RED VELVET CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Recipe courtesy of The Bear Cupboard (http://bearcupboard.blogspot.com)
Source:  Cook's Country
Bear Rating:  10 out of 10 
INGREDIENTS:
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Pinches salt, divided use
1 cup buttermilk*
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
2-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided use
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. natural cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. red food coloring
3-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, divided use
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
 
Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking soda and pinch of salt in medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, 1 tsp. vanilla and eggs in large measuring cup. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until a paste forms.  

With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat 1-1/2 sticks butter and granulated sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary. Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add half of buttermilk mixture; beat on low until combined, about 30 seconds. Repeat, ending with flour mixture. Add cocoa mixture; beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir. Scrape into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

With electric mixer, beat 2 sticks butter with confectioner’s sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add cream cheese; beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla and a pinch of salt.

When cakes are cooled, spread frosting over bottom side of one layer. Top with second layer, bottom side down. Spread remaining frosting all over cake. Garnish as desired, with coconut flakes, toasted chopped nuts, flaked white chocolate or fresh raspberries. Yield: 12 cake servings (or about 24 cupcakes)

*Buttermilk substitute: Add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let stand 15 minutes.