Thanks to all of the food blogs, magazines and cookbooks I read, there’s a never-ending list of recipes that I want to try, new variations of cookies and cakes that I can’t wait to bake. Sometimes, I’ll see a recipe months before I ever get the chance to make it, and it just sits in the back of my mind, waiting for the perfect moment.
This cake is one of those recipes. I fell in love with the idea as soon as I saw it, but I knew that I needed a special occasion for it. After all, there’s no way that two people should eat a three-layer, cheesecake cake by themselves. So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. 18 months of waiting, to be exact.
Let me just say that this one was worth the wait. Since I made this six months ago, it’s been the inspiration for my Easter cake (a lemon cake with blueberry swirl cheesecake rendition) and the inspiration for Karen’s birthday cake. I’ve got a few other variations marinating in the back of my brain, just waiting for the right moment. One of my favorite things about this cake is its “wow” factor. After all, you cut into the cake to reveal a rich, velvety cheesecake layer. It’s also deceptively easy to put together, even if it is a bit time-consuming.
This cake is a study in time-management, at least for me. For best results, you need to bake the cheesecake a few days before you need the cake to be ready. That way, you have time to freeze it, which streamlines the assembly process. I baked the cheesecake on a Thursday evening, then baked the cake layers Friday night and assembled and frosted the cake on Saturday. Since this cake has cheesecake and a cream cheese frosting, I also needed to set aside a large amount of space in the fridge for storage before the party. (Although, I did make it in December, which meant that I could have used my garage as a spare fridge, if necessary. One of the benefits to living in “up north!”)
Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake
20 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) red food coloring (if I remember correctly, this is practically the entire bottle!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
12 ounces butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Melted white chocolate for piping
Shaved milk or dark chocolate for sprinkling
First, make the cheesecake. Line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper. Bring a teakettle of water to a boil and keep warm (this creates a waterbath for your cheesecake, which helps keep it from cracking!). Wrap the bottom of the springform pan in heavy-duty foil, being sure to bring the foil up at least an inch on all sides (and this step keeps the water from seeping into your springform!). Preheat the oven to 325.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest, juice and salt, and then add the eggs, one at a time. Mix well and scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the sour cream.
Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared springform pan, then nestle the springform in a larger pan. (I use my roasting pan for this, and yes, I use my roasting pan as a waterbath for cheesecake way more often than I use it to you know, roast things. What can I say? 🙂 ) Carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it’s about halfway up the sides of the springform. Bake until just set in the center, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the water and let set about 20 minutes, then run a knife between the sides of the pan and the cheesecake. Let cool completely, then cover and chill until cold. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and then freezer until you’re ready to assemble the cake.
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the oil, eggs, buttermilk, food color, vinegar and vanilla until combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until smooth (but don’t over-mix).
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake about 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes test done with a toothpick. Rotate the pans halfway through to ensure even baking. Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then flip them out of the pans onto the rack and allow them to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. (If the frosting becomes too soft for you to work with, simply chill in the fridge for a few minutes.)
To assemble your cake, place several strips of waxed paper around the edge of whatever cake plate you’d like to serve the cake on. (This helps keep the frosting mess off my plate while I’m working, which means I don’t have to try to transfer the cake from a work surface to a display surface!) Place one layer of cake on the stand and level if necessary.
Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and unwrap. Place the frozen cheesecake directly on top of the bottom layer of cake. (Note: If your springform is larger than your cake pan – mine is – you’ll need to trim away some of the cheesecake. Just let it thaw for a moment or two, then trim with a table knife. The scraps are yours to enjoy!) Place the top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake.
Lightly frost the cake with a thin layer of the cream cheese frosting, then place in the fridge for 20 minutes. This creates a ‘crumb coat’ which seals in all of those bright red cake crumbs, keeping them from marring the finished frosting. Once the crumb coat is set, frost the cake with the remaining frosting as desired.
To garnish the cake, pipe swirls of chocolate onto a piece of waxed paper. Allow to cool and set. When the chocolate has hardened (you can speed up this process by sticking them in the fridge), place the swirls onto top of the cake. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: If your cake feels like it’s getting too warm while you’re working on it (you’ll know this if the cheesecake starts to squish out), simply return it to the fridge to firm things up.
From Erin’s Food Files