Red Velvet Stack

By Chef Megan Joy / February 2, 2013

Hello February! I feel like the dreary, gloomy part of winter is over. When I think of my past seasons here, February brings up memories of warmer temperatures, lots of sunshine, and longer days. Let’s hope this month proves the same.

We did get a decent amount of snow a few days ago from a storm that passed through here. Here’s a photo of all that snow in action:


But anyways, that was back in January.

It can’t be February without baking something romantically themed. I’m a trained pastry chef, so I can’t help but focus on the holidays. When I worked at the restaurant I used to look forward to planning a special Valentine’s Day dessert. Halfway through the evening it would lose its allure to me as the dessert station would get slammed with tickets. Nothing says romance like a fancy dessert…

I will always enjoy all things red velvet, however. I still enjoy sweets, but I appreciate ones that are very balanced the most. Desserts that have contrasting flavors, rather than hitting your taste buds with straight up sugar.

This recipe is an adaptation from Francisco J. Migoya’s beautiful book, The Modern Cafe. It starts with a buttermilk sponge cake that has just a hint of cocoa and plenty of red food coloring. Layered in between the cake layers is a simple cream cheese frosting.



The cake is easiest to assemble when it has been chilled. Sticking it in the freezer or refrigerator helps the cake to firm up, so when you cut it and stack it’s easy to handle. I like to chill the cake before I cut it too, since that allows the layers of red and white to be more distinct, rather than smooshing together when they’re both room temperature. Either way you do it, it will still taste divine.

This makes one 5.5″ x 11.5″ cake. Depending on how you cut it, you can have any number of servings. Small squares or rectangles add a vibrant and cute look to a dessert tray or gift package; larger rectangles or trianges paired with some whipped cream, raspberries, and chocolate sauce make a stunning ending to a nice meal.



How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Red Velvet Stack
Adapted from The Modern Cafe by Francisco J. Migoya

Red Velvet Stack
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
  • Red Velvet Sponge:
  • 1½ sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1⅓ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 oz plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  • Scant 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. To make the sponge, preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a parchment-lined baking sheet (11.5" x 17.5").
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until blended.
  4. Mix in the vanilla.
  5. Combine the cocoa powder, flour, and baking soda in a bowl.
  6. Alternately add the flour mixture with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
  7. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  8. Beat in the food coloring and vinegar.
  9. Spread the batter into the prepared baking sheet and smooth into an even layer.
  10. Bake for 15-16 minutes until the sponge is puffed and the top springs back when lightly touched.
  11. Let cool completely, then refrigerate for 20 minutes or freeze for 10, to firm up the sponge and allow easier handling.
  12. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  13. Gradually beat in all of the powdered sugar until creamy.
  14. Add the vanilla and set aside.
  15. When the sponge has firmed up, cut it into 3 equal sections (each will be about 11.5" x 5.5").
  16. Spread ½ of the cream cheese filling on the first piece of sponge, then top with the second piece of sponge.
  17. Repeat with the remaining cream cheese filling and sponge cake.
  18. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  19. Makes one 11.5" x 5.5" cake.
Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking, to make at sea level, increase the baking soda to 1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon.

About the author

Chef Megan Joy

Jenn - May 23, 2013

Hi! I have been searching high and low for a red velvet cake recipe to make cupcakes and a layer cake at high altitude. I’ve tried a couple of recipes already and my cupcakes keep coming up flat. Ugh! I live at 5200 ft. and was wondering if you could give me some advice for using your red velvet stack recipe.

Also, how many cupcakes do you think this recipe would make? How many 8″ round cakes”? Or do you have another recipe for red velvet that you use?

Thanks! And your cakes look beautiful!

    Chef Megan Joy - May 24, 2013

    Hi Jenn, this recipe may not be the best for round cakes or cupcakes, since it is a sponge cake recipe. The smaller the baking pan, the higher the risk of this batter collapsing. I will email you some information!

      Kasey - May 29, 2013

      Hi there! Thank you for sharing your recipe…like the above ‘request for help on making a cake’ & your reply, can I please also get some information on making a red velvet cake at high altitude. It would be soooooo appreciated! Thank you, thank you.

Polina - April 30, 2014

The cake looks amazing! I would like to make it but have a question. I assume the 1 tbsp of red food coloring refers to liquid food coloring. Do you know how much I would need with gel food coloring? Thank you.

    Chef Megan Joy - May 3, 2014

    Hi Polina, you can use the same amount of gel food coloring, that’s what I usually use. Add as much coloring to your batter until it’s the desired red you’re seeking.

Lisa Drake - June 11, 2014

Hi, Megan! I came visiting today looking for Red Velvet Cake. It is a family birthday tradition. Do you have a high altitude recipe for round cakes and cupcakes?

Jan - July 20, 2014

Hi Megan! I love this recipe and wanted to ask you about using if for a wedding cake. The bottom 2 layers will be in a 12 inch round. How do I make the adjustments for this large of pan. The top layer will be 8 inch so I’m okay with the original recipe.


    Chef Megan Joy - July 20, 2014

    Hi Jan, you’ll want to make a larger recipe to have enough batter for your 12″ round layers. The cake may take a little longer to bake, so after 10-15 minutes keep checking every few minutes until the center springs back when lightly touched. Happy baking!

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