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Red Velvet Roll Cake


When it comes to baking, no matter how many batches of chocolate chip cookies I make, I’m just not quite a traditionalist. If I were, I would have made a basic red velvet layer cake by now, instead of making red velvet cupcakes, red velvet sandwich cookies and, now, a red velvet roll cake. That said, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of innovation, either. If I were, I would have forsaken cake entirely and tried for a red velvet flan.

This is a jelly roll-type cake made with a chocolate sponge cake rolled around a rich cream cheese filling. The cake, although it looks quite elegant, is fairly easy to make, thanks to the fact that the cake itself is both moist and sturdy. It is basically a sponge cake, but like all red velvet cakes it contains the requisite combination of cocoa, buttermilk and baking soda. The chocolate flavor is mild and the cake is quite tender, especially after it has been filled with cream cheese frosting and left to sit for a few hours (time that allows the flavors to blend).

Because this is a sponge-type cake that gets its structure primarily from beaten eggs, it is important to make sure your eggs are at room temperature when you start to work with them, so remember to take them out of the fridge at least 45 minutes before you’re going to start cooking. Many recipes that call for cake flour require that it be sifted before measuring and this one is no exception. Sifting helps to prevent lumps, large or small, from forming in the fine flour and creating pockets in your cake. Simply spoon a moderate amount of flour into a fine mesh sifter, sift onto a sheet of parchment paper and gently spoon back into your measuring cup when ready.

One other thing to note about this recipe is that the color is variable. I like my red velvet cakes/cupcakes to have a relatively subtle color, but if you prefer a brighter hue, simply add more red food coloring. An additional teaspoon or two will not throw off the recipe in any way. The color might darken (i.e. look less bright) after baking, so keep that in mind, too.

Red Velvet Roll Cake
3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a jelly roll pan (approximately 17″x12″x1″) with aluminum foil and grease it well with some vegetable oil or cooking spray.
Sift together sifted cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a small bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs together with an electric mixer on high speed. Once they are frothy, slowly add in the sugar. Beat until light, approximately 5 minutes. Beat in the vegetable oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and red food coloring. Working steadily, but gradually, mix in the cocoa mixture with the electric mixer at a low speed.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center.

While cake is baking, sift some confectioners’ sugar onto a large, clean dish towel. When you remove the cake from the oven, carefully flip it over onto the dish towel. Peel off the foil (it should come off easily because it was greased) and roll the cake up in the dish towel, beginning with a short end.
Place cake, hot but wrapped in the towel, seam-side down on a wire rack to cool completely (at least 1 hour).
Prepare filling (below) while it cools.

Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat all ingredients together until light and spreadable.
When cake is cool, gently unwrap it and spread the inside with the filling. Re-roll and place on a serving platter. Dust with more confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Serves 8-10.

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  • naomi
    April 25, 2007

    I generally just put a sieve/sifter over my measuring cup and sift until I have enough flour. (That is, when I sift, which is rarely.)

  • Cheryl
    April 26, 2007

    I love a good roll cake. You did amazing at this one.

  • Chris
    April 26, 2007

    This looks great! I always have so many problems rolling the cake, even with the powdered sugar. Any suggestions?

  • Nicole
    April 26, 2007

    I would say that this cake was easier to roll than many I have made (pumpkin roll cakes seem to be the most breakable, for some reason).

    The only suggestion I have is to roll it as soon as it comes out of the oven (use oven mitts to hold the pan and don’t worry if some powdered sugar goes flying when you flip the cake out!). The warmer the cake is, the more flexible it will be. Good luck!

  • Elle
    April 29, 2007

    What a lovely cake roll. Made a red velvet cake last month, but this looks more my style with more cake and less frosting. Good tip abput rolling it while still warm. Looks YUM!

  • Duchess
    February 24, 2008

    Yikes…you can’t be from The South…too much cocoa & too little food coloring…you made a cream cheese filled chocolate roulade…shame on you for calling it Red Velvet!!

  • sillyzombie
    October 20, 2008

    now i usually make pumpkin jelly rolls, but i wanted to try this only problem i had is the batter is to watery so it settles in the pan and then some parts are extremely thin/ not there or really thick so i don’t know how to solve that maybe finds a level pan and that frosting is way to sweet knowing that i just used a cup of sugar instead of 3 and its perfect, only thing that i would love to try out is a chocolate cream cheese frosting

  • Beverly
    December 17, 2009

    attempted to make two of these cake rolls today and what a disaster! followed the recipe exactly with both cakes and neither cake rose at all.

  • Del Gee
    March 3, 2010

    Shouldn’t the new comments go to the top?

  • Bonnie Rivers
    October 17, 2010

    Absolute disaster!! Tried this recipe 6 times and each time I had to throw out the entire cake roll. During the baking process, all the batter would end up in one corner of my jelly roll pan and rise to about 2-3 inches. The other three cornors burned because there was very little batter in these corners. I followed the recipe exactly and made sure the batter was spread evenly in the pan. Would love to know what I’m doing wrong. It would be great to master this recipe!

  • Bonnie Rivers
    October 18, 2010

    ***Follow Up Comment*** I decided that I was going to conquer this recipe once and for all. Long story short, I realized my problems stemed from using Dutch processed cocoa instead of regular unsweetened cocoa powder. I discovered via another website that when you use Dutch processed cocoa, always make sure you use baking powder and not baking soda as the levening agent. None of the recipes I found on line for Red Velvet Cake made this distinction. When using regular unsweetened cocoa use baking soda as opposed to baking powder. Also, make sure you use real buttermilk. I forgot to buy some at the store. Once I was home, I had to use a powdered version of buttermilk made with water. The final product was on the dry side. I’m convinced it would have been more moist if it had the fat from the buttermilk. Hope this help others avoid the mistakes I made with this recipe.

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