My brother, J- and I have a love-hate relationship that reaches to the extremes of the Universe. So epic is it in fact, that during the times we absolutely hate each other, I would go so far as to give him the silent treatment for weeks at a time and completely ignore his existence. And it’s not only me who doesn’t get along with him, my other siblings often have it out with him as well, but not as… awe-inspiring as my fights with him can get sometimes. When we were younger it was much, much worse. My parents used to joke that we were like cat and dog, though in truth, cats and dogs don’t hold a candle to us. In fact they can even co-exist peacefully with each other, which if you lived in my house you would know is nearly impossible with the two of us. Well most of the time, anyway. And to make it ironic, he and I share the same birthdate. Looks like the joke’s on me after all!
J- was born on the eve of my 6th birthday. He was adorable as a baby, but already showed many signs of the traits he would later on develop as a teenager. I admit, despite him being not the perfect brother, I wasn’t exactly the perfect sister either. I should have been a bit more patient with him, more understanding of the fact that he is but a child. But I guess I was a bigger child than he at some point, the way I would take revenge on him whenever he did something that made me angry. My childhood memories connected to him aren’t stellar and bright; they were filled with petty fights, extremely creative [in a bad way] name-calling, and a little bit of violent shrieking. Looking back, it’s not one of my best moments as a sister. I am actually very close to my siblings; J- however, isn’t quite as affectionate as my other two brothers. Even when he was but a toddler, he would prefer doing things on his own rather than have people “baby” him. It’s a sort of stubborn independence, but one that has made him into a person who prefers to keep his distance rather than be outgoing.
Now that we’re older, I’d like to think J- and I have developed a better kind of relationship. He would come to me when he needs someone to talk to about high school issues, and I would gladly offer him some advice. Sure, we still have our bad times, but we have a bit more good times now, which I’m truly glad for. That’s why when it came time for me to choose the cake I was to bake for our birthday (which was yesterday), this was the first cake that popped into my mind.
I just think this cake perfectly represents the relationship we have: the glaring red velvet layer describes how heated our fights can get, and the whiteness of the cheesecake represents the lighter, brighter moments we have together. And how accurate is it that there are two layers of the crimson cake sandwiching the cheesecake! As if the cake is signifying how often we collide (about 75% of the time, just so you know) compared to the peaceful moments we spend with each other. But the fact that it is all covered with the whiteness of cream cheese frosting to me means that, at the end of the day, we embrace each other for who we are, as family should. This is quite literally the most perfect cake I could make for him. (Bonus: cheesecake is his favourite dessert!)
J- is always one of my toughest critics, especially when it comes to cheesecake, but I thought he enjoyed this one! Well, I really did anyway! The cheesecake component of this indulgent creation comes from Martha Stewart, and it is made with a bit of lemon juice and zest for an added kick. The cheesecake was ever so creamy and tangy! It’s definitely a keeper recipe on its own.
I must admit though, I found myself a little hesitant about this cake because I knew the calorie count of just one slice would be off the charts, so I decided to halve the cheesecake recipe from the original for a thinner layer. I did however, keep the red velvet cake layers just the way I found them, and luckily I did. This is definitely one of the best red velvet cake recipes I have ever encountered.
The cake is so fragrant and moist, but with a firmness to it that makes the layers easy to handle. You can lift each round up without worrying about how it might crumble or snap into two from being moved about. The taste is also quite fantastic- not to sweet, with just a hint of vanilla and chocolate. One bite and all the red velvet-induced lovely feelings come tumbling down. Saveur did a terrific job with this one! This gorgeous cake definitely deserves another look:
I made the cheesecake and cake on the same day, with the cheesecake a few hours ahead of the cake. I kept the cheesecake in the fridge for about 8 hours then popped it into the freezer overnight, because frozen cheesecake is easier to handle for layering. The red velvet cake layers were baked in the afternoon, cooled, wrapped in three layers of plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. I do believe it makes the crumbs of the cake a little less restless, since I frosted my cake without much trouble from the cake crumbs this way. Speaking of the frosting, I used a different recipe completely to suit my taste. It’s not too sweet and it’s one of the easiest one could ever make, as all one needs is a majorly softened cream cheese, a whisk, and the arm. It’s also very open to adjustments, for instance, adding a little more sugar for a firmer, thicker frosting, or adding a little bit of milk to thin it out.
