Red Wine Velvet Cake

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(Image is from Brave Tart)



  • 12 ounces all purpose flour
  • 2 ounces natural cocoa
  • 16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ounces safflower oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 18 ounces brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably freshly ground
  • scrapings from two vanilla bean pods
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 12 ounces red wine (Zinfandels work especially well)
  • 1 1/2 ounces vanilla extract
  • 1 batch German buttercream, using the cream cheese variation if you like (I do!)
  • red food coloring (for the icing)


  • Preheat oven to 350° and line three 8” by 2” cake pans with parchment rounds. Grease lightly.
  • Sift together the flour and cocoa, set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the butter, oil, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla bean seeds. Use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to cream the ingredients for 10 minutes on medium speed. Periodically, stop mixing to scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula.
  • Turn the mixer to medium low and add the eggs, one at a time. Continue mixing after each addition until the egg has fully incorporated before adding the next.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour/cocoa mixture alternately with the red wine in about three additions. Add the vanilla at the end. Shut off the mixer and give the batter a few turns with a rubber spatula to ensure a homogenous mix.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans (25 ounces each).
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The oil in the batter makes the cakes slightly more forgiving of over-baking, but try not to let it come to that. Bake until the cakes have puffed but will still retain a slight impression if touched gently with a fingertip. A toothpick inserted into the center should have a few moist crumbs still attached.
  • Cool the cakes on a wire rack. At first, they will have pronounced domes and a slightly gray-brown color, but as they cool the domes will settle down somewhat and the color will deepen. When they have cooled, run a knife around the sides of the pan and invert onto a parchment lined tray or cooling rack. Continue cooling until no trace of warmth remains.
  • Before frosting, use a serrated knife to level the cakes. If you have found this step difficult in the past, refrigerate the cakes for 30 minutes beforehand, making them easier to handle and cut.
  • Assemble the cake on a platter or cake stand, topping each layer with a generous amount of buttercream. Crumb coat by spreading a thin, smooth layer of buttercream over the tops and sides of the cake; this will prevent stray crumbs from flecking the finished layer. Check out my crumb coating tutorial here for more details. Refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for 30 minutes before applying the final coating of buttercream to the top and sides.

For an “ermine” finish

  • 5 ounces white chocolate, preferably in a block or bar
  • 1/2 ounce cocoa nibs
  • Use a Microplane or Parmesan grater to finely shave the white chocolate. Dust the top and sides of the cake with the shavings until completely coated. It’s easiest to use a folded piece of parchment paper as a “scoop” to distribute the white chocolate as the warmth of your hands will melt the chocolate.
  • Scatter the cocoa nibs over the cake in a haphazard manner to mimic ermine spots. You’ll really have to fling the nibs to make them stick, don’t be afraid to get a little messy.


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