Bloody Red Velvet Cake

by Jillian
Moist layers of cocoa-kissed red velvet cake frosted with silky smooth vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting! It's also drizzled in white chocolate ganache "blood" and adorned with "broken glass" sugar shards. A bloody good cake indeed!

Moist layers of cocoa-kissed red velvet cake frosted with silky smooth vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting! It’s also drizzled in white chocolate ganache “blood” and adorned with “broken glass” sugar shards. A bloody good cake indeed!

Who else is ready for Halloween?!!

Good. Me neither…

I swear this happens every single year. I make the intention of having my costume all figured out weeks before Halloween. Then before you know it, Halloween is literally a week away, and I still have absolutely no clue as to who/what I’m going to be. 

If I haven’t mentioned it before, Halloween is kind of my mom’s holiday. She LIVES for it. Ever since my brother and I were toddlers, I remember decking the house out in all kinds of fun Halloween decor. Of course, that fun Halloween decor slowly evolved into scary (more like DISTURBING) Halloween decor. Just to give you an idea of my mom’s wicked sense of humor, when my brother and I were in school, she used to put up a few scary dummies in our entryway. When we got home, my mom would be seated in the entryway dressed up as one of the “dummies”, so my brother and I couldn’t tell which one was about to jump out and scare the living bejeezus out of us. This was a yearly thing.

Although I’m nowhere near as obsessed with Halloween as my mom is, I will say that some of her sinister ways rubbed off a little on me. To put it simply, I’m not really one for the cutesy Halloween desserts plastered all over Pinterest. I’m more into the dark, gothic, and gory style of desserts…

Who knew that something so gruesome could look so tantalizing at the same time?

While I must admit that I get a little faint around blood, when it comes to ghoulish desserts like this, I can’t get enough of them. There’s just something so provocatively amusing about desserts that look realistically gored up and bloody. 

Even though I went back and forth on the flavor of the cake, I ultimately decided on the always iconic red velvet cake to match the bloodshed. However, instead of using cream cheese frosting which is what red velvet cake is traditionally frosted with, I decided to go with a light, airy, and silky smooth vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. Not only is it less sweet than most frostings, but it’s phenomenal for cake decorating since it glides on incredibly smoothly.

Now I’m sure some of you might be a bit intimidated by Swiss meringue buttercream, and that’s ok! I was intimidated too until I realized that there’s ALWAYS a way to fix it if things go horribly wrong. After all, there’s nothing worse than the feeling of wasting a ton of butter, eggs, and sugar.

Since this frosting tends to be rather temperamental, you’ll most likely come across two different issues. The first one is that it’s too runny. This typically happens because the whipped egg white mixture wasn’t cool enough before you incorporated the butter into it. If your frosting looks soupy, all you have to do is throw the whole bowl into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. After that time has passed, take it out, and whip it up until it’s nice and silky. If it still looks runny, just return it to the refrigerator for another 20 minutes or so, and try whipping it up again. Trust me, it’ll whip up just fine!

The second issue is that the frosting looks curdled or broken. This typically happens at some point during the process of adding the butter, and usually this issue resolves on its own if you just let the mixer continue to whip everything together. However, if after several minutes of whipping the mixture still hasn’t come together, simply transfer about 2 Tablespoons of the frosting to a small microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave until it just becomes liquified. Add this frosting liquid back into the bowl, and whip until the frosting is silky smooth. If it still looks curdled, just repeat the warming step again.

Ok, now that I’ve talked your ear off about the frosting, let’s move on to the bewitchingly beautiful shards of glass on top of this cake…

Calm down! I didn’t stick REAL shards of broken glass into this cake. I’m not that evil. Besides, if I did, I’d hide them INSIDE of the cake…just kidding!

Or am I…

To make these candy “glass” shards, all you have to do is place some granulated sugar, light corn syrup, water, and a little cream of tartar into a medium saucepan, and heat on the stove until it begins to boil. Once it reaches the boiling point, allow it to bubble and boil until a food thermometer reaches 300ºF. This is known as the hardball stage in the candy-making process, and it will ensure that the candy hardens up properly once it’s cooled down completely. Once the right temperature is reached, immediately take the pot off of the stove. You don’t want to risk caramelization which will give your “glass” a yellowish hue. Pour the liquid candy onto a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and spread it into a thin even sheet.

You’ll need to wait at least 2 hours for the sheet of candy to cool down completely before breaking it up into pieces with a hammer. Also, make sure that it’s a CLEAN hammer. And be careful! Although this isn’t real glass, sugar can be sharp when it’s been liquified to a few hundred degrees and hardened.

Now let’s get to the REAL reason this cake caught your eye…the BLOOOOOOOD

It’s too bad that real blood doesn’t taste as good as this white chocolate ganache “blood”.

Not to sound creepy or anything…

To make the “blood”, all you have to do is place some white chocolate (chips or chopped) into a microwave-safe bowl along with a few tablespoons of heavy cream, and heat it up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Take the bowl out and stir it until completely smooth. Thirty seconds should be enough time to melt the chocolate, however if you still see unmelted pieces, you can heat it up for 10-15 seconds longer. Just be careful not to burn the chocolate.

Once smooth and melted, you’ll stir in some red food coloring–I used Sunny Side Up squeeze gel color in the shade red. You can also use Wilton’s gel colors. Now, the secret to getting that realistic BLOOD RED color is to add just a teensy tiny bit of black food coloring. Since it’s impossible to attain that dark red hue with red food coloring alone, adding a tiny bit of black food coloring will achieve this for you.

