two tiers of red velvet cake filled and covered with cream cheese frosting adorned with a winter bouquet of red and green florals
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Red Velvet Cake

This is the ultimate red velvet cake slathered with a cream cheese frosting and adorned with a floral crown of winter blooms. This festive red cake is so good that it stops traffic.

two tiers of red velvet cake filled and covered with cream cheese frosting adorned with a winter bouquet of red and green florals

Inspiration

I was inspired to create this recipe by my mother, who was a talented cake decorator. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have access to daycare or paid time off, so I would often join them on their 10-hour shifts at work. I would have breakfast in the commercial kitchen where my mom would try to get me to drink milk by offering me trimmings of the cakes she was decorating. Although I have not yet mastered the art of making flawless buttercream roses like my mom used to, I am using real flowers to garnish my cakes.

Why This Works

Garnishing a cake with fresh flowers is an effective way to decorate making it a perfect recipe for beginners. Piping skills or cake decorating experience are not necessary to make this recipe. If you want to make it even easier, you can use a store-bought cake as the base.

Special Ingredients

  • an assortment of at least six varieties of non-toxic and fresh flowers
  • instant espresso powder

Tips

Can I decorate food with flowers?

It’s important to do your research when choosing flowers to use as a garnish for food, as not all plants are safe to eat or use in this way. Some plants may be toxic, treated with pesticides, or contain insects that can be harmful if ingested. While some flowers are only mildly toxic to dogs in small amounts, consuming large amounts of these ingredients can lead to kidney failure or digestive discomfort. If you are purchasing flowers from a florist, be sure to ask for their expertise and advice. However, it’s always a good idea to double-check yourself to ensure that you are using safe and edible flowers.

How do I decorate food with flowers?

  1. When selecting flowers for a cake or other dish, it’s helpful to have a theme in mind. This will make it easier to choose colors and styles that work well together. For winter arrangements, consider using red, white, and green. Mixing different textures, such as soft petals and woodsy sprigs of juniper, can also add visual interest to the arrangement. When choosing flowers, be sure to pick blooms that are proportional to the size of your dish. For example, if you are decorating a 9 x 4 inch cake, choose flowers that are no larger than 3 inches wide.
  2. To prevent the flowers from wilting, wait until after the cake has been frosted before cutting the stems.
  3. Before using the flowers, gently wash them and seal the cut stems with a small piece of plastic wrap to keep them fresh.
  4. If stored in the refrigerator, the flowers on the cake will last up to 7 days in the cake box. However, it is best to consume the cake within one week of assembly, as the flowers, particularly roses, will last longer than kale or other ornamental plants.
bouquet of winter florals from left to right eucalyptus, ornamental kale, two red roses, juniper, red lilies, and 1 branch of red berries
A bouquet of winter florals. From left to right eucalyptus, ornamental kale, two red roses, juniper, red lilies, and red berries.

How do you bake a perfect cake?

Many bakers struggle with creating perfectly flat cakes, believing that the chemistry of leavening agents or the technique of creaming is the cause of domed cakes. However, the solution is actually very simple: use cake strips. These tools allow bakers to bake moist, level cakes without any cracks or overcooked crusts.

What are cake strips?

Cake strips (baking strips, cake collar) are long, thin strips of fabric made out of an insulating material oven safe up to 400°F / 204°C. This tool creates an insulating layer around the cake pan that helps to regulate the heat during the baking process. They can be found at many kitchen supply stores and are sold in a pack of two or more.

How do I use cake strips?

To use them, soak the strips in water and wrap them around the outside of the cake pan before baking. Only one cake strip is needed per cake pan. To use soak each strip under running water until saturated. Wrap the strip around the outside of the cake pan, securing it in place with a safety pin, loop, or an oven-safe clip. Preheat the oven and proceed with your recipe as directed. The cake strips will help to keep the cake moist and prevent it from overbrowning or drying out. After the cakes are baked, all of the water should have evaporated from the strips leaving them dry.

Do cake strips work?

