This rich, chocolaty Southern favorite has its own culinary mythology: a couple at the Waldorf-Astoria, a shared slice of bright red chocolate cake, a request for the recipe, and the surprise of later finding a $100 charge on their room bill. Maybe all desserts this good deserve a legend.
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (see Cake-Baking Tips)
2 large eggs, at room temperature (see Cake-Baking Tips), separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 ounce red food coloring (4 teaspoons), optional (see ingredient note)
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
Cream cheese frosting and garnish:
12 ounces soft light cream cheese
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 ounce chocolate, grated, for garnish (optional)
PREPARE cake: Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.
WHISK all-purpose flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
BEAT sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, then vanilla and food coloring (if using) until smooth.
BEAT in half the buttermilk on low speed until smooth, then half the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the remaining buttermilk. Beat in remaining flour mixture just until combined.
CLEAN and dry beaters. Beat egg whites in a clean medium bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold whites into the batter until just incorporated, using long, even strokes. Divide batter between the prepared pans, spreading to the edges. Gently rap the pans against the counter once or twice to settle the batter.
BAKE until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the layers onto the rack, remove the pans and let cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes more.
PREPARE frosting and assemble cake: Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Place one cake layer top-side down on a serving plate; cover with half the frosting, spreading just to the edges. Set second layer on top, top-side down. Spread remaining frosting on the top only. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, if desired.
NOTE: To make ahead: Wrap cake layers in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Assemble and frost when ready to serve.
Per serving: 276 calories; 11 g fat (7 g sat, 2 g mono); 66 mg cholesterol; 39 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber; 353 mg sodium; 155 mg potassium
Yield: 12 servings.