Now for some DRIZZLE TIPS:

  1. To prevent the ganache from dripping too quickly down the sides of the cake, I recommend placing the ganache into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. You want it kind of thick, but still drizzleable, if that makes sense. You can also test it out on one side (the ugly side, of course) of the cake to see if it’s ready to drizzle.
  2. When you’re ready to drizzle, make sure to start with the sides of the cake before covering the top. This will ensure that you have a nice seamlessly smooth finish on the top of the cake. 
  3. Use a Lazy Susan/turntable, if you have one. This will make the drizzling process SO MUCH easier since you can use one hand to continuously turn the cake and the other hand to pour the ganache along the edges. Also, make sure to use something with a spout to pour the ganache. I always use a glass measuring cup.

Now that your cake is nice and bloody, it’s time to craft a “glass” centerpiece on top of the cake. The cool thing is that the candy pieces are all different shapes and sizes, so you can really let your inner arTEEST out.

Oh! I can’t believe I forgot to mention this! As an extra little burst of chocolate flavor, I decided to grate some dark chocolate between each layer of cake. Although this step is totally optional, I strongly advise that you do it.

Correction: I DEMAND you to do it.

As my 9-year old self would say “WELCOME TO THE DARKNESS OF BLOOD….This is Halloween, This is Halloween…”

Moist layers of cocoa-kissed red velvet cake frosted with silky smooth vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting! It's also drizzled in white chocolate ganache "blood" and adorned with "broken glass" sugar shards. A bloody good cake indeed!

Bloody Red Velvet Cake

Moist layers of cocoa-kissed red velvet cake frosted with silky smooth vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting! It's also drizzled in white chocolate ganache "blood" and adorned with "broken glass" sugar shards. A bloody good cake indeed!
Prep Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 27 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 57 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 10 Slices

Ingredients
  

Candy "Glass" Shards:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • cup light corn syrup
  • ¾ cup water
  • teaspoon cream of tartar

Red Velvet Cake:

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons natural cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon vinegar
  • ½ cup buttermilk*
  • 1 Tablespoon red food coloring**

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  • 7 large egg whites
  • 2 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cup (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and sliced into about 20 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

White Chocolate "Blood" Ganache:

  • 3 ounces white chocolate, chopped or chips
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Red and black food coloring

For Assembly:

  • Grated dark chocolate

Instructions
 

Make the "Glass" Shards:

  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Place pan on the stove over medium-high heat, and stir the mixture until it comes to a boil.
  • Once it begins to boil, stop stirring and allow it to continue boiling. As soon as a candy thermometer reaches 300ºF, turn off the heat and immediately pour the candy liquid onto the baking sheet. Use a heat resistant spatula or a spoon, to spread the candy liquid out toward the edges and into an even sheet. Let sit and harden for 2 hours.
  • Once the sheet of candy is completely solid, use a hammer to carefully break it up into pieces. Be careful during this step.

Make the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line four 6-inch round baking pans with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla, and vinegar on medium speed.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Whisk the food coloring into the buttermilk, then pour it into the batter. Mix until just combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • Divide batter among the four cake pans. Bake for 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Buttercream:

  • Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Remove bowl from mixer and place over a simmering pot of water. Whisking constantly, heat mixture until sugar is dissolved and the temperature registers 150-160°F on a candy thermometer, about 3 minutes.
  • Secure whisk attachment onto stand mixer, and beat the egg white mixture on high speed until cooled to room temperature and fluffy. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and continue beating until smooth and creamy. If the mixture looks curdled, that’s totally normal--just keep beating until it becomes smooth and satiny.***
  • Add the vanilla and continue beating for about 30 seconds.

Make the Ganache:

  • Place the white chocolate and heavy cream into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir until smooth. If you still see bits of unmelted chocolate throughout, heat for another 15-20 seconds.
  • Stir in the red food coloring, followed by just a teensy tiny bit of black food coloring (if using). Allow ganache to cool and thicken slightly for about 30 minutes.

To Assemble:

  • Place a layer of cake onto a cake plate or pedestal. Top with a layer of buttercream, then use a cheese grater to grate a bar of dark chocolate evenly over the buttercream. Top with another layer of cake, and repeat steps until the top layer of cake is added. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes to stabilize cake for easier frosting.
  • Once chilled and solid, frost the entire cake with a crumb coat, then return to the freezer until frosting has hardened. Add another layer of frosting, making sure that there is no cake peeking through the frosting.
  • Starting with the sides, pour the ganache along the top perimeter of the cake.**** Once the sides are done, fill the center in with ganache.
  • Take your "glass shards" and stick them into the center and sides of the cake. Pour more ganache onto the shards, if desired.

Notes

*If you don't have buttermilk, simply add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to a measuring cup, then add enough milk to equal half of a cup.
**I used Wilton's No Taste Red gel food coloring.
***If your buttercream looks runny, refrigerate the bowl for 30 minutes, take it out, and continue beating until smooth. If your frosting looks curdled or broken after several minutes of beating, simply transfer about 2 Tablespoons of the frosting to a small microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave until it just becomes liquified. Add this frosting liquid back into the bowl, and whip until the frosting is silky smooth. If it still looks curdled, just repeat the warming step again.
****If the ganache runs down the sides of the cake too quickly, return the cake to the freezer for about 15 minutes. Chilling the cake will slow down the drip. You can also chill the ganache in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to thicken it up.
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