Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Make Ahead Tip: Wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Assemble and frost when ready to serve.
Cake-Baking Tips: When using cake pans, they must be greased and floured to create a thin layer of protection against the oven's heat. For greater convenience, use a cooking spray that has flour in the mix, such as Pam for Baking, Baker's Joy or Crisco No-Stick Flour Spray.
Whole-wheat pastry flour has less gluten-forming potential than regular whole-wheat flour, making it a better choice for tender baked goods.
To properly measure flour when baking, use a spoon to lightly scoop flour from its container into a measuring cup. Once in the measuring cup, use a knife or other straight edge to level the flour with the top of the cup. If the measuring cup is dipped directly into the container--a common mistake--the flour will be packed into the cup and result in extra flour being added to the recipe, yielding tough, dense baked goods.
Room-temperature butter for a batter is one of the biggest culinary missteps. In fact, butter must be below 68°F to trap air molecules and build structure. Otherwise, the fat will be liquefied and the cake will be flat. To get “cool” butter: Cut refrigerated butter into chunks and let them sit in a bowl for 5 minutes before beating.
Eggs must be at room temperature for the proteins to unwind enough to support the cake's crumb. Either set the eggs out on the counter for 15 minutes or submerge them in their shells in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for 5 minutes.
Although you cannot overbeat the eggs, sugar and butter, you can overbeat the flour. If you do, you'll develop the gluten and create a quick bread rather than a layer cake. Beat the flour just until there are no white grains of undissolved flour visible but not until the batter is smooth.
Ingredient Note: If you prefer not to use food dye, you can omit it completely: just add 4 more teaspoons of buttermilk to the batter (your cake will, however, be more brown than red). Natural food dyes, while less vibrant than conventional dyes, are chemical-, lactose- and gluten-free, but they vary widely in availability. Check for them at your local natural-foods store.
2 1/2 other carbohydrates, 2 fat