June 30, 2012

Red Velvet Graduation Cake

My cousin graduated from high school!  My aunt asked me to make a cake for her graduation party, and I was happy to do so.  This is a 12" square red velvet (my cousin's request) cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.  It's the largest cake I've ever made and I learned a lot throughout the process.  In total, it took me approximately 10 hours to complete (including planning, practicing, calculating, etc), although much of that time was spent desperately trying to recover from some...unexpected challenges (more on that later).  Most importantly, my cousin liked it!  Yay!

My first task was to choose a shape, size, and recipe for this cake. I chose to do a square because it would serve more people than a round cake with the same length/diameter.  The size was chosen based on the calculation that a 12" square would feed 36 people 2" square slices (which I think are pretty generous portions).  Finally, I had to chose a recipe.  To my surprise, I ended up having to bust out some middle school math to get this figured out (yay, math!).  I found a recipe for red velvet cake from Joyofbaking.com.  Unfortunately, it was for two 9" round pans, not two 12" square ones.  So, here comes the middle school math problem:

You are given a recipe that makes enough batter for two 9" round pans (9" is the diameter).  You would like to make a cake of the same height using two 12" square pans.  By what number should you multiply the recipe ingredients so that you obtain the correct amount of batter?  Round to the nearest reasonable number.  SHOW YOUR WORK.

Minus 50 points for leaving off the area units!

Woohoo!  I'm guessing that bakers have to do this all the time - maybe I'll use this problem next time I'm tutoring someone who is learning areas or ratios.

Next, I needed to figure out decorations.  My aunt told me that the party would have a black & white, paisley & scrolls theme.  I decided to do some black and white  paisley shapes out of fondant, and pipe the scrolls and text in royal icing, which I was fairly comfortable with since I had just used it to decorate my Battenberg Cake.  I practiced my design with royal icing many times in preparation.

Practice, practice, practice...

I wanted to get a really sharp white/black contrast.  I knew this might be difficult with buttercream, which always is a bit yellow due to the butter (and I absolutely, totally, utterly HATE vegetable shortening - seriously, that stuff is my nemesis).  I've been itching to try covering a cake with fondant, which would give me a really nice white, but I know that most people really dislike fondant (including my husband...and to be totally honest, me as well).  Finally, I settled on trying a mixture of white modeling chocolate and white fondant, which I hoped would be tasty as well as relatively easy to work with.

I made the modeling chocolate the night before the party and popped it into the refrigerator.  I have made and used modeling chocolate before, so I wasn't anticipating a big problem with this step.  The next day, when it came time to cover the cake, I removed it and started working the chocolate into the fondant.  I quickly noticed a problem - there were huge chunks of unmelted chocolate in my modeling chocolate!  I honestly don't know how this happened - the chocolate was completely melted when I poured the corn syrup in.  Maybe the cooler corn syrup solidified the chocolate when it was added?

I continued kneading the chocolate and fondant together, secretly hoping that the chunks would somehow disappear with continued kneading.  They didn't.  I started rolling the substance out, hoping the chunks wouldn't be super obvious.  They were.  I feverishly started thinking about how I could turn the chunks into part of the design somehow - perhaps they would look like cool moon-craters (it's a feature, not a bug!)?  They did not look cool, and the uneven texture tore the chocolate/fondant, making it impossible to roll out.

So, the cake ended up being covered in an off-white buttercream.  I had to pipe the words and scrolls in buttercream instead of royal icing (royal icing bleeds into buttercream).  I had never piped in buttercream, and was super nervous about attempting to pipe in an unfamiliar substance for such an important cake.  The buttercream was not as smooth as the royal icing, but it turned out ok I think.

The cake came out pretty tasty, although the red velvet was a little less moist than I'd hoped.  The white chocolate cream cheese frosting was amazing.  Most importantly, my cousin liked her cake and had a good graduation party.  Yay!  And, congratulations!

Red Velvet Cake
I followed the Red Velvet Cake recipe at Joyofbaking.com exactly except I multiplied everything by 2.25 and used two 12" square pans.  Because I didn't make any other alterations, I won't repeat the recipe here.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
This was delicious and easy to make.  Makes enough to cover a two-layer 12" square cake.

8 oz white chocolate
16 oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
12 oz unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 cups powdered sugar

  1. Over a double-broiler, melt the white chocolate just until there are no more lumps.  Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix the cream cheese and butter on low speed for approximately 3 minutes, until well blended.  
  3. Slowly add the white chocolate and vanilla to the cream cheese and butter.  Mix until combined.
  4. Add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, making sure it is blended and occasionally scraping the bowl with a spatula.  You can add more or less powdered sugar if you like.


  1. Not only did you bust out the junior high math, but the cursive skills! :-)

    Gorgeous cake, as usual, Laura!

  2. Love this cake!!! The red velvet looks so yummy. I think it would be perfect for a black and white grad party and I just had to share it with my followers! http://blovelyevents.com/2013/05/17/black-and-white-grad-party/


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