The most fun thing about this cake was the assembly. I had so much fun, in fact, that I kept taking photographs of the frosting process. I’m happy to report that I seem to be improving when it comes to icing my cakes. There were some awful parts on the top I guess, because I still need to learn how to even the cake out well especially at the edges, but I guess that’s what piping is for. You can call it cheating, but once I piped all over the top of the cake to hide the imperfections, it ended up being so much prettier!
Just so you know:
- When is the best time to make this recipe? This would be great for Valentine’s, or if you’re feeling just a tad indulgent. It’s also impressive for a special occasion!
- Anything special we should know about before attempting this recipe? It’s better if you distribute the making of the different components of this cake into two days. It might take a little long to finish, but the result is definitely worth it!
- Did I change anything from this recipe? I cut down the cheesecake layer in half. I also used my own frosting recipe because I prefer more cheese than butter, letting the cream cheese flavour shine through. If you want a thicker frosting though, you can go on ahead and add half a cup more sugar to that mixture. The adjustments are reflected below via the recipe I’m posting on the blog. If you would like to see the original measurements, simply click on my source link. (And kudos, by the way to Erin from Erin’s Food Files for nit-picking all the components and coming up with this grand old cake!)
Red Velvet-Cheesecake Layer Cake
For the cheesecake:
10 ounces cream cheese , room temperature
3/8 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk*
2 tablespoons red food coloring, or less according to preference
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
For the frosting:
2 8-ounce bricks cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
white or dark chocolate, for optional decoration
piping tips and pastry bag, for optional decoration
1. Make the cheesecake: Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Set a kettle of water to boil.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl.
3. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and juice, and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.
4. Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil.
5. Pour in filling into the cheesecake pan then place in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes.
6. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge and let cool completely without removing the cheesecake from the pan. Cover the pan and chill overnight, then wrap the whole pan in plastic wrap and freeze.
7. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
8. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.
9. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar until well combined. Add dry ingredients in three additions and beat at low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes after all the dry ingredients have been added.
10. Divide batter evenly between 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.
11. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely, then level if using immediately, or wrap in several layers of plastic wrap if storing for another day.
12. Make the frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5–7 minutes. You can also do this by hand.
13. Assembly: Place a thin amount of frosting on the cake stand to act as a glue to prevent the cake from moving while frosting. Place the bottom red velvet cake layer on the stand.
14. Remove cheesecake from freezer, unwrap, and remove from metal bottom, then peel off parchment paper. Place cheesecake layer on top of the bottom layer of the red velvet cake. If the cheesecake is wider than the cake, and it is necessary to to trim it, wait approximately 10 minutes for the cheesecake to soften, then trim it with a knife.
15. Place top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting to act as the crumb coat. Be careful not to get any red velvet crumbs in the bowl of frosting!
16. Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes or until the crumb coating has set, then frost with as much of the remaining frosting as necessary.
17. To decorate: Top with shaved white chocolate and/or shaved dark chocolate, or pipe some patterns on top with your favourite tip. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
*No buttermilk? No problem! Learn how to make homemade buttermilk here. It just takes two household staples.
I hope that J- understands the sentiment I put into this cake for him, more than how it looks or tastes. I could wish all day to have a more agreeable brother in him, but I’ve already got two of those, so I suppose I actually have it quite good. Besides, looks like we’re becoming wiser with age when it comes to each other, because we’re getting along better now.
My only wish for him on his birthday is that he learns to control that unstoppable mouth of his. He talks twice as much as a gossipmonger does, and often without thinking before he speaks. He is lucky for the people who are used to it and no longer take much offense to the things he says (it took me years before I mastered this), but the rest of the world is not as accepting and forgiving as family is. I wish he remembers that before he gets into any real trouble.
Nonetheless, I am not the type of person to hold back my affections to people who deserve it. I hope I am not embarrassing him by announcing on here that I love him even if for no other reason than because he is my brother. And although he’ll probably just roll his eyes at me and grunt, I could only hope that’s his way of saying the same. We’re just too used to being hostile to each other to say it out loud.