There’s only one absolutely critical thing you need to remember when making red velvet cake: wear an old shirt. Other than that it’s much like making a basic yellow butter cake. The odd alchemical steps you find in many traditional recipes really aren’t necessary. Plenty of food coloring and a little cocoa is the extent of the juju.
Which is not to say that red velvet cake is indiscernible from yellow cake in the mouth. The quarter cup of cocoa does create a distinctive taste and texture, and the food coloring itself brings a few unique hints of flavor to the party. Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, assembling your ingredients and preparing two 9″ cake layer pans. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle (beater). Stir it all on low for about 30 seconds.
Add the soft butter and stir on medium speed for about a minute.
Add one cup plus two tablespoons of the room-temperature buttermilk, and raise the speed to medium-high. Beat the batter for 90 seconds.
Next combine the yolks, the vanilla and the food coloring. I grant you, this looks a little disgusting.
Add 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and stir it all together.
Add it by thirds to the batter, beating in each addition for 20 seconds.
Be sure to do plenty of scraping.
Then scrape the batter into the prepared pans. About 21 ounces of batter per layer.
Bake until they’re firm in the center, 25-30 minutes.
Cool the layers on a rack for ten minutes, then turn them out to cool completely before using. Red velvet layers can be combined with any number of frostings. Here I’m using a standard seven-minute frosting, but “heritage” a.k.a. “boiled” a.k.a. “flour” a.k.a. “cooked flour” a.k.a. “gravy” a.k.a. “cloudburst” frosting is popular, as is cream cheese. Just so long as it’s white!