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I’ve been trying to perfect red velvet cupcake and cakes for a while now. After numerous not quite satisfactory results, and one horrible disaster, I decided to follow the Hummingbird Bakery recipe with some tweaks. It turned out poifect. Here’s what you’ll need! This recipe make either one large 2-layer cake to serve 6, or 12-16 cupcakes.

  • 120g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 330g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • red food colouring, preferably christmas red by Sugarflair – NOT Dr Oetker (see below!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 240ml buttermillk
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 600g icing sugar
  • 250g full fat cream cheese

IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT – The horrible disaster I had when trying to make these cupcakes was caused by using Dr Oetker red food colouring, which the Hummingbird recipe from my edition of the Cake Days cookbook (2011, so the one most people will have) calls for. For the love of god, do not buy any Dr Oetker ‘natural’ colours – they taste like absolute shit. Since Dr Oetker changed their recipe, I assume to make the product less full of artificial colours and more ‘natural’, Hummingbird have stopped recommending its use in this recipe. The batch of cupcakes I made using it sadly went into the bin, the Dr Oetker colouring gives them a disgusting, awful taste. Hummingbird now recommend that you use a gel/paste food colouring – I used christmas red by Sugarflair in this cake and it worked perfectly. Annoucement ends…

The offending item

Anywhoo… lets get baking!! First, preheat your oven to 180 degrees/375 farenheit/gas mark 5 and prepare your baking tin.I sprayed my new Prestige round spring-form cake tin with Cake release spray (by Dr Oetker…. they’re not totally useless I guess). The tin was from TK Maxx who are AMAZING for great value bakeware.

Whisk up your very soft butter with the sugar until they are very fluffy indeed. Add eggs one at a time, whisking and scraping, whisking and scraping. Sieve in your cocoa powder (important as it tends to be lumpy) and add vanilla.

In another large bowl, sift the flour with the salt and then add half of the flour to your chocolate cake base, then half the buttermilk, then the other half of flour, then the rest of the buttermilk! Whisk whisk whisk it up. At this stage, I added my Sugarflair red food colouring (about half a tub to get it this red!). Lastly, in a small mug or glass, combine the vinegar and bicarb (fizzy!) and then add to cake mix and stir.

Spoon the batter into your greased tin and bake in the middle of the oven for around 40-55 minutes – depending on whether your oven is fan assisted, mine isn’t. Your cake is ready as soon as a toothpick or knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Once thoroughly cooled, cut your cake in half using a serrated knife. My cake had sunk in the middle, so I turned the top half over so that the sunk part was on the inside and the flat part was the cakes top. I also cut a little extra wedge of cake off to use to decorate the cale, as you can see from the uneven surface below!

Now we’re ready to make the frosting! I kept having issues with lumpy cream cheese frosting, despite exactly following the recipe’s instructions, until I found this post. Unfortunately, lots of recipes just don’t tell you how to ensure to end up with smooth frosting! The key is to make sure your butter is very very very soft when you add the icing sugar to it, and fully creamed together. This is tough because of the ratio of butter to icing sugar (1:6) so I add a splash of milk until the mix comes together. DO NOT add the cream cheese until your buttercream base is fully mixed, or lumps will result.

Then, add your cream cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice and whisk. Try to resist sticking your face in the bowl. For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of the frosting stage, as I was in a massive rush and just covered the cake in frosting rather than piping rose swirls as I’d planned. You could also use sprinkles (or nothing at all) to decorate the top of the cake, but I love how the red crumbs look on the white background.