Red Wine Velvet Cake with Whipped Mascarpone
Who isn't charmed by red velvet cakes? They're cute: red-and-white striped. They're typically towering and grand, and scream 'party'. Plus, just about anything covered in thick plumes of cream-cheese frosting is automatically delicious.
Behind the pretty façade, so much of it doesn't add up for me. The chocolate is barely perceptible and the red ‘velvet’ is just red food dye, and a lot of it.
But one day, a reader left a comment on an everyday chocolate cake in my archives and told me she’d been out of the required buttermilk and used red wine instead. She’d turned a chocolate cake into a red wine chocolate cake. And I’d never had one of these before, never even considered it, but I had to drop everything I was doing and try this substitution. It quickly became one of our favourite cakes. With its loud chocolate flavour and natural red tint – this was the real red velvet cake.
This is my favourite birthday cake for grown-ups, and yes, I do mean grown-ups, because the wine does not fully bake out. (You’re welcome.) The flavour trifecta is red wine, chocolate, and a slip of cinnamon, three things that you will quickly see have always meant to be together. It’s chocolate-flavoured and naturally red, and the texture is so dense and moist that only a little frosting is required between the layers, and that frosting is whipped mascarpone cheese – or cream cheese.
- 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for tins
- 400g plain flour, plus more for tins
- 430g dark brown sugar
- 150g granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 530ml red wine (any kind you like)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 130g Dutch cocoa powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp table salt
- 450g mascarpone cheese
- 280g icing sugar
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
Make the cake. Preheat your oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/Gas 3. Line the bottom of three 23cm round cake tins with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pans, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, at the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don't worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until three-quarters combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Divide batter between prepared tins. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of each layer comes out clean. The top of each cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.
If your cakes have domed a bit and you want nice even layers in your stack, you can trim the tops. Use a long serrated knife, held horizontally, and use gentle back-and-forth motions with your hand on top of the cake to even it out. Share the cake scraps with whoever is around, no one will mind helping you remove 'debris'.
Make the filling. In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone with the icing sugar, pinch of salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Assemble cake. Place the first cake layer on a cake stand or plate, and spread with one-third of the filling. Repeat with remaining two layers. Chill the cake in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.