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.


Well curl my carrot

Confession time.  I don’t like carrot cake.  It’s just not my thing.  Which is a shame because any baker worth her weight in cream cheese frosting has a great carrot cake recipe up her sleeve.

Knowing that my baking repertoire was lacking, I began my search for a carrot cake recipe.  I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the whole enterprise until I ran across a recipe for candied carrot curls.

What?  A candied vegetable?  Weird!  But totally intriguing.   These I had to make.

While they took some patience (long and low bake time on the back end), they were easy, really fun and made a unique and kind of sexy garnish for my carrot cake cupcakes.

As a note on the actual carrot cake recipe, it must be a good one because they were a hit at our annual townhouse association picnic. Well, full disclosure:  the group was deep into a serious batch of moscow mules by the time dessert was served so they probably would have liked anything that point.

Carrot Cupcakes with Candied Carrot Curls

Source: Epicurious

makes 12 cupcakes

for the candied carrot curls


  • 1 large or two medium carrots (try to find fat ones)
  • 1 C water
  • 1 C sugar


  1. Peel carrot(s).  Discard outer peelings.
  2. Peel layers from carrot lengthwise on one side with a peeler until you begin to get wide strips.  Peel wide strips until you get about 15.  Set aside.
  3. Bring water and sugar to boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved.  Add wide carrot strips and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes.
  4. Strain through a sieve into a bowl.  Discard syrup and let stand for 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Position rack in middle of oven.
  6. Line a baking sheet with nonstick liner or parchment.
  7. Arrange carrot slices flat in 1 layer on sheet.
  8. Bake until dry but still flexible, about 30 minutes.  Leave oven on.
  9. Wind carrot strips, one at a time around the handle of a wooden spoon in a loose spiral.  Then, slip off each curl and return, seam sides down to lined baking sheet.
  10. Return curls to oven to dry until crisp, about 60 minutes.
  11. Cool completely.

For the cupcakes


  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 C grape seed oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line muffin cups with paper liners (I like to double line mine).
  2. Coarsely grate enough carrots to measure 2 cups using large teardrop holes of a box grater or food processor.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl, set aside.
  4. Whisk together oil, eggs, brown sugar, grated carrots, and vanilla in a large bowl, then stir in flour mixture until just combined.
  5. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on rack, about 1 hour more.

For frosting

note: the original recipe calls for a really great looking icing.  I opted to use a frosting.  Click for the original icing recipe.


  • 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened (you can use full fat but this recipe is so rich that I prefer to use the lightened version)
  • 2 C sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Using a standing mixer or electric hand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese.
  2. Add-in half of the confectioner’s sugar and, with the speed on low, mix-in.  Ad the other half and mix-in on low until just combined.
  3. Add-in vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat until combined and fluffy.
  4. Frost cupcakes as desired, topping with candied carrot curls.
  5. Note:  if your kitchen is hot and the frosting is overly soft, pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes before frosting cupcakes.