The cake strips will help regulate the temperature of the cake as it bakes, preventing doming and reducing cracking. The distribution of heat helps the cake rise evenly. In other words, this tool eliminates the need to leveling or trim the cake layers before assembly. The elimination of trimming also results in the absence of crumbs making the frosting process a lot neater. Cake strips work especially well for cakes that are prone to doming, such as butter cakes or pound cakes.

flatly view of two tiers of red velvet cake filled and covered with cream cheese frosting adorned with a winter bouquet of red and green florals
two tiers of red velvet cake filled and covered with cream cheese frosting adorned with a winter bouquet of red and green florals

Red Velvet Cake

This is the ultimate red velvet cake adorned with a floral crown of winter blooms and slathered with a best ever cream cheese frosting. This festive cake is so good that it stops traffic.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

Red Velvet Cake

  • 292 g cake flour
  • 300 g white granulated sugar
  • 6 g unsweetened cocoa
  • 6 g 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 5 g 1 tsp coffee or filtered water
  • 145 g sour cream
  • 227 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 92-100 g whole large eggs
  • 2 tbsps red gel food coloring
  • 16 ml white vinegar
  • 10 g premium pure vanilla extract
  • 90 ml buttermilk

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 127 g filtered water
  • 11 g cornstarch
  • 227 g cream cheese room temperature
  • 113 g unsalted butter
  • 5 g premium pure vanilla extract
  • 320 g confectioners’ sugar

Floral Crown

  • 2 stems of red roses
  • 1 stem white ornamental kale
  • 1 bunch lilies
  • 1 stem juniper berries removed
  • 1 stem eucalyptus
  • 1 branch of berries

Instructions
 

  • Cake | Preheat oven to 350 F / 177 C and prepare the center rack for baking.
    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add butter and sugar. Set the butter wrappers aside. Let the mixture whip on medium-high speed for 8 minutes, stopping at least once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
    Add hot water or coffee into the espresso powder making it dissolve. Add in the eggs, white vinegar, vanilla extract, and espresso. Using clean utensils, add in red gel food coloring and mix on medium speed until ingredients are uniformly combined. Then add in sour cream.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer running on the stir setting to prevent flour from escaping, gradually add the dry ingredients and whole milk into the wet batter until no ingredients remain. Mix on medium speed, stopping at least once to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the batter is very light and thick, about 2 minutes.
    Generously grease two 9 x 2 inch cake pans with leftover butter from the wrappers. Insert pre-cut parchment paper rounds into each cake pan, lining the tin.
    Using a 6 oz cookie scooper, make level scoops of batter and divide evenly among the two baking pans, approximately 12 scoops each. Using a bench scraper or spatula, level out the batter.
    Drench cake strips with water and wrap around each cake pan, fastening them securely. Transfer cake pans to the oven and bake until the center of the cake no longer looks wet and the edges do not turn slightly brown, about 20 minutes. Let the cakes cool on the counter in the pan until warm, then transfer to the freezer for 20 minutes before assembly. The cakes should bake flat and chilled.
  • Frosting | Start by combining water and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture until it boils, which should take about 2 minutes. Once the cornstarch mixture is ready, set it aside to cool to room temperature.
    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the softened butter, cream cheese, and confectioner's sugar. Mix on medium-high speed for 8 minutes until the mixture is pale, light, and fluffy. Then, add in the cooled cornstarch mixture and vanilla extract, and continue mixing for an additional 2 minutes. Once the frosting is well combined, remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Set aside.
  • Assembly | Take one chilled cake layer out of the freezer. Use an offset spatula to release the cake from the sides of the pan.
    Invert the first layer onto a cake board on a cake turntable. Gently peel off the parchment paper and discard it. Add frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Chill for 10 minutes in the freezer before continuing. Repeat the process with the remaining layer.
    Once both layers are frosted and chilled, use a spatula to apply a final layer of frosting to the entire cake. Smooth out the frosting with a straight edge of a cake comb or bench scraper.
    Using a pair of scissors, trim the stems of the roses and ornamental kale, cutting them at the base right before the pedicel. Wrap the ends with plastic wrap.
    Arrange the blooms as desired. Remove flowers before slicing. Enjoy chilled!
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