Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Red Velvet Cake

If there's one thing I like baking more than anything, it's cake.

Cake is such an integral part of my family's food habits that it was one of my niece's first words. When I made my first foray in sourdough baking outside Amish Friendship Bread, it was the Sourdough Mocha Cake. Now I've made a coffee cake and a couple of mini sourdough chocolate cakes in the microwave.

One thing that has eluded me was Red Velvet Cake. Anyone who knows me well knows I can always make an exception to my attempt-to-eat-healthier habits for a taste of rich red chocolatey goodness with cream cheese frosting. It's been my birthday cake for as long as I can remember. It's made with buttermilk, so I figured I could make a sourdough version. My only attempt at it was using my grandmother's Red Waldorf Cake recipe, in my early days of sourdough baking. But while it tasted good, the texture wasn't red velvet, and with recipes catching my eye left and right, another attempt was on the back burner. Then SourdoughSurprises came out with the cake challenge for March – and I knew it was time.

Back when I made my first attempt, I looked up all the possible solutions for the coarser crumb problem. I came up with using cake flour instead, or baking it at a lower temperature for a longer time. Then I found this recipe, which in the accompanying post mentions the use of acid creating a too-coarse crumb. My grandmother's recipe used vinegar, so I decided for my next attempt I would use this recipe, as it was (only swapping out the buttermilk for the sourdough starter).

The recipe:
Sourdough Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from Veronica's Cornucopia

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (1 lb) box light brown sugar (about 2 ¼ cups)
3 tablespoons red food coloring
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 ¾ cups ripe sourdough starter

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 9” cake pans with baking spray and set aside. Sift flour with the cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, brown sugar, food coloring and vanilla together. Beat until well aerated and pale. Alternately add dry ingredients and sourdough starter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing until combined after each addition.
  3. Scoop into prepared cake pans and spread as evenly as possible. Bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

The first thing I noticed was just how high these babies rose:

I keep meaning to get into cake decorating – it's a natural progression for a cake baker – but slightly pressed for time, I opted for packaged cream cheese frosting and the more traditional crumb decoration. I didn't have quite enough frosting to finish the sides and at least swipe my decorator come. Plus, they baked up so high that I had way, way too many crumbs after trimming to use them as a cake to top them with. (I ended up making a kind of “cake pop pudding” with them, mixing them with vanilla yogurt. It was quite yummy that way).

As soon as I cut into the cake, I didn't even have to taste it. I knew I had it. It was slightly overbaked, but the texture was fine and velvety. And it still had that familiar red velvet flavor.

It eluded me for a long time. Now I not only have my red velvet cake, but a homemade sourdough version. It's probably my proudest baking success yet.

Now if I can just work on my decorating skills...

Check out our other awesome cakes!


  1. Oh, wow! That looks absolutely wonderful!!!

  2. I like that cake pop pudding idea. But I wish I had some of that cake now!

  3. What do you use for the crumb topping? I've never had Red Velvet Cake but now I need to try it.

    1. It's just the leftover crumbs from cutting the tops off the cake. And yes, you need to try it - it's a Southern US specialty that's to die for :-).

  4. Love the idea of the crumb topping, great color! Thanks for sharing all the great tips. I must admit I've never been a fan of Red Velvet but this recipe has me way interested!

  5. Yay! I can make red velvet with my sourdough starter!! So exciting. :)

    This cake looks wonderful, and I'm so glad to meet you through Sourdough Surprises!

  6. It was exciting for me too! Nice to meet you as well :-)

  7. Stopping by from Sourdough Surprises~ Wow! Can you believe all the wonderful cakes:) Your cake looks fantastic and yummy~ I never thought to make a red velvet cake! Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

  8. What a great idea - red velvet sourdough cake looks gorgeous and sounds delicious! Excellent adaptation of the recipe for this month's challenge. Really well done!

  9. And now I am adding red velvet sourdough to my list of cakes to make. The list is growing longer and longer as I hop from blog to blog.

  10. this is so fun to see all the reinterpretations of classic cakes in sourdough key. well done on the challenge and nice to meet you! Barbara

  11. Red velvet with cream cheese icing...yum!

    It's so nice to have success with something that didn't work out right before.

    1. It's all about learning. And I enjoy learning. Thank you :-)

  12. Fantastic job making a red velvet cake!! It looks amazing, and I can tell from the crumbs that you got good texture! Awesome job! (And I took one of those fancy cake decorating classes, and still never decorate my cakes, haha!)

  13. Beautiful! That's very interesting about using an acid to make the crumb finer.

  14. Thank you - well, it's about using less acid (no vinegar) but it made the cake perfect :-)