Prep: 20 to 25 minutes
Bake: 21 to 25 minutes
When I was testing recipes for my gluten-free cake book, I considered including a red velvet cake but thought, no, gluten-free cooks won’t like a recipe that contains red food coloring. Boy, was I proven wrong once I hit the book tour. At each and every stop, once it was time for questions, someone would ask either how to make a red velvet cake using a gluten-free cake mix, or more to the point, why did I omit red velvet? So here it is, a luscious red velvet beginning with a cake mix, adding cocoa for flavor and butter for texture, and the de rigueur cream cheese frosting.
For the red velvet cake:
Vegetable oil spray, for misting the cake pans
Rice flour, for dusting the cake pans
1 package (15 ounces) gluten-free yellow cake mix (see Extra! Extra!)
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/4 teaspoons (from 1-ounce bottle) red food coloring (see Note)
For the cream cheese frosting:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Make the red velvet cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Mist two 8-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray and dust them with rice flour. Shake out the excess rice flour and set the cake pans aside.
- Place the cake mix, pudding mix, and cocoa in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well combined. Add the water, butter, eggs, vanilla, and food coloring and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until it is smooth and well combined, 1 to 1H minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side. Bake the cake layers until the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 21 to 25 minutes. Transfer the cake pans to wire racks and let the cake layers cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake pan and shake the pans gently to loosen the cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another rack so that the layers are right side up and let cool for at least 20 minutes longer.
- Make the cream cheese frosting: Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla a little at a time, beating with the mixer on low speed just to incorporate the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the frosting until it is creamy and light, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
- To frost the cake, place one layer, right side up, on a cake plate or stand. Spread the top of that layer with I cup of frosting, spreading it evenly to the edges. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first and, using a long metal spatula, carefully spread a thin layer of frosting around the side of the cake just to seal the crumbs. Do not let the crumbs rub off into the frosting or they will turn the frosting pink. Spread a second thicker layer of frosting around the side of the cake. Spoon the remaining frosting on top of the cake and spread it evenly to the edge, adding a decorative pattern of swirls to the top with the metal spatula or the back of a spoon.
- For easiest slicing, refrigerate the cake uncovered for 1 hour. To store the cake for longer than 6 hours, place it in a cake saver in the refrigerator. It’s best eaten on the day it is baked.
Note: You can buy all-natural red food coloring made by India Tree. It is made from highly concentrated vegetable colors.
Extra! Extra!: Most gluten-free cake mixes are smaller (15 ounces) than regular cake mixes. (I used Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix for this recipe.) Because of this, the yield is a little smaller and a layer cake needs to be baked in 8-inch pans. These smaller pans make the cake layers taller, making the cake look more impressive when frosted on your cake stand.
Dairy Free: Use margarine instead of butter in the cake. And for the frosting, use a dairy-free cream cheese, such as Better Than Cream Cheese, for the cream cheese, use margarine instead of butter, and increase the confectioners’ sugar to 4 cups.