Red velvet cake can often be thought of as a compromise between chocolate and vanilla cake, but it has its own characteristic flavor thanks to an extra zing from buttermilk and vinegar. As the name implies, red velvet cake is dyed a beautiful barn red color and has a smooth, soft texture like velvet.
Red velvet cake has historically been covered in ermine frosting, but tangy cream cheese frosting is the new favorite. This recipe takes that one step further by adding a layer of luscious cheesecake in between the two layers of red velvet cake, and it’s still covered with your favorite rich cream cheese frosting.
Sure, there are a few different components involved in making this baking project, but the outcome is an indulgent, striking dessert that’ll be the talk of the party. There are even a few strategies for making this cake ahead of time and spreading out the baking to work for your schedule.
How to Make Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake
To make this cake, start by preparing the cheesecake layer. While the cheesecake chills and sets, you can work on the classic red velvet cake layers. Once the cake has cooled, whip together the cream cheese frosting and assemble the cake. A red velvet cake layer forms the base, followed by the cheesecake layer, then topped with the remaining red velvet cake layer. The whole cake is then frosted with cream cheese frosting.
What's the Best Type of Cream Cheese to Use?
For both the cheesecake layer and the cream cheese frosting, softened blocks of full-fat cream cheese are best. Don't use low-fat cream cheese or the cream cheese that comes in a tub. These types have a higher moisture content than the bricks, which will affect the texture of the cheesecake and make a runny cream cheese frosting.
Tips for a Smooth and Creamy Cheesecake Layer
Cheesecakes seem to have a reputation for being difficult and cracking easily. But this cheesecake layer is lush and comes together quickly, especially if you follow these tips.
- When making the cheesecake layer, mix on medium-low speed. If you whip the batter on too high of a speed, too much air will incorporate into the batter. The air will expand as the cake bakes and deflate as it cools, increasing the chances of the cheesecake cracking.
- Many cheesecakes are baked in water baths for slow, even cooking. Because this cheesecake layer is thinner than most full-sized cheesecake recipes and bakes for a shorter amount of time, it does not need a water bath.
- The cake is done when the edges of the cake have pulled ever-so-slightly from the sides of the pan. The middle two inches of the cake will still wiggle when you give the pan a gentle nudge. The cake shouldn’t crack, but if you do see any cracks at all, it is cooked through and ready to come out of the oven. Luckily, cracks would be hidden by the red velvet cake anyway.
How to Dye Red Velvet Cake
Gel food coloring tends to have the best color and incorporates smoothly into the batter. The gels available in most grocery stores, such as Betty Crocker Gel Food Color, work well for this kind of cake batter. Liquid food coloring is not as concentrated, so if using, increase the amount to two tablespoons. If you're using professional-grade gel, add the coloring a drop at a time and test the color.
How to Frost a Layer Cake
You can use the straight edge of a large butter knife, a spoon, or even a large rubber spatula to frost a cake, but if you make cakes often, the best tool for the job is a large offset spatula. It gives you the most control, and the flat spatula is apt for spreading while the long edges are excellent at shaping smooth, straight sides.
Frosting this cake is a two-step process: First, a thin layer of frosting called the crumb coat is added, followed by the final layer of frosting. A crumb coat seals the cake and traps any loose crumbs, so the final layer of frosting doesn't have any red specks of crumbs in the white frosting. Then the whole cake chills in the fridge so the crumb coat can set.
After the crumb coat, it’s time for the final, thicker layer of frosting. Start by frosting the top of the cake. Slowly spin the cake stand with one hand while holding the offset spatula in the other hand, smoothing, and leveling the frosting. Some of the frosting will hang over the sides of the cake. Spread frosting along the sides of the cake, again using one hand to spin the cake stand and the other to hold the offset spatula upright, gently against the side of the cake.
You can use the offset spatula or the back of a spoon to decorate the cake with a swirl, swoops, or waves. If you have any cake scraps from trimming the layers, you can sprinkle the cake with crumbs, or use sprinkles, chocolate chips, or colored sanding sugar. This is also a convenient opportunity to decorate away any obvious mistakes and make them look intentional.
How to Make this Cake Ahead of Time
The frosted cake will keep in the refrigerator for several days. If you’re looking for ways to work ahead, many of the components can be made ahead of time and assembled the day of serving.
- You can make the cheesecake layer the day before. Cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to assemble the cake.
- The red velvet cake layers can also be made the day before. Wrap the layers in plastic wrap and store them at room temperature. Or you can freeze the red velvet layers for longer storage, up to 3 months.
