Three-tier red velvet cake
We show you how to make a wedding cake or celebration cake with our simple but impressive recipe.
Equipment and preparation: For this recipe you will need a 15cm/6in, 23cm/9in and 30cm/12in round cake tin and cake board. You will also need eight dowelling rods (available from specialist cake shops)
For the small (15cm/6in) tier
- 150g/5oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 150g/5oz caster sugar
- 2 free-range eggs
- few drops vanilla essence
- pinch salt
- 125g/4½oz plain flour
- 25g/1oz cocoa powder
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp red food colouring
- 450g/1lb ready-to-roll white icing
For the medium (23cm/9in) tier
- 350g/12oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 350g/12oz caster sugar
- 6 free-range eggs
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
- pinch salt
- 300g/10oz plain flour
- 50g/2oz cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 50ml/2fl oz red food colouring
- 800g/1¾lb ready-to-roll white icing
For the large (30cm/12in) tier
- 650g/1lb 7oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 650g/1lb 7oz caster sugar
- 10 free-range eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence
- large pinch salt
- 575g/1lb 5oz plain flour
- 75g/3oz cocoa powder
- 35g/1¼oz baking powder
- 100ml/3½fl oz red food colouring
- 1.25kg/2lb 12oz ready-to-roll white icing
For the buttercream
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Take the smallest cake tin and draw round it twice on greaseproof paper. Cut out both circles. Measure the circumference of the tin with string, then cut a long strip of paper the length of the string and fold in half lengthways. Grease the tin with butter and place one of the paper circles into the base. Grease again, add a second circle, then grease once more. Grease the inside edge of the tin and line with the long paper strip. Repeat this with the 23cm/9in tin and 30cm/12in tin.
For the small tier, beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla and salt, and half of the flour to prevent the mixture from curdling. Add the remaining flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and give it a final beat to mix together. Add the food colouring and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, leave to cool for five minutes, then remove from the tin, peel off the greaseproof paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
For the medium tier, repeat steps 3 and 4 and cook the cake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
For the large tier, repeat steps 3 and 4 and cook the cake for 1 hour 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the buttercream, cream together the softened butter and icing sugar in a very large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the cream cheese and a few drops of vanilla essence, to taste. (If you’re not using the buttercream straight away, cover the surface with cling film and chill until ready to use. Beat the mixture again until light and fluffy before using.)
Using a long-bladed serrated knife, carefully cut the smallest cake in half and sandwich together with three heaped tablespoons of the buttercream. Cut the remaining cakes in the same way, using six heaped tablespoons of buttercream to sandwich the medium cake and eight heaped tablespoons of buttercream for the large one.
Spread a teaspoon of buttercream onto each cake board and place the cakes onto them, upside down (this gives the cakes a flatter top for icing).
Using half of the remaining buttercream, spread a thin layer over the top and sides of each cake until covered. Refrigerate the cakes for 30 minutes, or until the icing has set. Spread the remaining icing over the cakes to give a smooth finish and chill in the fridge until set.
To cover the cakes in ready-to-roll icing, ice just one cake at a time, as the icing can dry out very quickly. Make sure your work surface is clean and dry, then knead the icing until warm and pliable. Place two tablespoons of icing sugar into a small sieve and use to lightly dust your work surface.
Cut a piece of string for each cake to measure the combined length of the top and sides – this will be the size to which to roll your circle of icing. Roll the icing out to a large enough circle that is 0.4cm/⅙in thick. Carefully slide your hands and arms under the icing, lift centrally over the cake and lay onto the buttercream (you could use a large rolling pin for this instead – simply hold the pin over the centre of the icing and flip the icing over it. Lift, position, and roll over the cake). Dust your hands with a little icing sugar and rub them gently over the cake to smooth the icing over the surface and to make sure it has stuck to the buttercream underneath.
Use a sharp long-bladed knife to trim the edges, cutting downwards cleanly (keep wiping the knife blade, or else the icing will build up and make it difficult to get a clean cut). Repeat with the remaining cakes and icing.
To stack the cakes, hold a dowelling rod at the side of the medium cake and mark with a pencil where the icing comes to. Cut the rod and three others to the same length. Push the rods into the cake about 5cm/2in away from the sides, to form the four corners of a square in the centre of the cake. They should not rise above the level of the icing. If you have miscalculated and the dowelling is too long, remove it and shave off any excess with a sharp knife. Measure, cut and insert the rods in the same way for the large cake. The three cakes can now be stacked directly on to each other. Once they’re stacked, it’s best not to move them about, so it’s safest to assemble them at your venue or in the position you want them to be displayed.
Use a good brand of red colouring and, for a strong, vibrant colour, avoid ‘natural red’.