Red (wine) velvet cake

What if I told you there exists a velvet cake where the red comes not from food coloring but from the passionate, 350 degree chemistry between cocoa and red wine?

Could there be anything more romantic?  Could there be anything more perfect for your valentine (especially if your valentine is you)?

Read on, and I will show you the way.

The red (wine) velvet cake is Stella Parks’ (of Bravetart) take on taking on the ridiculous amount of red dye that’s in contemporary red velvet cake.   According to Ms. Parks, food science is the key here.  Raw cocoa powder comes together with red wine in an explosion of anthocyanins creating the the red in red velvet a little more naturally.  And really, can you think of a situation where 3 ounces of food coloring is a better idea than 12 ounces of a dry red wine and half a cup of cocoa powder?  I know you can’t because it doesn’t exist.

Truth time.  I didn’t use raw cocoa.  I used normal, old valhrona.  Did it make my cake less red?  Probably.

But, it wasn’t supposed to be the bright red of what we think of as red velvet in today’s terms.  Even with roasted cocoa, the red wine gave this rich chocolatey cake very pretty hennaed highlights.

Now we all know caked decorating isn’t really my jam, but I couldn’t resist dressing her up a little for Valentines Day, what with the chemical reactions and the chocolate and the wine.

I used my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe (listed below), and, unable to resist the food coloring siren completely, had a little fun with pink.

From a flavor perspective, this cake doesn’t taste like what we’ve come to know as red velvet.  When you compare ingredient lists, it shouldn’t.  Starting with the red wine and much more cocoa than my red velvet cake recipe, this red velvet also has just a hint of cinnamon. It is rich, decadent and special.

And before you ask, it doesn’t taste like win.  That’s what the other 13 ounces left in your bottle of wine are for.

Happy Valentine’s Day friends.

A note here on the recipe versus the pictures.  This recipe makes A LOT of cake.  As written, it makes 3, nine inch layers at about two and a half inches high.  For the pictures, I made two very thick six inch cakes (which I split to make four layers) and one normal nine inch layer.  That nine-inch layer is going to guest star with some ice cream and a little chemistry of it’s own in a couple of posts.  But, my point is that I think you could half the recipe and get a very respectable double layer eight or nine inch cake.

Red (Wine) Velvet Cake

Stella Parks, in Bravetart, Conic American Desserts

Makes 3X8″ cakes


  • 2 1/2 C (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C (2 1/4 ounces) raw cocoa powder (I didn’t have raw, it was fine)
  • 3 1/2 sticks (14 ounces) unsalted butter, soft but cool
  • 2 C gently packed (16 ounces), light/golden brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 TBS (1 ounce) vanilla
  • 6 large eggs at room temp
  • 1 1/2 C (12 ounces) dry red wine
  • Batch of cream cheese frosting


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line three 8″ round baking pans and grease with pan spray or butter and flour.
  2. Sift together flour and cocoa, Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or hand mixer), combine butter, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.  Mix on low speed to moisten and then increase to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (pause to scrape down bowl along the way).
  4. With he mixer running, add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg before adding the next.
  5. Reduce speed to low and sprinkle in one-third of the flour-cocoa mixture, incorporate and follow with one-third of the wine.  Repeat, allowing each addition to be just barely incorporated before adding the next.  After last addition, remove bowl from stand and fold batter using spatula to make sure batter is evenly mixed.  Divide evenly among the cake pans (about 22 ounces each).
  6. Bake until the cakes are domed and firm when gently pressed and an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs still attached.  Cool completely.
  7. Remove from pans.  Level and frost as desired.


David Lebovitz’s Chouquettes

I think I’ve said this before.  And even if I have, it bares repeating.  If you aren’t following David Lebovitz on Instagram (@davidlebovitz) you are missing out on some of the most gorgeous Parisian instagramming out there.  I enjoy following his daily life as much as I enjoy his recipes and cooking

I book marked this recipe months ago (well, at this publication, it’s be a year)– before losing my baking mojo and so they were at the top of the list when I finally fired up my oven in August.

Choux pastry (translation: cabbage) is an enormously satisfying to make dough, heavy in butter and eggs that puffs up and hollows-out in the oven.  Made savory or sweet, the sweet versions are often filled with the worlds most delicious foodstuffs including custard (the cream puff) and ice cream (profiteroles).

With chouquettes, the middles are left airy while the tops get a liberal coating of Belgian pearl sugar.

With chouquettes, the middles are left airy while the tops get a liberal coating of Belgian pearl sugar.


David Lebovitz

Recipe estimate is 25, at the suggested walnut size, I got closer to 40 


  • 1 C (250 ml water)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 6 TBs (90g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks (it’s okay if it’s cold or room temp)
  • 1 C (135g) all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temp
  • For glaze: 1 egg yolk + 1 tsp milk
  • Pearl (you want Swedish, not Belgian) or Crystal Sugar.  Here is where I order mine from:  Swedish Pearl Sugar.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat water, salt, sugar and butter in a small saucepan, stirring until the butter melts.  Remove from heat and add flour all at once.  Put pan back on the heat and stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from heat and allow dough to cool for a couple of minutes.  Briskly beat-in eggs on at a time until the dough is smooth and shiny.

Using a piping bag or gallon-sized ziplock back, carefully transfer dough to bag using rubber spatula.  Mr. Lebovitz suggests using two spoons to scoop the dough but choux dough might be the stickiest substance on earth so I strongly suggest the piping method.  Snip bag at 1/2 inch diameter (of course you can also use a 1/2″ tip but since you aren’t looking for definition, why bother).

Pipe walnut-sized mounds of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  If you are left with little soft-serve peaks from piping, gently pat down with a finger dipped in water.  Brush top of each mound with egg wash and then liberally coat each with lots of pearl sugar.

Bake until puffed and well-browned, about 25-30 minutes.  If you want a crispier choux, poke a hole in the side with a knife after removing from the over to allow steam to escape.

As a note, these really are best the day they are baked.  But if you have more self control than I do, they can be frozen (double freezer bag) once cooled.  When ready to eat, defrost to room temp and warm on a baking sheet in a 350 degree (ish) oven until crisp.