25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 4: Red Velvet Cake with Ermine Frosting

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button


This could easily double as a Thoughtful Thursday rant.

There is one holiday goodie that causes me to have a bone of contention with many people…including my mother.  Growing up, when my mom made red velvet cake, it was a layer cake from River Road Recipes (yes, of spinach madeleine fame).  My mom’s original copy (of which the cover has worn off…it being a spiral bound paper backed copy) is stained from the red food coloring.

Here’s the kicker and the origin of my major bone of contention:  the frosting is not cream-cheese based.  The frosting is oh-so-light and oh-so-fluffy and a perfect complement to the cake.  Cream cheese frosting on red velvet anything tends to make me gag.  I realize there are those who think the two are codependent upon each other, but I am not one of those.  To me, cream cheese frosting is too heavy for the delicate crumb of red velvet cake.

I’ve always referred to the frosting as “thickened milk frosting” or “flour frosting” or, perhaps erroneously, “bechamel frosting” and never knew the technical culinary term.

Then came the potluck episode of Pioneer Woman…the first one.  To me, this is the episode known as “The episode with the red velvet sheet cake with the correct frosting.”  She uses the thickened milk frosting…and the cake takes only 20 minutes to bake.  There is one key difference from my “mom’s” recipe and hers, however.  Hers uses granulated sugar, and my mom’s uses confectioner’s sugar.

Here’s a photo of the finished product:

I could, if I had any less self-control, consume half of the cake in one sitting.  There’s only one other cake I can say that about, and I’m going to hold off on posting that one.  It will come…just not now.

But here’s the recipe:

Red Velvet Cake with Ermine Frosting

(Adapted from Pioneer Woman)

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour (all purpose)

6 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup (with vinegar) to make buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1 1/2 ounces red food coloring

1 cup shortening

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup milk

5 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 sticks butter, unsalted

1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large sheet cake pan with extra shortening.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch, and salt several times until completely mixed and light.  In a separate bowl, stir together buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, baking soda, and eggs.  Add the additional 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar and stir.  Set aside

In a small bowl (while wearing your oldest clothes because this will be a mess), use a fork to whisk together the cocoa and food coloring.  Set aside.  Cream the shortening and sugar.  Add, in batches, the dry ingredients and the wet (non-red) ingredient combinations.  Pour in the red mixture and combine.

Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top with a knife.  Bake 20 minutes.  After the cake is baked, cool the cake in the pan completely.

Combine the milk and flour over medium heat and whisk until thick (it will become difficult to whisk).  Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.  Add remaining vanilla.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the milk mixture and beat until fluffy and light.  Frost the top of the cake.  Lick up the rest.

Muffin, who, oddly enough, is not a big cake eater (as in, eats the frosting and any cake touching the frosting and leaves the bottoms of cupcakes barren), but he ate three pieces of the cake while we were at my sister’s.  Half of the cake disappeared on Wednesday and Thursday before Thanksgiving dinner.  I know I was responsible for part of the disappearance.

Here’s the printable to add to your recipe binder:


I love this recipe, but, if you are familiar with the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, you know that I made a few substitutions.  I made my own “cake flour” by substituting 2 tablespoons cornstarch+the remainder of a cup measure filled with all-purpose flour.  I also made my own buttermilk (because I rarely buy buttermilk) by mixing a tablespoon of vinegar with the remainder of a cup of milk.

My grandmother used to drink buttermilk and eat cornbread, but she’s the only person I ever knew to drink buttermilk (and thus finish off a jug or carton of buttermilk before it went bad).

Recently (like last week), I found out the technical culinary term for the “thickened milk frosting”:  ermine frosting.  Thank you New York Times.

Muffin Approved


Are you dogmatic about your favorite foods being prepared certain ways, or is that just me?


7 thoughts on “25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 4: Red Velvet Cake with Ermine Frosting

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