Confession: I’m a new convert to the world of red velvet. In the past, I haven’t really gotten the hype over it, which is due in large part to my misunderstanding of what red velvet cake really is.
In my ignorance, I always thought it was…well, a red cake. Big whoop. I mean, couldn’t you pour in a bunch of any food coloring and have a new phenomenon – yellow velvet, blue velvet? I know. I’m so close-minded and judgmental. But really, I didn’t get it.
Then, at a restaurant a few months ago, on a whim my husband had the red velvet cake for dessert. And I ate most of it. I was smitten. Big time. It’s not just a red cake. It is an extremely light, moist cake with the barest hint, and I mean barest hint, of cocoa.
Paired with luxurious cream cheese frosting, it is undeniably delicious.
Since devouring my husband’s dessert, I’ve since made red velvet cupcakes, a red velvet cake and most notably, this red velvet cake roll, which basically puts the cupcakes and cake to major shame.
I’ve now realized, it isn’t just red velvet that I love – it is the Red Velvet Cake Roll. I even went out on a limb and made a green version for St. Patty’s day this year (you know, channeling my inner food scientist and calculating the difficult measurements of swapping out red food coloring for green).
Tender, moist cake wrapped around a decadent, rich cream cheese and white chocolate filling – not only is it stunning in presentation, it is utterly irresistible to the taste buds.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring (1/2 fluid ounce)
For the white chocolate–cream cheese filling:
8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
5 ounces white chocolate, melted
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted
Powdered sugar for dusting
For the cake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a small area in the center of a 15 1/2 X 10 1/2-inch pan (jelly-roll pan) with nonstick spray. Line the pan with aluminum foil, pressing the foil into the contours of the pan and leaving a 2-inch overhang at each short end (the spray anchors the foil in place to make buttering easier). Butter the foil, then flour it, tapping out the excess flour (I have also used the Baker’s Joy spray with oil and flour together with great results).
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the milk, vanilla, and apple cider. In a large bowl with an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer), beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and add the granulated sugar in a steady stream. Continue to beat until light in color and fluffy in texture, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg and mix until combined. On the lowest speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/2 of the milk mixture, mixing until combined after each addition. Again, add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the last half of the milk and the last 1/3 of the flour, mixing after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Maintaining the same speed, add the food coloring (be careful of splatters!) and mix well to color the batter evenly. Without delay, spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula.
Bake the cake until it is set on top and springs back when lightly pressed in the center, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. If necessary, run a thin knife blade around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the cake sides. Then pull up on the foil overhang and carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack. Without delay, place a sheet of foil over the cake and manipulate the foil to make a shallow tent (a tent holds in the moisture as the cake cools, but prevents the foil from sticking to the cake). Let the cake cool for about 45 minutes, then proceed to assemble the dessert.
To make the white chocolate–cream cheese filling: in a medium bowl (with a handheld or stand mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth. Pour in half of the melted chocolate and beat until smooth, stopping the mixer occasionally and scraping the down the sides of the bowl. Pour in the remaining chocolate and beat just until combined. Add the butter and then the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
To assemble the cake (see pictures below): Remove the foil from the top of the cake. Transfer the cake on its bottom sheet of foil to a work surface, placing it so that one of its long sides is parallel to the edge of the surface closest to you. Place another long sheet of aluminum foil on the work surface nearby.
Using an offset spatula, spread the filling evenly over the cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the long side farthest from you. Begin rolling the cake by flipping the edge nearest you over onto itself. Then, with the aid of the foil that extends beyond the short sides, roll up the cake lengthwise until you reach the far long side. As you work, wrap the foil around the roll to assist in rounding the shape (otherwise the cake will stick to your hands). To insure the roll is uniform and round, place the rolled up cake in its foil across the bottom third of a 24-inch-long piece of parchment paper, bringing the top edge of the parchment paper toward you, and drape it over the top of the cake roll, allowing a 2-inch overhang.
Place the edge of a rimless baking sheet or cooling rack or other long edge at a 45-degree angle to the roll and your work surface. Apply pressure against the roll, trapping the 2-inch overhang, and push while simultaneously pulling the bottom portion of paper toward you. This push-pull motion creates a resistance that results in compressing the log into a uniform shape. If any cracks appeared as you rolled the cake, they are consolidated in this compression and disappear from view.
Carefully lift the roll in the aluminum foil and set it, seam side down, on a fresh sheet of foil. Wrap the cake securely in the foil. Transfer the foil-wrapped roll to the baking sheet or shallow tray and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to help set the filling.
To serve: remove the cake from the refrigerator and peel off and discard the foil. Carefully lift the roll onto a serving plate with the aid of a long, wide spatula or a rimless baking sheet. (If not serving right away, cover loosely with plastic wrap to keep the cake’s surface from drying out and return to the refrigerator to serve the same day.) Dust the cake with powdered sugar. Using a serrated knife and a sawing motion, cut the roll into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Don’t be alarmed by the lengthy recipe. This cake is really not difficult to prepare and assemble but the long instructions really help give detail to rolling the cake tightly to avoid cracks. I’ve provided a picture tutorial at the end of the recipe for details on rolling and compressing the cake roll.