Red velvet is hands down my all time favorite cake. It is the perfect cake: rich, moist, vibrant, flavorful, elegant, filling, impressive...the list goes on. But then I read a funny quote in Virginia Will's Bon Appetit, Ya'll that said red velvet is "the Dolly Parton of cakes–she's a little bit tacky, but you love her." It made me laugh because as many times as I've eaten or made red velvet cake, I've never once thought of the red color as even slightly tacky. This is coming from someone who grew up eating key lime pie that was sea foam green, though. That's natural, right? But I'll give her that one, two whole containers of red food coloring definitely qualify this cake as tacky. Good thing we love it anyways.

I spend months trying to decide what I'll make for Christmas dessert. I probably have bookmarked at least 15 possible recipes by the time Christmas season actually arrives. This particular recipe appeared on Tastespotting in the beginning of December, and there was no question in my mind that it would be making an appearance at Christmas dinner. I made pumpkin spice cheesecake for Thanksgiving, so I wasn't going to choose another cheesecake. But cheesecake inside a cake is a different story. This cheesecake cake not only tops the list of my holiday dessert picks, but it is also one of my favorite cakes I have ever eaten period. If you are like me and try to add cream cheese to just about anything, this is the ultimate recipe for you. The cheesecake layer is cold and rich with a slight lemon tinge that gives it a different taste than the regular cream cheese frosting. The cake is perfect, too. It's a rich red color (I hate it when red velvet cakes are pink), and the flavor is strong enough not to be taken over by the cheesecake layer.

I've mentioned before that we eat a lot in my family. By the time dessert gets around it is expected that you will feel full to the point of bursting. I made this Christmas night, so as usual I ran into the problem of poor lighting for pictures. To solve this problem I tried to cut small pieces for my 16 person Christmas dinner so that I could have a piece to photograph the next day. Never in my life have I had so much opposition to the serving size. Everyone wanted seconds. Bookmark this recipe, and bring it out when you want to impress a crowd!

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake 
Recipe from Beantown Baker
(previously from Erin's Food Files, cake and frosting adapted from Apple A Day, originally adapted from Saveur cheesecake adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 12-16
Printable Recipe

Cheesecake
1 1/4 pounds bar cream cheese (20 oz), room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarse salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Cake
2 1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp (1 oz.) red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white distilled vinegar

Frosting
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
12 oz. butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cup confectioners' sugar

Decorations
1 bar white or dark chocolate (Optional for decoration)

Make the cheesecake
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set a kettle of water to boil. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. 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.

Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

Make the cake
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between 2 greased and floured 9" round cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely, then level.

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.

Assembly
Place bottom layer on cake stand. 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. 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!

Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, then frost with as much of the remaining frosting as necessary.

Top with shaved white chocolate and/or shaved dark chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (This cake doesn't have to stay in the fridge until IMMEDIATELY before serving, so don't worry if you have a 30 minute lapse between the refrigerator and serving.)

Had to take this one at night. Pardon the tacky wallpaper and bad lighting!

7 comments

Sweet & Savory Summer said... @ December 28, 2010 at 2:32 PM

I'm the same way about choosing THE Christmas dessert- to procrastinate studying for exams I filled a whole folder on my browser with recipes to make over break.. and I wanted to make this one for Christmas dessert too! Too bad my sister's boyfriend doesn't like cheesecake or red velvet :( Yours looks delicious though!

Ivan D said... @ December 29, 2010 at 10:36 AM

I really like my cheesecake untouched but Sarah, this is such a beautiful cake that I'm really going to have to give it a try!!!

Evan Thomas said... @ December 29, 2010 at 3:57 PM

This sounds so so perfect. Cheesecake and cake--all you need is a fork and you're good to go!

Steph said... @ December 30, 2010 at 3:23 PM

I love this idea! And I'm glad I'm not the only one who mulls over recipes. It took me two weeks to finally decide on my Chrismtas baking list :)

Christina said... @ December 31, 2010 at 9:21 AM

What a pretty cake! YUM! Thanks for sharing the recipe! Happy new Year!

Sarah said... @ January 3, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Sweet & Savory: Oh goodness, you should see the bookmark folder on my computer. It's out of control. I've got a few people in my family who don't like cheesecake either...I just set out leftover Christmas cookies for them! They don't know what they are missing.

Ivan: As much as I love plain cheesecake, too, this was a great twist. I will say that I can't see it working with any type of cake but red velvet. Definitely worth trying!

Evan: Who would've thought cheesecake and cake were perfect complements? My bar for dessert expectations has been raised significantly.

Steph: I wish I could take credit for the idea. You are definitely not alone in mulling over recipes. It's so bad that I might call it a hobby of mine haha.

Christina: Thanks! Happy New Year to you too! Hope you find an excuse to make the cake soon.

Krispie said... @ May 10, 2012 at 11:50 PM

I am liking the treats in your blog more and more... I also like the saying "A party without cake is really just a meeting."

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