Hello February! I feel like the dreary, gloomy part of winter is over. When I think of my past seasons here, February brings up memories of warmer temperatures, lots of sunshine, and longer days. Let’s hope this month proves the same.
We did get a decent amount of snow a few days ago from a storm that passed through here. Here’s a photo of all that snow in action:
But anyways, that was back in January.
It can’t be February without baking something romantically themed. I’m a trained pastry chef, so I can’t help but focus on the holidays. When I worked at the restaurant I used to look forward to planning a special Valentine’s Day dessert. Halfway through the evening it would lose its allure to me as the dessert station would get slammed with tickets. Nothing says romance like a fancy dessert…
I will always enjoy all things red velvet, however. I still enjoy sweets, but I appreciate ones that are very balanced the most. Desserts that have contrasting flavors, rather than hitting your taste buds with straight up sugar.
This recipe is an adaptation from Francisco J. Migoya’s beautiful book, The Modern Cafe. It starts with a buttermilk sponge cake that has just a hint of cocoa and plenty of red food coloring. Layered in between the cake layers is a simple cream cheese frosting.
The cake is easiest to assemble when it has been chilled. Sticking it in the freezer or refrigerator helps the cake to firm up, so when you cut it and stack it’s easy to handle. I like to chill the cake before I cut it too, since that allows the layers of red and white to be more distinct, rather than smooshing together when they’re both room temperature. Either way you do it, it will still taste divine.
This makes one 5.5″ x 11.5″ cake. Depending on how you cut it, you can have any number of servings. Small squares or rectangles add a vibrant and cute look to a dessert tray or gift package; larger rectangles or trianges paired with some whipped cream, raspberries, and chocolate sauce make a stunning ending to a nice meal.
How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:
Red Velvet Stack
Adapted from The Modern Cafe by Francisco J. Migoya
- Red Velvet Sponge:
- 1½ sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 1⅓ cups sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 oz plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon red food coloring
- Scant 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the sponge, preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a parchment-lined baking sheet (11.5″ x 17.5″).
- Cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until blended.
- Mix in the vanilla.
- Combine the cocoa powder, flour, and baking soda in a bowl.
- Alternately add the flour mixture with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
- Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Beat in the food coloring and vinegar.
- Spread the batter into the prepared baking sheet and smooth into an even layer.
- Bake for 15-16 minutes until the sponge is puffed and the top springs back when lightly touched.
- Let cool completely, then refrigerate for 20 minutes or freeze for 10, to firm up the sponge and allow easier handling.
- Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
- Gradually beat in all of the powdered sugar until creamy.
- Add the vanilla and set aside.
- When the sponge has firmed up, cut it into 3 equal sections (each will be about 11.5″ x 5.5″).
- Spread ½ of the cream cheese filling on the first piece of sponge, then top with the second piece of sponge.
- Repeat with the remaining cream cheese filling and sponge cake.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Makes one 11.5″ x 5.5″ cake.
Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking, to make at sea level, increase the baking soda to 1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon.