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My red velvet heartbreaker – TAKE TWO

October 3, 2011

After my red velvet cake that collapsed a few weeks ago, I promised to post a recipe and tips when I eventually did make it successfully. Well, I chickened out a little here – I did use Bea’s recipe again but made cupcakes instead. I really am more a cupcake kinda girl and since they were a present to myself to usher in my 30-somethingth year, I figured I’ll bake whatever I want in whatever shape I like!

If you fancy making a large cake instead or even cupcakes as I have, here are Bea’s tips and my observations:

  1. Use deep cake pans. The cake pan I used for my failed cake was 3 inches deep. I don’t think this was deep enough for the cake to ‘climb’ hence the middle rose but the sides didn’t catch up fast enough resulting in a collapsed cake. Make sure the batter is no more than 2/3 of the way up the side of your cake pan. For my next attempt, I will split the batter into 3 sandwich cake pans which I already have (my husband has banned me from buying another cake pan… for now!) and adjust the baking time accordingly.
  2. Don’t take the cake out too early. Bea’s recipe says to bake the cake (using one cake pan) for 28-35 minutes, test, and then potentially another 5-10 minutes more. Note that the recipes in the book are tested in a fan-assisted oven. Mine is a fan-assisted oven but was still not quite cooked after 40 minutes. Based on the texture, I’d say it needed an extra 5-7 minutes.
  3.  The buttermilk + bicarbonate of/baking soda + vinegar mixture should be stirred a little when you first combine them in a bowl – watch it grow! This mixture will do the aeration for you so the batter doesn’t require much air beaten into it. Bea said it’s very rare for a buttermilk+bicarb+vinegar cake to collapse – hhmm.. I did something that not many people have done! 😛
  4. I used natural cocoa powder for the cupcakes. If you’re in London, you can get Hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa powder from Selfridges. I spent some time searching for natural cocoa powder, perhaps I went to the wrong places and asked the wrong people but no one seemed to understand me when I said I wanted natural cocoa powder as opposed to Dutched cocoa powder. David Lebovitz explains the difference here.
  5. The combination of acidic vinegar, bicarbonate of/baking soda and the buttermilk changes the colour of cocoa into a more reddish brown. However, the red pigments in cocoa are not as strong in the more alkaline ‘Dutch-processed’ cocoa. If you are using natural cocoa powder, maybe skip the food colouring and let me know how your cakes turn out, I’ll be trying it next time.
  6. Lastly, if baking a good cake means as much to you as it does to me, don’t feel too bad if your cake/cupcakes don’t turn out right the first couple of times. I noted my mistakes, made some tweaks and voila! Have fun with Scarlett!

These cupcakes were such a hit and I was inordinately proud of getting their texture right. Neither the cake nor the frosting was too sweet, a feature which I love about cakes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury. I love the cookbook so much, I can’t wait to try the other recipes from it. Bea has NOT paid me nor sponsored my copy of her cookbook but I can safely say it’s my best baking cookbook purchase this year – thanks Bea for sharing your recipes with us.

To make your red velvet cupcakes

  • 2 eggs
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • 250ml sunflower oil (I used rapeseed oil)
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of/baking soda
  • 2 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 ½ tbsp natural cocoa powder (or Dutch processed if necessary)
  • ¾ tsp red food colouring paste 
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C or Gas 5. Line a cupcake tray with cupcake cases.
  2. Put the eggs, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. While whisking, add the oil in a steady stream until fully combined and the mixture thickens slightly. With my Kitchenaid mixer on speed 2, this took no more than 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. Put the buttermilk, bicarbonate of/baking soda and vinegar in a smaller, separate bowl. The mixture should bubble quite actively and then fade.
  4. In another bowl, combine the flour and cocoa powder and sift twice.
  5. Add one third of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until well incorporated. Add half the buttermilk mixture and mix until just combined. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the buttermilk. Finally, add the last third of the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add the food colouring last and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. A wooden skewer inserted in the middle of a cupcake should come out with almost no crumbs attached. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the ultimate cream cheese frosting

  • 250ml double cream, very cold (Bea’s recipe calls for whipping cream)
  • 175g mascarpone
  • 175g cream cheese
  • 85g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2tsp vanilla extract 
  1. Whisk the double cream to stiff peaks. Set aside.
  2. Put the mascarpone, cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract in another bowl and beat until well combined.
  3. Add one third of the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and beat until combined. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream until thoroughly combined.
  4. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Frosting must always be refrigerated, due to the fragility of whipped cream.
  5. Pipe the frosting on to your cooled cupcakes. Top with some cake crumbs if desired (I got some crumbs by cutting off the top of a few cupcakes).

Yields 12 large cupcakes or a large cake serving 8-12 persons

Recipe adapted from Tea with Bea

29 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 2:52 AM

    Oh, yum! Great photos – and tips!

  2. October 3, 2011 10:34 PM

    If the crumbled cake color on top is true to life, your cake came our really red! I love the decision to switch to cupcakes, they are definitely more fun.

    By the way, your pictures make me feel downright retarded in the photography department, but that’s another story altogether:)

    • October 4, 2011 10:13 AM

      Thanks filelalaine – photos are all down to the camera and lens 🙂 I found that using natural cocoa powder made a difference to the redness of the cake, so if you do try this recipe out try to use that instead of the Dutched cocoa powder.

  3. October 4, 2011 12:05 PM

    Thanks for posting the link to the difference between Dutched and Natural cocoa. I had not idea there were two types, let alone the difference it makes. Fascinating.
    It also explains why it’s hard to get the bright red using UK supermarket cocoa. Mystery solved!

