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Mini Red Velvet and Chocolate Layer Cake

  And here we go!  Let singles awareness week commence.

  Now, obviously I'm not totally against Valentine's.  But still, 99% of the reason I made this little beauty is because it's for Sundays with Joy.  I'll still take any excuse to buy chocolate and watch chick flicks, though!  Valentine's is special for me in some ways.  I wrote up last year about how we celebrate it in our family, and those homemade cards and little gifts are what make it lovely.

  Now, Joy's original recipe was actually a Red Velvet Marble cake.  I scanned through it, and started thinking about my favorite red velvet recipe, and then of my chocolate cake that required no stand mixer.  That would definitely make things easier, since I wouldn't have to wash my mixer bowl between cake batters.  And, well, since those cake batters might not marble well together, maybe I'll just do layers.

  This thinking progressed to "What in the heck am I going to do with a 8-inch double layer sitting around the house?"  I decided a bit of downsizing was in order.  I've already posted about cupcakes, so that was out.

  After rifling through my ever-growing pan collection, I found the little 5 by 1 1/2 inch that used to be my grandma's.

  From there on, it was all recipe math and the tedious baking of little cake layers with my one pan.  Which is why I recommend in the recipe that you have at least two!  One is feasible, but it's not a lot of fun.

  After much baking, frosting, chilling, and sprinkling, I had the most precious little cake.  And I would not wish this any bigger, because it's pretty rich!  One piece of this guy is just right.  I also recommend doing this over two days.  It's not hard, just kind of time-consuming.  And cake layers are always easier to stack when they've been chilled.

  Make it for somebody special, your roommate, your mother, or just you!  Everyone deserves cake.

Mini Red Velvet and Chocolate Layer Cake
Yield: one 4-layer, 5- or 4-inch cake

Ingredients for the chocolate cake:
  • ½ stick (¼ cup, 4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon + ⅛ teaspoon (or ⅜ teaspoon) baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sour cream (or 3 tablespoons buttermilk)

Ingredients for the red velvet cake:
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ large egg*
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ½ tablespoon liquid red food coloring
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon distilled white vinegar

Ingredients for the cream cheese frosting:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons imitation (clear) vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
*To halve an egg, crack into a bowl or measuring cup, lightly beat together, then simply measure out half.

Place oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease two 5- or 4-inch pans.  Line bottoms with parchment and grease, then flour the parchment and pan.  Set aside.

For the chocolate cake, in a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water (not touching the water), combine the butter, chocolate, and cocoa. Heat until the butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth (Do not allow the water to boil.). Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg just to combine - then add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until smooth and fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.  Add the flour and sour cream in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Whisk only until each addition disappears into the batter. Don't overmix, but make sure the dry and wet ingredients are fully combined before proceeding.  

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake, rotating halfway through baking, for about 18-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, run a butterknife around the edges, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  

To make the red velvet cake, maintain the oven temperature at 350 degrees F. Grease, line with parchment, and flour two more 5- or 4-inch pans.

In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.  Bake, rotating the halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, run a butterknife around the edges, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. The red velvet tends to dome, so you may have to level your cakes with a serrated knife or cake leveler.

Cooled cakes can be wrapped well and stored in the fridge overnight.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar on low speed until totally incorporated, then increase the speed and beat until smooth.

Assemble your cake as desired, with a level amount of frosting between layers. Spread a very thin coat of frosting over the assembled cake to trap any crumbs the sticky frosting will pull out, this is called a crumb coat. Chill the crumb coat in the freezer for 30 minutes, keeping your bowl of frosting in the fridge while the cake chills. Remove cake from freezer and frost to cover up the hardened crumb coat. Decorate as desired and let cake rest in the fridge for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Sources: inspired by Joy the Baker's Cookbook, red velvet adapted from Annie's Eats, chocolate cake adapted from Confessions of a Tart, frosting adapted from Annie's Eats