Monday, October 24, 2011

A Killer Cake

by Sheila Connolly

If you're planning a Halloween party and want to make an impression, you can make a bloody cake.

The cake recipe is a basic red velvet cake, which seems to wax and wane in popularity—but it always tastes good.

One important point to remember:  you get that wonderful red color only if you use the right kind of cocoa powder.  You do NOT want to use alkali-processed cocoa, also known as Dutch process—read the fine print on your label.  The cake would still taste good, but it would be brown, not red.  What you want is natural unsweetened cocoa.

And this takes a LOT of food coloring.  I have a half-quart bottle of the stuff, and it's half gone already.  Be careful using it, too, because it loves to spread all over everything.  But at least it's water-soluble.

The Cake:

Butter for pans

3½ cups cake flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups vegetable oil (neutral in flavor)
2¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2½ teaspoons white vinegar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans with butter and line bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

Place oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches (each). Scrape down the bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar (it will foam) and add to the batter with the mixer running. Beat for 10 seconds.

Divide the batter among the pans, place them in the oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes. Then remove the layers from the pans, flip them over and peel off the parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

Yield: 3 cake layers (I warned you this was big!)

The Frosting:

You can use your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe—there are plenty out there.  The basic components are cream cheese and confectioner's sugar, but you can swap in butter, mascarpone, crème fraiche, etc. for part of the cream cheese  Just keep tasting until it seems right to you—and make lots, because you have a lot of cake to cover.

Here's one version that's a little lighter, and it gives you enough to cover the cake.

2 cups heavy cream, cold
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
12 ounces mascarpone
½ teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Softly whip cream by hand, in electric mixer or in food processor. Cover in bowl and refrigerate.

Blend the cream cheese and mascarpone in an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, blend briefly, and then gradually add confectioners’ sugar. Blend well.  You want this to be stiff, but not so stiff that you can't fold in the cream. Fold in the whipped cream. Refrigerate until needed.

Yield: Icing for top and sides and between layers of a 3-layer cake.

And finally…Blood! (bet you never thought you see a recipe for this!)

1 cup light corn syrup
1 Tblsp water
2 Tblsp red food coloring

Mix until you get the consistency you want.  If it looks too bright for you, you can add other colors in small amounts.

Choose your favorite large knife and stab away!


  1. I love the pic at the top with the big carving knife! That would make such a creepy cool centerpiece at anyone's Halloween table!

  2. Love this cake! What a great idea for a mystery dinner. I'll have to give this some thought. I'm already working on a "CLUE!" table setting based on the game, this might just be the perfect dessert.

  3. I especially love the scene you set with the toile wallpaper and the beautiful cake plate!! I may have to make this even though our "trick or treat" days are over here at Chez Phillipe! No lil' gremlins make the long creepy trek up our driveway either...perhaps I'll begin planning a goblin gala for next year!!
    Thanks for the recipe...we all love red velvet here.


  4. BLOODY EXCELLENT CAKE!!! This is just about THE perfect Halloween Party keeper cake recipe and the tip on the cocoa powder is bloody gold, too. Thank you, Sheila!

    Happy Halloween!
    ~ Cleo

  5. I've never seen a recipe for fake blood--too cool, Sheila! Love the picture here and the red cake. Spooky for sure!

  6. This is great. Now I know what I'm bringing to the Hallowe'en party.