Small 4 inch red velvet cake

Small red velvet cake with cream cheese white chocolate frosting

Small 4 inch red velvet cake

This is a full-fledged and deliciously vulgar red velvet cake. If you wanted a non-frightening cake, you’d go with this clever beet-based cake by pastry chef Pamela Moxley.

Small 4 inch red velvet cake

Small 4 inch red velvet cake

That is not what happened here.

Who allowed this? Who thought this was acceptable? I like this cake, but why? Why would you do this?

Cocoa and extra strength red food paste colouring

Ready to bake in little 4 inch tins!

I’ve been reading a bit about red velvet’s popularity and why people like it, which are two slightly different questions. One man on the internet was not a fan, and suggested that everyone who liked red velvet cake was probably a woman. You could see and hear the lip-curling around that last word (wimmin!), as if that assumption were a further indictment of the cake. It was funny. Well, dude, if you project everything you don’t like onto women, you can just go into Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar and apply a portion of Captain Beefheart and Donkamole fries to your face.

4 inch red velvet layers


I’m not particularly dedicated to red velvet cake; I’m not defending its honour, and it is of course fine to dislike this cake or indeed any food item on this naughty earth. It just generally boggles me that people sincerely gender food in that way. It’s a bit silly, to be honest.

Frosting a tiny red velvet cake

Red velvet is pretty popular in England. I remember a time when no-one had heard of it save those (like me) who lurked on the internet looking at pictures of food, which back then was dominated by U.S.-style baking. It was of course a well-established decades-old favourite, but just a few years ago there was a particularly strong surge of popularity in the U.S. (I can’t remember why), at which point England caught on.

Crumb coating a red velvet cake

Crumb coating a red velvet cake--with such a bright cake layer and pale frosting, crumb coating is important for a clean finish

Now, I understand perfectly well that people don’t want to ingest horrifying amounts of food colouring, or view it as a weak chocolate cake, a mediocre vehicle for cream cheese frosting. But when you start focusing on what a thing lacks, rather than celebrating what it is right now, it is difficult to find and create love in order to move forward in joy.

I made a mini version of this cake when I was feeling lonely specifically because I wanted a red velvet cake. If I wanted chocolate cake, I would make this. If I wanted cream cheese frosting, I have the ability to simply make a bowlful and eat it.

Small 4 inch red velvet cake, frosted!

What I wanted, very specifically, was a very plush, tender cake with just a hint of cocoa covered in tangy-sweet cream cheese frosting. That is red velvet cake.

This recipe took a bit of tweaking. It should result in a little cake with all the majesty of tall layers filled with frosting.

The cream cheese white chocolate frosting surprised me; there’s that milky tang just rounded off by a hint of white chocolate, and it has a dreamy texture, light and smooth, neither too dairy-heavy or sugar-crusted. Much greater than the sum of its parts. Promise me that you’ll try the frosting with something you think will match.

I have to say that a little coffee in the batter does make it just that bit more fragrant but it’s really no big deal. However you make it, the whole thing is just rich and sweet enough, which I like. The colour is wonderfully too much but the actual eating of this cake is fairly restrained.

Oh, but if you want a delicious little red velvet cake with none of this faffing about, try Cake in a Jar. You can read more about Genie’s work here. Her red velvet cake is truly the best I’ve had. You’ll have to taste it and see for yourself.



Yields 4 – 6 slices. Makes a 4 inch cake with 4 layers. (If you don’t want to get new cake tins, the batter makes enough for 6 standard cupcakes or a single 20 cm/8 inch layer.)

The frosting recipe yields approximately 300 ml/1 1/4 cups frosting, enough to decently fill and cover this whole cake.

Keeps for about 3 – 4 days at room temperature, all surfaces (especially cut) well covered with foil or clingfilm.

For the red food colouring: for the most delightfully vulgar colour, get hold of bake stable, non-natural professional gel paste colour. Most shops only stock colourings which are unsuitable or absurdly weak and therefore uneconomical, even for this tiny cake. It’s very easy to order online or go to a specialist cake shop; on the advice of Queen Baker Genie of Cake In A Jar, I ordered Sugarflair Extra Max Concentrated Paste Colour, which was under £5 (postage included) for 42g on evilBay.


for the cake

1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon concentrated red gel paste food colouring
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon prepared coffee (any old kind will do) or water
50g unsalted butter, well softened
100g granulated sugar
1 egg (UK medium size, 53g – 63g in the shell)
3 tablespoons buttermilk
75g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate (baking) soda
3/4 tsp white vinegar

for the frosting
125g/4 1/2 oz full-fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
65g/2 1/4 oz white chocolate, melted
25g/2 scant tablespoons unsalted butter, well softened
50g/6 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
A few drops of vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 170 degrees C/150 fan (325 degrees F). Prepare 2 x 4 inch cake tins,  lining the bottoms with a circle of baking paper and greasing the sides.

For the cake: in a small bowl, thoroughly mix cocoa powder, smaller amount of concentrated red food colouring, vanilla, and water or coffee to make a slurry. It should be distinctly dark red; if not, increase the amount of colouring  drop by drop, but do not exceed 1/2 tsp in total. Set mixture aside for now.

In a medium bowl, beat the soft butter and sugar til fluffy and pale, then add the egg, continuing to beat until the mixture thickens and becomes even fluffier.

Add the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture and beat very well, scraping down the sides. Slowly mix in half the buttermilk, then half the flour, repeating til everything is combined.

Lastly, add the salt, bicarbonate soda and vinegar on low speed, mixing well until you have a very smooth batter.

Divide batter between tins (they should be about 3/4 full) and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until very well risen, the surface is springy when gently touched, and a cake tester comes out with a moist crumb. Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out and cooling completely. You may wish to chill them til firm for easier assembly.

For the icing: beat the cream cheese until smooth. Pour in the melted white chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add the butter, mixing well, then the icing sugar and vanilla extract, beating just until the filling is smooth and fluffy.

Assemble the cake. I’m sure you already know how to prepare and ice a layer cake, but in case you don’t:

Split each cake layer in half so you have 4 thin layers. I score the outside with a small knife before shimmying it in horizontally. If the top crust of the cake is uneven, trim it flat (you can use some of the crumbs as decoration or eat it as a treat).

As there’s such a colour contrast between crumb and frosting, it’s wise to keep a spoon just for doling out the frosting in order to limit crumb transfer. Place 1 cake layer onto the plate cut-side down, spread with 2 tablespoons frosting, and continue to layer like this. You should have about half the frosting left.

For the crumb coat, use 2 tablespoons frosting for the top of the cake, then distribute 4 tablespoons frosting all round the sides before spreading it into a thin layer. Let this be messy; get it all into the uneven cracks and hollows. Leave to set for 10 minutes, preferably chilled.

Use all the remaining frosting to create a smooth, even layer all over. You may wish to let it sit for at least another 10 minutes for neat slices, but it’s not essential.

Cut, admire, eat.

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