magazine, these are called brownies but I don’t see one part of them that even remotely resembles a brownie (or is that cake in America?) As a result, I dubbed it cake.

Begin by melting the butter in a small saucepan, then add the water and cocoa and whisk until smooth.

Turn off the heat in the pot. Put the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and then pour the chocolatey mixture over the top.

To begin, mix on low (not LOW if you don’t want chocolate from one end of the kitchen to the other), then raise to high and beat until everything is well combined.

Add the red food coloring, egg, buttermilk (or soured milk, as I did), and vanilla extract, then start on medium speed and gradually raise to high to thoroughly combine everything.

At this point, the batter is quite runny. I actually didn’t think there was even a slither of hope that it would bake into something resembling a cake but I kept on going.

Scrape the batter into a prepared baking dish. It’s best not to use a spring-form tin or it might drip all over your oven.

Once you’ve licked the bowl, pop the tin into the oven at 160C for 25-30 minute or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let it to cool entirely in the tin once done.

Making the buttercream icing

I’d always assumed that buttercream was just butter beaten with icing sugar and a little milk or water to smooth it out, so I wasn’t sure what the big deal was about shipping cupcakes frosted with it across New York in the summer.

The real American buttercream is nothing what I expected. It’s light and fluffy and not too sweet and there’s not a bit of icing sugar in it.

The downside to the buttery goodness is that it’s very temperamental and easily splits resulting in a melted, ugly mess. I believe it is better to serve dishes with buttercream frosting right soon.

In a small saucepan, boil the sugar, milk, flour, and salt, stirring continually, until it begins to bubble and thicken.

That will most likely take roughly 5 minutes. Once it starts to thicken, reduce the temperature and whisk it for one more minute then take it off the heat and add the vanilla. Let it to cool to room temperature.

Icing the cake

Don’t be tempted to go to the following step before it has completely cooled, or your frosting will be unappealing.

Once it is cool transfer the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer then a little at a time, add the softened butter, beating until the icing is thick and smooth. It may begin to curdle little, but keep pounding; it will level out gradually.

After the frosting is complete, put it on the cake and invite your guests around. You don’t want to be alone with this after you’ve developed a taste for it, believe me. I assume it’s how vampires feel after savoring a drop of blood.

It seems to have a lot of frosting for such a little slice of cake, but trust me, it’s exactly perfect.

Since it’s red and white, it’s ideal for your Christmas dessert table (gosh, am I the only one who has an entire table devoted to dessert?).


  • CAKE
  • 1 cup water
  • 250g butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 cup of buttermilk (or use milk soured with a little lemon juice)
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring
  • 1 ½ cups caster sugar
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 375g butter, softened


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C fan-forced and grease and line a 30x20cm baking tin. Make sure the paper extends over the sides.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the water and cocoa and cook until nearly boiling, stirring continuously.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low until barely blended, then on high until everything is completely combined.
  5. Add the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and red food coloring and beat on low until combined, then increase to high for one minute.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan (it will be very runny).
  7. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Leave it to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
  9. Meanwhile make the buttercream icing.
  10. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, flour, and salt and heat, whisking frequently, over medium heat until the mixture thickens and begins to boil.
  11. Lower the heat to low and continue whisking for a minute.
  12. Take the saucepan from the heat, whisk in the vanilla, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  13. Fill the bowl of an electric mixer halfway with the cooled mixture.
  14. Begin beating the mixture on medium speed, then add the butter one tablespoon at a time.
  15. Continue beating until the mixture is thick and smooth (it may look curdled but keep beating and it will come together).
  16. Spread the cooled cake with buttercream icing.
  17. Serve immediately.

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Related Questions

  • What flavor goes best with red velvet?

    With its delicate chocolate flavor and gorgeous appearance, red velvet cake is immensely popular. The traditional is spiced up with cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg in this variant. These ingredients, when combined with the chocolate, provide a warm and hearty flavor to an already delicious dessert.

  • What goes well with velvet red?

    7 Color Pairings That Make Red Look Incredible

    1. MUSTARD YELLOW. Perhaps the most surprising of pairings, mustard yellow and red are two warm hues that look very cool together.
    2. PINK. Pink and red is a fashion-girl favorite.
    3. SILVER. When it comes to metallics, silver trumps them all.
    4. CAMEL.
    5. BLUE.
    6. ARMY GREEN.
    7. GRAY.
  • What flavors make up red velvet cake?

    Popular in the southern U.S., red velvet cake is a vanilla cake with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder and red food coloring mixed in. Vinegar and buttermilk give acid to the batter, imparting tanginess that balances off the traditional sweet cream cheese-butter icing.

  • What is the best ice cream to go with red velvet cake?

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    The cake’s characteristic color comes from unsweetened cocoa powder and red food coloring.