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Red 'What is this Velvet?' Cake

Rambo Elliot
12 slices

Chef notes

I love red velvet cake for the simple fact that I'm always sitting there eating it, thinking, "What in the heck am I eating? I taste a little chocolate. I taste a little vanilla. I see a lot of red, but it ain't strawberry." Ultimately, my brain is like, "I don't know what this is, but it sure is delicious." Swapping out olive oil for butter in this cake gives it a slightly nutty undertone, which I think pairs well with the small amount of cocoa powder used. Swap out a bit of the traditional cream cheese for Italian mascarpone for a super-smooth frosting, and you've got yourself one delicious cake.

Technique tips: Anytime I bake something in the oven, I always try and rotate it halfway through cooking. Since different areas of your oven can be different temperatures, this ensures even baking. To ensure my cake isn't over-cooked, I always like to check on it at five minutes before the minimum time suggested. Because all ovens can vary, you have to actively monitor your food when baking: Many times I've set my oven to the minimum time suggested, left it alone and then when I went to take it out, it was over-cooked. Two other ways to ensure correct doneness is to insert a toothpick or bamboo skewer or to use a thermometer. Many home cooks neglect using a thermometer but, whether you're baking a cake or cooking a steak, checking your food's temperature is the absolute best way to cook your food for the perfect length of time.

Swap option: While this recipe calls for olive oil, butter or shortening can also be substituted. Beet juice or beet root powder may be substituted for red food coloring.


  • cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • cups light olive oil
  • cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red gel food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 ounces mascarpone, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


For the cake:


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and espresso powder.


In a medium bowl, add the olive oil and sugar. Beat with a hand mixer or an electric stand mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the buttermilk and red food coloring. Mix to combine.


With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding in the flour mixture to the liquid mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.


In a small cup, combine the vinegar and baking soda, and then quickly fold it into the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


Cool the cakes for 10 minutes before inverting them onto a plate and then re-inverting onto an oiled wire rack to cool. Once the cakes have completely cooled, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for a few hours to firm.

For the cream cheese frosting:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the mascarpone, butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, salt and powdered sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy.

To assemble:

Spread one cake layer with a layer of frosting, and then place the second layer of cake on top of the frosting and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Reprinted with permission from "Fix Me a Plate" by Scotty Scott. Page Street Publishing, Co. 2022.