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Patti LaBelle's Red Velvet Marble Cake with Boiled Frosting

Patti LaBelle's Red Velvet Marble Cake with Boiled Frosting recipe
Steve Legato / Desserts LaBelle

Chef notes

It's easy to take familiar red velvet cake and give it a twist (literally) by marbleizing red and white batters. This cake has one of the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth textures around, but its main flavor is vanilla — the cocoa is in the batter only to deepen the red color.

The boiled frosting may be new to you, although it has been around for years and is basically a sweet paste beaten into butter. The end result is smooth and creamy.

Technique tip: Red food paste gives the truest, darkest red color. It is sold at hobby and craft shops and online. It is very intensely colored, so use it by the drop. If you use gel or liquid food coloring, expect to add more to get the right hue.


Red velvet marble cake
  • Butter, softened, for greasing pans
  • Flour, for dusting pans
  • cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Hershey's
  • Red food coloring, preferably paste or gel
Boiled frosting
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Red decorating sugar, for sprinkling


For the cake:


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter the insides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with waxed paper rounds. Dust the pan sides with flour and tap out the excess flour.


In a bowl, sift the cake flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer set on high speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is pale and gritty (it won't get fluffy), about 3 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low. In thirds, add the flour mixture, alternating with two equal additions of the buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, and mix just until smooth.


Pour half of the batter into a medium bowl. Sift the cocoa powder into the batter (sifting keeps it from clumping) and stir it in. Tint this batter bright red with the food coloring. (The amount depends on your desired shade and the kind of coloring used. You will probably use only 2 drops of paste, slightly more gel, or 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid.)


For each pan, spoon in 1/4-cup sized dollops of the red batter, placing the batter at the 12 and 6 o'clock positions. Fill the empty spaces in the pan (at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions) with 1/4-cup sized dollops of the plain batter. Run a dinner knife through the batter a few times to marbleize the batters together.


Bake until the cakes begin to shrink from the sides of the pans and a wooden toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the inside of each pan to release the cakes. Invert and unmold the cakes onto the racks and discard the paper. Using a wide spatula, turn the cakes right side up and cool completely.

For the frosting:


Whisk the granulated sugar and flour together in a medium heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often, to make a thick paste. Transfer to a small bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to keep a skin from forming. Using a small sharp knife, pierce a few holes in the plastic to allow the steam to escape. Let cool completely, at least 1 hour. (Or place the bowl in a larger bowl filled about halfway with iced water to speed the cooling.)


Beat the butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer set at high speed until the butter is creamy and fluffy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the cooled paste. Beat in the vanilla.


Dab a tablespoon of the frosting on the serving platter. Place one cake, upside down, on the platter. Slip strips of waxed paper under the cake to protect the platter from the frosting. Spread the cake top with about 1/2 cup of the frosting. Repeat with the second cake layer, smooth side down. Frost the top and then the sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Refrigerate until the frosting sets, about 15 minutes.


Frost the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle with the decorating sugar. Slip out and discard the waxed paper. (The cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Let the cake stand at room temperature for 1 hour before slicing.) Slice and serve.

Excerpted from the DESSERTS LABELLE by Patti LaBelle. Copyright © 2017 by Pattonium Inc. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.