The Triumph of the Red Velvet Cheesecake
A long time ago, two knitters imagined something amazing. It was so wonderful it haunted their dreams….eventually the dream was whispered via Twitter and spread like wildfire over the internet. This dream was a dream of the most decadent, delicious, perfect cake ever – the marriage of red velvet and cheesecake. After many sleepless nights, and much sugar-coated toil that dream is now a reality.
Behold the triumph of the Red Velvet Cheesecake!
Ok, so in reality, last week Ruth of Rock and Purl and Marly_Bird started tweeting about how amazing a Red Velvet Cheesecake would be, and wondered if it could be done. I wondered, too. Since I have not slept through the night in more than a year (my 1 year old still doesn’t sleep well) I have ample time each night to sit quietly, rocking the baby and dreaming up the perfect cake.
To start with, the requirements were cheesecake, red velvet cake, and traditional whipped red velvet frosting.Further complicating things is that my husband is wheat intolerant – the cake had to be entirely or very close to wheat free. If you have done any gluten free baking, you know that it’s nearly impossible to get a layer cake to hold together – they usually crumble like a high rise in an earthquake.
Twitter speculation was rampant about the layering: Cake + Cheesecake + Cake + Frosting? Cheesecake + Cake + Frosting? In the end, I went with Crust + Cheesecake + Frosting + Red Velvet Cake +Frosting. I figured that trying to turn out a cheesecake and layer it between Red Velvet was asking for trouble. If a cheesecake is cohesive enough to turn out on it’s own, without any crust, you might as well slap a slab of cream cheese in the middle of Red Velvet cake and save yourself some trouble.
But that wouldn’t do. It had to be cheesecake. And it was! Here’s how I did it.
Start out by making sure you have a round cake pan and a springform pan that are the same size. Mine are 9″ pans, and I dropped the bottom of my springform pan into my cake pan to check – it just fit.
The Recipe Line Up
Let me warn you now, if you like uncomplicated recipes, don’t bake this baby. To complete, it requires mixing and baking four separate recipes. It also is time consuming, so don’t try this if you remembered at the last moment that you’re due at a potluck in an hour. The cheesecake alone requires about 8 hours to fully chill. But I can attest that the results is worth it!
Three out of four recipes below were from my treasure chest of favorite recipes. I’ve made them multiple times before, and knew what to expect of the recipe. If you are free to eat gluten / wheat, I suggest you use your own favorite recipes in place of the red velvet and crust layers. The frosting and the cheesecake started life as “normal” baking recipes and can be used as-is without the need for a full complement of gluten free flours.
The recipes are listed in the order for assembly: crust, cheesecake, red velvet and frosting. The cheesecake needs 8 hours (give or take) to fully chill, once it’s cooled from the oven. You can easily make the red velvet layer and frosting the next day.
The Crust – Gluten Free Shortbread
This makes wonderful shortbread cookies. They’re amazing with coffee. It’s also sheer bliss and a perfect foundation for this cake.
1/2 C Almond Flour*
1/2 C Rice Flour
1/2 C Corn Starch
1/2 C Butter – softened
1/2 Cup of butter
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift dry ingredients together. Add butter mix on low until the dough comes together and is well incorporated. if the dough seems too soft, pop it into the fridge for a few minutes until it begins to firm.
Grease and flour the bottom & sides of the springform pan. Press shortbread dough evenly into the bottom – about a 1/4″ thick. I had leftover dough, and you may, too. Wrap in plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for later.
Bake 20 minutes or until the crust looks golden brown. Remove and let pan cool while you work on the cheesecake filling.
* You can make your own almond flour by blending unsalted, blanched almonds in your blender, and sifting to remove the large chunks. I have even omitted the blanching step as I’ve found the skins add a little color and don’t disrupt the texture. I usually blend, sift, re-blend then measure.
Alternate: Graham Cracker Crust
This is the original crust for my cheesecake – it contains wheat. It’s easy, and you can use pre-baked shortbreads like Lorna Dune cookies in place of the graham crackers
6 Whole Graham crackers
1/4 C Melted butter
Finely grind graham crackers – I use my blender. Add butter and blend until combined. Press into the bottom of your spring form pan and bake at 350 F until golden brown – about 8-10 minutes.
Katie’s Go-To Never-Fail Best Cheesecake Ever
This is converted from a regular, gluten containing recipe. There’s hardly any difference. It always turns out and only once has this baby ever cracked. You’ll love it.
3 – 8 oz Packages cream cheese (use full fat) – room temp
1/2 C Granulated sugar
1 T All purpose flour*
2 Large eggs
6 T Sour Cream or Heavy Cream
1/2 C Half & Half
1 t. Vanilla
1.) Beat cream cheese and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth.
2.) Add eggs, one at a time until just combined.
3.) Mix in remaining ingredients.
4.) Pour filling on top of crust in prepared pan.
5.) Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 and bake for about 40 minutes longer.
6.) Crack the oven door and cool the cake in the oven for at least 10 minutes. Take out of oven and allow to cool to room temp.
7.) Run a sharp knife around the outside of the pan to loosen. Chill 8 hours or until cake is chilled through and firmly set.
