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Valentine’s Day is just a blink away. If you haven’t made reservations yet at your favorite restaurant yet, hurry and make them, or consider ordering dinner to-go or cooking at home. Either way, this Red Velvet Cake from Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery will make the perfect dessert for Valentine’s or any occasion.

Recipe from DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style [Taunton Press, 2009].

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
1515 N Courthouse Rd.
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 243-2410

Red Velvet Cake

2 sticks plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 lb. box light brown sugar (about 2¼ cups)
3 tbsp red food coloring
2½ tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1¾ cups buttermilk

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with 1 tbsp of butter each. Add 2 tbsp of the flour to each pan and shake the pans to coat the bottom and sides. Tap out the excess flour and set the pans aside.

Sift the remaining 3 cups of flour with the cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) cream the remaining butter with the brown sugar, food coloring, and vanilla on low to combine. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and pale, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition and using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and add one-third of the dry ingredients followed by half of the buttermilk. Repeat, finishing with the final third of the dry mix. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans, spreading it out as evenly as possible.

Bake until a fork tines or toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and the center of the cake resists slight pressure, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then run a paring knife around the edges of each pan to release the cake from the sides; invert the cakes onto the cooling rack. Cool for 1 hour, and then wrap each cake in plastic wrap for at least a few hours.

1¼ lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 (2-lb) bag confectioners’ sugar (about 7¼ cups)

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add a few cups of the confectioners’ sugar, incorporating it into the cream cheese mixture on low speed until combined. Repeat with the remaining sugar, adding it to the mixer in two additions. Once all of the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

Unwrap the cake layers. Slice off the rounded top ⅛ inch of each cake and place the trimmed-away portion in the bowl of a food processor. Slice each cake in half horizontally (you’ll end up with 4 layers), working over a baking sheet to catch any crumb. Add the crumbs to the food processor and pulse until fine. Place one cake layer on a cake round or large plate (make sure that the diameter of the plate is at least 1 inch larger than the cake). Use an offset spatula to evenly spread a heaping ¾ cup of frosting on the first cake layer.

Repeat with the remaining three cake layers, ending with a bottom half of a cake on top, browned-side up (so you don’t get cake crumbs in the frosting). Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake (the sides don’t have to look perfect—you’re going to cover them with cake crumbs anyway). Gently press a handful of the reserved crumbs into the side of the cake until all of the sides are evenly coated.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Yields: one 9-inch cake.

Make ahead: You can make the cake layers up to 3 days in advance. The filled and frosted cake keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Let it stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

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