    • October 4, 2011 12:34 PM

      You’re welcome, gillbla. If you find anywhere else besides Selfridges that sells natural cocoa powder, please let me know! Thanks 🙂

  4. October 5, 2011 1:37 AM

    Ooooh these look good. I’ve only made red velvet cupcakes once, and was alarmed at how much food colouring they must use in bakeries to make the cake so red! Love the frosting recipe, bookmarked!

  5. October 8, 2011 6:19 PM

    It must be a good book if it’s your favourite one of the year.
    The cupcakes look beautiful, must try making a red velvet sometime – it’s the amount of colour that scares me!

  6. October 11, 2011 10:16 AM

    These are beautiful and glad you’ve tempered the colour – that’s why I have never made red velvet.

  7. October 20, 2011 10:07 AM

    They look great! I love he sprinkles on top they just enhance the velvety filling!
    Well done!

  8. December 18, 2011 9:06 PM

    Does it matter if you use medium or large eggs for the cakes?


    • December 18, 2011 10:54 PM

      Hi nU – I’ve been using large eggs but Bea’s cookbook states to use medium eggs in the UK or large eggs in the US (I’m currently in the UK). I don’t think it matters much but I suppose the only way is to try the recipe with both sizes? Let me know how it goes please! 🙂

      • December 19, 2011 6:04 PM


        Thanks for the reply.

        I only have red food colouring, will that work instead of the paste?

        Also I only have a shallow cup cake tin, the cases are taller than the tin (but not as tall as the ones you look like you use)- will that be a problem?



      • December 20, 2011 10:13 PM

        Hi Nu – Yes, liquid food colouring in small amounts should work fine. I’m not sure if where the paper cases are taller than the cake tin, if that will affect the shape of the cupcakes. Sorry can’t help here. It’s worth while investing in a deeper cake tin – in UK it’s the muffin cake tin that I have.

      • December 28, 2011 12:12 AM


        I made the cakes and they turned out fine, not as nice as Bea’s but a good first attempt. It was quite a runny mixture so I poured it into a measuring jug and poured it into the tins. It did take an extra ten minutes cooking time, even though they were smaller than the regular sized cupcakes. The mixture was red was I put it in the oven but they didn’t turn red when they came out, so I guess I should have put even more red food colouring in but its just for aesthetics rather than for taste so I guess I won’t bother next time.

        I put a slightly bit more vanilla extract in and there was a bit of an after taste, or is that normal?

        Thanks for the posting the recipe and the suggestion of putting cake crumbs on top, I also drizzled some chocolate on top too.


      • December 29, 2011 12:28 PM

        Hi Nu – Try a different food colouring next time if you really want and see if the cupcakes turn out a nicer shade of red. I don’t like using it anyway and as you say, it’s for aesthetics only so I wouldn’t recommend necessarily putting in more.

        There shouldn’t be an after taste if you add more vanilla extract unless for some reason it reacted with the bicarb mix? Not too sure about this…

        The amount of icing is just right for me, for the cupcakes but I guess I may pipe on a lot more! I really love this icing so don’t mind.

        Thanks for all your feedback on the recipe. I had to give it a couple of attempts before I got the recipe spot on so keep making them and make your own tweaks as each oven and the ingredients you use will differ slightly from someone else’s.

        Thanks again!

  9. December 28, 2011 12:21 AM


    Also I didn’t have buttermilk so I added some lemon juice to normal milk to make your own, not sure what the difference in taste is.

    I found that the frosting recipe makes a lot of frosting and I had a fair bit left over.


  10. Victoria permalink
    February 4, 2012 9:31 AM

    I have tried this recipe yesterday and before cooke the cupcakes normally I test the flavour and they where way too much salty. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt, it was too much!!! Are you sure about this? Next time I will try with only 1/4 teaspoon, tha sounds more reasonable. Anyway the texture was good, moist and fluffy.


    • February 4, 2012 12:50 PM

      Hi Victoria – thanks for your comment. I don’t have access to the cookbook now but I’ll check the recipe as soon as I do. I think it is 1 1/4 tsp of salt though but will check again.

  11. MARCELA permalink
    February 24, 2012 1:54 AM

    im having trouble with my red velvet cupcakes, they start baking really well and normal in the oven but they collapse at the end! i mean, they collapse inside the oven!!!!!!!
    do you know why???
    im really sad 😦
    thank you

    • February 24, 2012 12:46 PM

      Hi Marcela – if you followed this recipe, maybe check the bicarb of soda – has it expired? Try to make sure all the ingredients are fresh and not expired; and try again? Thanks for comment!

      • Missy permalink
        November 9, 2014 4:23 AM

        Mine did the same thing. They started out normal, then fell in the oven before they were done. I, too, felt they tasted salty, and I just opened a brand new box of soda. But the frosting saved them!! It was FABULOUS!

  12. February 24, 2012 2:24 PM

    I bought the book some days ago and I could check that the amount of the salt is in fact 1 1/4 tsp. However is way too much salt. I have seen comments in Amazon saying exactly the same regarding the amount of salt in the recipes in the book. Some people also found this amount really excesive.

    • February 24, 2012 3:21 PM

      Hi Vic. Thanks for checking and confirming the recipe. I followed the recipe & the cakes turned out just right for me in terms of sweetness. If you think it’s too much, reduce the amount of salt and see how you get on. I don’t think the texture will be affected.


  1. The one that didn’t make it – Christmas red velvet mini cupcakes « thebountifulplate

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