8.) Keep the cheesecake in the refrigerator as much as possible. This will help you assemble the layers.
Red Velvet Cake – Gluten Free
This recipe has a lot going for it – it’s pretty tasty and holds together like a champ. I had no trouble creating a cohesive layer cake. Due to the delicate taste of red velvet cake, gluten free versions always taste just a bit different. There’s just no getting around the fact that non-wheat flours don’t taste exactly like wheat. However this version is extremely tasty, has a moist crumb and won’t go to bits at a crucial moment.
If you can eat wheat, use your favorite red velvet recipe. I halved my gluten free version and it was the perfect amount.
3/4 C + 2 T Canola Oil
3/4 C Granulated Sugar
1 Egg, beaten & room temp
1/2 C Brown Rice Flour
1/4 C + 2 T. Sorghum Flour
1/4 C + 2 T. Tapioca Starch
1/2 C Buttermilk (or 1/2 C 1/2 & 1/2 + 1/2 T. vinegar)
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 oz. red food coloring (this is half of a McCormick’s bottles)
1 Tbsp. cocoa
1.) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (noticing a theme here? All three layers cook at the same temp!)
2.) Prepare your pan by greasing and flouring.
3.) Cream the oil and sugar until well mixed. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated. (You’ll notice that this thickens and creates the emulsion that will hold the cake together.)
4.) Whisk all dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
5.) You will now incorporate the dry and wet ingredients into the batter, in four parts, starting with the flour. (Do NOT start with the wet ingredients or you will break the emulsion.) Mix each part completely before adding the next.
6.) Make a paste of the vanilla, cocoa powder and food coloring. Mix thoroughly into the batter.
7.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
8.) Completely cook cake on a wire rack. Run a knife around the outer edge to loosen. Turn cake out. If holding overnight, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and leave out on counter until needed.
Tasty & Traditional (but not gluten free) Whipped Red Velvet Frosting
1 C Mil
5 T Flour
1 C Granulated Sugar
1 C Butter
1 t. Vanilla
1.) Whisk together milk and flour in a small saucepan.
2.) Heat over medium-low heat until thickened, whisking constantly.
3.) Cool completely. I cooled on a wire rack until just warmed and then popped the whole saucepan into the fridge until chilled. I also obsessively whisked the mixture every 10 minutes, to make sure it didn’t clump while cooling but this may be unnecessary.
4.) With a mixer cream butter and sugar.
5.) Add cooled milk mixture and cream until fluffy and well incorporated. If your frosting separates or looks grainy, continue mixing. This frosting should have the look and texture of whipped cream.
Gluten Free Alternative Frosting
You have a few choices here on how you want to handle a wheat/gluten free frosting.
1.) Mix up a batch of real whipped cream. Assemble the layers sans frosting, and coat each serving separately. It will taste amazing, but the presentation won’t look as good. Do not frost until you’re ready to serve or the whipped cream will melt into the cake.
2.) Use trusty old vanilla buttercream with a touch more milk so it’s a bit thinner. Buttercream is tasty, sturdy and versatile. It will hold your layers together without fuss, and you can frost your cake ahead of time.
3.) Make a cream cheese frosting. I think this is a bit redundant given that this is a cheesecake. But, keep your flavor additions to vanilla and you’ll get a frosting that’s sure to blend harmoniously with the flavors already in your cake.
4.) Be really adventurous and attempt a traditional red velvet frosting using potato or cornstarch in place of the flour for the rue. I have not tried this. It could be incredible….or an incredible flop. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!
Assembling the Triumphant Cake
I assume that you have all the parts necessary for this endeavor baked according to the above instructions. You should have 1 baked and completely chilled/set cheesecake, one completely cooled red velvet cake layer, and one batch of your preferred frosting. At this point I’d also grab a rubber scraper and a handy offset spatula for frosting.
1.) Release your cheesecake. Pop off the sides of the spring form pan. I always leave the bottom of my pan for serving.
2.) Plop a blob of frosting on top of the cheesecake -enough for a scant layer. Attempt to level as best you can in case your oven sits crookedly, like mine does. This will be weird as the frosting attempts to iceskate on the slippery surface of the cheesecake. Persevere and keep the frosting minimal.
3.) Unwrap your red velvet layer if necessary. Eyeball this layer and determine the most advantageous positioning for a level cake (just in case you have an un-level oven like mine.) If you have a level oven, revel in it’s glory and move on to the next step.
Look – I got it about spot on & level without trimming the cake:
Yum! See how there’s just a scant amount of frosting? Too much causes the top layer to slide across the slick surface of the cheesecake. Keep it minimal here, and pile the frosting on top.
4.) Carefully plop that red velvet layer on top of the cheesecake, bottom side down.
5.) Generously frost to the top of the cake. I didn’t frost the sides of mine as the frosting would never stick to the cheesecake layer. Plus, it looks really impressive to see that delightfully red velvet crowning the top of your cheesecake.
6.) Return your cake to the fridge to firm everything up. Eat the remaining frosting (I know you’ve been sampling it already!). Get out your rolling pin to beat your family off the cake until you’re ready to serve it. This madness ensued seconds after I finished snapping the pictures.
My job here is done!