- The cream cheese frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Take the frosting out of the refrigerator about 10 minutes before you plan to frost the cake. Stir the frosting for a few seconds on low speed or with a rubber spatula before using.
Store the cake, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If it’s already been sliced into, I like to fit a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on the exposed cake layers, so they don’t dry out.
Leftover slices can be frozen for up to a month.
More Baked Good Recipes to Try
Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake
The recipe is written for 8-inch springform and 8-inch round cake pans. You may substitute 9-inch pans. Check for doneness 5 minutes earlier than the stated times.
For the cheesecake layer
2 (8-ounce) packages full-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the red velvet cake layers
2 2/3 cups (320g) cake flour
3 tablespoons (16g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, room temperature
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon red gel food coloring
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (180ml) vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
For the cream cheese frosting
2 (8-ounce) packages full-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups (284g) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 (8-inch) round cake pans
- 1 (8-inch) round springform pan
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Prepare the pans:
Grease an 8-inch springform pan and two 8-inch round cake pans with butter. Line the pans with parchment paper and grease the parchment. Dust the bottom and sides of the pans with flour and tap out the excess.
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour for the cheesecake layer:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour on medium-low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Beating on medium-low speed prevents too much air from being incorporated into the batter, which can cause cracks during baking.
Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla:
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well on medium-low speed after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until combined.
Bake the cheesecake:
Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared springform pan and bake until set and only slightly jiggly in the middle 2 inches of the cake, 25 to 28 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
Chill the cheesecake in the fridge:
Transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator to allow it to chill while preparing the red velvet cake layers.
Combine the dry ingredients for the red velvet cake:
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. If you don’t have a sifter, you may whisk the ingredients together instead. Cake flour and cocoa powder tend to clump, however, so sifting is advised.
Measure the wet ingredients:
Measure the buttermilk in a liquid measuring cup. Add the vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring and whisk to combine.
Beat the butter, oil, and sugar and add the eggs:
In the cleaned bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, vegetable oil, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. The mixture will have doubled or nearly tripled in volume.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully combined after each addition. Scrape down the bottoms and sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Combine the wet and the dry:
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Pour in 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture and mix just until combined. Continue alternating the dry and wet ingredients, making sure to end with the dry ingredients and mixing until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl in between additions to ensure the batter mixes evenly.
Bake the red velvet cake layers:
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30 to 32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake will have deepened in color to brick red, the edges of the cake will have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the cake should spring back when gently poked with your finger.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before assembling and frosting, at least 1 hour.
Beat the cream cheese and butter for the cream cheese frosting:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Add the powdered sugar and vanilla:
Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. The frosting will be much thicker than standard buttercream frosting.
If the frosting seems too soft, place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to stiffen. If it still seems too runny, add more powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.
Trim the red velvet cake layers:
Depending on your cake pans, the red velvet cake layers may have domed while baking. If so, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes. Optionally, you can save the trimmings to make crumbs to sprinkle on the cake.
Assemble the cake:
Place one of the red velvet cake layers on a large plate or a cardboard cake round at least 2 inches larger than the cake. Place the cheesecake layer on top of the red velvet cake layer, ensuring it’s centered. Top with the remaining red velvet cake layer. Check that the cake layers are aligned and that the top of the cake is level. Gently adjust accordingly.
Apply the crumb coat:
Spread a generous amount of frosting over the top and sides of the cake using an offset spatula or the straight edge of a large butter knife. Use the spatula to spread the frosting into a thin, even layer. You should be able to see the cake through the frosting.
This thin layer of frosting is called the crumb coat and helps catch any loose crumbs on the outside of the cake so that the final layer of frosting doesn't have any bright red crumbs caught in it.
Refrigerate the cake:
Place the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for the frosting to set. Cover and refrigerate the bowl of frosting as well.
Frost the cake:
Remove the cake and the bowl of frosting from the refrigerator. Stir the frosting a few times until smooth.
Spread a generous amount of frosting over the top and sides of the cake as before, this time leaving a thicker layer of frosting. Use the offset spatula or the back of a butter knife to smooth the sides.
If you have any cake trimmings, you can break them into crumbs and sprinkle them along the circumference of the top of the cake if desired.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 12 to 16|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 44g||56%|
|Saturated Fat 20g||101%|
|Total Carbohydrate 64g||23%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||2%|
|Total Sugars 46g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|