The Perfect Red Velvet Cake

As someone who likes box-cake varieties just fine, I didn't think a layer cake that tried to be upscale would appeal to me. But this one, FROM THE WALDORF, turned out to strike the perfect balance of down-to-earth and done-up, creamy and cakey, sweet and not-too-sweet.

Serves: 8-10 (one 9” cake)

For the cake:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1.5 cups vegetable oil
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2.25 teaspoons baking soda
.25 teaspoon salt
1.5 pounds canned beets, drained and pureed
1 teaspoon red food coloring

For the icing:
2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper or waxed paper.

To prepare the cake:
MELT the chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water or in the top of a double boiler (or melt in the microwave for 20 to 25 seconds). Meanwhile, place the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
MIX on low speed for 2 minutes. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and continue to mix on low speed scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so everything is well incorporated.
ADD the melted chocolate to this mixture and continue to mix on low speed.
ADD the pureed beets and the food coloring. Continue to mix on low speed until everything is thoroughly combined.
DIVIDE evenly the batter between the 3 prepared pans and bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when touched, or when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
REMOVE the pans from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn the layers out onto the rack and let cool completely.

To prepare the icing:
POUR the cream into a small bowl and whip to soft peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.
PLACE the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until soft and smooth. Add the mascarpone and continue to mix on low speed until the cheeses are well combined. Add the vanilla and the powdered sugar and mix until everything is just combined. Turn off the mixer and fold in the whipped cream by hand with a spatula. Keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.

To assemble
TRIM the top of each layer of cake with a serrated knife, so that it is flat.
PLACE the first layer on a cake plate or serving platter and top with some of the icing. Repeat until all the layers are covered with icing, then ice the top and sides of the cake.
STORE the cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
(Recipe courtesy of The Waldorf-Astoria)

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