Recipe Review

This Southern Red Velvet Cake Has a Smart Secret Ingredient

published Feb 3, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Because red velvet cake is considered a Southern cake, it was important for me to include a Southern food expert in this recipe showdown. I landed on Monique, the talent behind the Divas Can Cook blog, which was featured by Southern Living magazine as one of the top 20 Southern food blogs to follow for weeknight dinner inspiration.

In addition to easy dinners, Monique’s blog is filled with delicious desserts. Her two-layer red velvet cake is unique in that it calls for coffee as well as cocoa, and she also offers a range for the food coloring, which I appreciated. Would Monique’s recipe come out on top? Here’s what I happened when I tried it for myself.

Get the recipe: Best Southern Red Velvet Cake

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Divas Can Cook’s Best Southern Red Velvet Cake

This batter was easy to prepare. You mix the wet ingredients first (sugar and vegetable oil, followed by eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and food coloring, then the coffee and vinegar) and then add the dry ingredients gradually (flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt). For the coffee I used my Nespresso machine, but prepared made it more like a lungo (espresso with water), so that it was more like brewed coffee. There is a range for the red food coloring, and I went with 1 1/2 ounces, the midpoint of the directions. 

The recipe indicates that the batter is thin, but I did not find that to be the case. I baked the cakes for 30 minutes, after not one, but two cautionary instructions to make sure that the cakes were not over-baked. 

The frosting ingredients are mammoth (4 blocks of cream cheese, 2 sticks of butter, and 4 cups of powdered sugar), so you need a very large bowl. To prepare the frosting, I used the paddle in the stand mixer and pulsed when I added each cup of sugar, in four parts, until it was partially mixed in and then mixed it in fully by turning the machine to medium-high. I scraped down the bowl multiple times.

There were no cake assembly instructions. I built the cake with each layer top-side down and because I had so much frosting, I could generously ice the layers and I had enough to fill in all the side gaps between them. It was easy to ice the cake because of the amount of frosting, and what was really surprising was that the frosting picked up very few red crumbs — even in the first coat. I attribute that to the cake, which was solid but not dry. Even with using a ton of frosting on the cake, I still had over a cup left over.

Credit: Paula Shoyer
Divas Can Cook Red Velvet Cake

My Honest Review of Divas Can Cook’s Southern Red Velvet Cake

This is a gorgeous cake, both whole and sliced, with a deep red burgundy color. I appreciated the pretty color, as the recipe did not require very much red food coloring. The generous amount of frosting meant that I could completely cover the cake and have a nice, 1/2-inch middle layer of frosting and a thick coat of frosting on the top and sides. When sliced, the layers were even and the contrast between the cake and frosting was lovely. The amount of frosting and cake is perfectly balanced, with neither flavor eclipsing the other.

The combination of the cocoa, coffee and vanilla resulted in a very flavorful cake, with a lovely chocolate taste. I did not taste the coffee at all and believe it just enhances the cocoa flavor. The large amount of cream cheese in the frosting gave it a lovely flavor, complementing the chocolate taste of the cake. 

The texture of the cake was superb: light and fluffy, and throughout. Combined with the fluffy frosting that remained soft even a few days after the cake was assembled, the cake melts in your mouth and feels like you are eating a cloud.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

1 Tip If You’re Making Divas Can Cook’s Southern Red Velvet Cake

  1. Cool the cakes bottom-side down. After removing them from the oven, I flipped the baked cakes onto my cooling rack, but later wished I had flipped them over to sit on the rack bottom-side down as the top stuck a bit to the rack. I used my fabulous large scraper to remove the cakes from the rack, so it worked out alright, but I’ll do it differently next time.

Overall rating: 10/10

Have you made Diva’s Can Cook’s red velvet cake recipe? Let us know in the comments!