I am not a fan of red velvet cake. Let’s face it – red velvet cake is nothing more than chocolate cake with red food coloring. Nothing more to it than that. While a rich chocolate cake happens to be my favorite cake – dressing it up with food coloring and pretending it’s something else entirely doesn’t make much sense to me. But – as I learned with my carrot cake post, I shouldn’t assume everyone has the same taste as me when it comes to cakes. I learned from that post that lots of people don’t like (gasp!) carrot cake.
With all this in mind – this recipe claims to be from the original, famous Waldorf=Astoria hotel in New York City. And it is one of the best – if not THE best cake I’ve ever made. Hands down. No lie.
I will admit, I was skeptical over using beets in a cake recipe. But – this is amazing. Super moist, super flavorful. Well worth the effort. Did I mention ‘amazing’ already?
I also did a search for ‘Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake’ online – and of course there are multiple versions of this recipe. This particular recipe was passed along from a very good friend – after some research on snopes.com, the authenticity of this being the original Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet cake can’t be determined.
But what is fun to know about this is that during wartime when foods were rationed, lots of bakers used boiled beets to add color to their cakes. And the reddish-brown color of the cake was originally from a reaction of the cocoa powder with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk. And not to get all Alton Brown on you, but today’s cocoa is more alkaline, so the red tinting is not as pronounced without food coloring. So there’s a little bit of science and food history for ya.
Regardless of the cake’s origin, as I’ve already mentioned – this particular recipe is freakin’ delicious. I will also say that, in spite of the beets and the red food coloring I used, the chocolatey color won out after baking and it was only slightly dark red at best. In fact, it’s more like a blushing chocolate cake, really. I’ll probably make it again and just forego the food coloring altogether, and it will be the best chocolate cake EVER. Here’s how I put all this together —
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave (I got distracted with this step and forgot to get pics. Chocolate is so transfixing, I guess.). Once the chocolate is melted, set aside to keep warm. Mix the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients consisting of flour, baking soda and salt.
Once the dry ingredients are sifted, add to the egg and sugar mixture.
Once everything is well incorporated, add in the melted chocolate and continue to mix well. Then add the pureed beets and food coloring. Continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined.
Once everything is thoroughly mixed, pour the batter into three 9-inch pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. Evenly divide the batter between the 3 pans and bake in the center of the oven (or as close to the center as you can get) for 20-25 mins or until the toothpick test comes out clean.
You’ll want to let the layers cool completely before assembling and frosting. To assemble the cake, trim the top of each cake layer with a serrated knife so that they’re all flat. You want the layers to rest even and level on top of each other.
While the cake is cooling, it’s time to make the icing – I didn’t take any pics of this process, but you can find the ingredients and directions below. It really is some of the best icing I’ve ever made – using heavy cream and cream cheese and marscapone cheese?? Shut. Your. Face.
So once the cake layers are completely cooled and you’ve trimmed the excess so they’ll sit level on top of each other, it’s time to bring all this together and frost the cake. Place the first layer on whatever you’ll be serving it and top with a layer of icing. Repeat until each layer is covered with icing, then ice the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I also kept the remaining cake in the fridge until it was all gone – made sense to me with the cream and cheeses in the icing. Prepare yourself for quite possibly the best cake you’ve ever made. Since this cake has a red(dish) color, this is always festive around a holiday where red is prominent – like Christmas or St. Valentines Day. Of course, true Red Velvet Heads will tell you this cake can be enjoyed any time of year. And with this recipe, I happen to agree!
Ingredients – Cake
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ pounds canned beets, drained and pureed
- 1 teaspoon red food color
Ingredients – Icing
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 12 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
Directions – Cake
Preheat oven to 350. Butter or grease three 9 – inch round cake pans and line them parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water or a double boiler (or just melt in a microwave for 20 to 25 seconds). Meanwhile, mix the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the egg mixture and continue to mix until everything is well incorporated. Add the melted chocolate to this mixture and continue to mix well. Add the pureed beets and food coloring. Continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined.
Evenly divide the batter between the 3 prepared pans and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when touched, or the toothpick test comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and cool completely. Let cool for 10 minutes in pans, then turn the layers out let cool completely.
Directions – Icing
Pour the cream into a small bowl and whip to soft peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator. Place the cream cheese in the bowl and mix until it is soft and smooth. Add the mascarpone and continue to mix until the cheeses are well combined. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and mix until everything is just combined. Fold in the whipped cream by hand with a spatula. Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble the cake.
To assemble the cake, trim the top of each cake layer with a serrated knife so that they’re all flat. You want the layers to rest even and level on top of each other. Place the first layer on whatever you’ll be serving it on and top with a layer of icing. Repeat until each layer is covered with icing, then ice the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.