Nancy Robards Thompson
Nancy Robards Thompson


Jaunty Post

My mother used to bake the most delicious red velvet cakes. Even the icing was from scratch.  She’d stack the confections high and sprinkle them with flaky coconut.  It was heaven on a plate. Mostly, she made them for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas, but every once in a while she’d surprise us and made one just because.

I’ve drawn on this memory to inspire my Celebrations, Inc. series (a six-book series set around a catering company ). In one of the books, a red velvet cake changes the course of my heroine’s life and sets her career on the road to culinary success. For me, red velvet cake symbolizes comfort, happiness and love.

Here’s my favorite red velvet recipe:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cool unsalted butter, cut into
2 large eggs, at room, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 ounce red food coloring,
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
12 ounces soft light cream cheese
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 ounce chocolate, grated, for garnish)

1. To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.
2. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, then vanilla and food coloring (if using) until smooth.
4. Beat in half the buttermilk on low speed until smooth, then half the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the remaining buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture just until combined.
5. Clean and dry beaters. Beat egg whites in a clean medium bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter until just incorporated, using long, even strokes. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading to the edges. Gently rap the pans against the counter once or twice to settle the batter.
6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the layers onto the rack, remove the pans and let cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes more.
7. To prepare frosting & assemble cake: Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Place one cake layer top-side down on a serving plate; cover with half the frosting, spreading just to the edges. Set the second layer on top, top-side down. Spread the remaining frosting on the top only. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, if desired.


Sharing the recipe has made me a little nostalgic. I was wondering, do you associate certain foods you with good memories? If so, what are they?


12 thoughts on “Nostalgic for Red Velvet Cake

  1. Shana Shana says:

    Absolutely! Eggnog makes me think of Christmas morning. Hummus makes me think of when I was a teacher because I always ate that for lunch.

    1. Shana, eggnog is another of our Christmas traditions. 🙂

  2. I love baking the very complicated Hungarian cookies my grandmother taught me to make, Nancy. I always remember apprenticing at her side and the lovely hours we spent together. Very nostalgic indeed!

    Your cake recipe sounds wonderful. I love red velvet cake!

    1. What a wonderful memory, Kristan! Definitely one to cherish.

  3. governess4hire says:

    Nancy! Oh my goodness! Thank you for the recipe. My hubby loves red velvet cake. I have to make this today. He works third shift so when he gets up, he’ll wake up to the aroma of a yummy cake. 😉 *heading off to the kitchen*

    1. Governess, please let me know how he liked the cake! What a wonderful wife you are to make him such a special surprise.

  4. I have never had red velvet cake (I know – I’ve been seriously deprived!)

    I associate Christmas sugar cookies with .. well, Christmas, of course. But also with my mother-in-law, whose recipe we’ve used for years. Wonderful cookies (but a LOT of work).

    1. Margo, I can’t believe you’ve never had red velvet cake! I wish we lived closer and I’d bake one for you. My daughter and I bake sugar cookies every Christmas and my mother-in-law makes fabulous snicker doodle cookies. She’s so sweet she always makes a batch for everyone and one for me to put away and enjoy.

  5. Connie Fischer says:

    I love Baked Alaska and it always reminds me of when the children were little. I made my first one then and they were amazed that you could put something with ice cream in it in the oven for a short while and the ice cream didn’t melt!

    1. Connie, I’ve never tried Baked Alaska. I’d love to, though! Do you have a recipe you can share?

  6. Sandi in OH says:

    My mom baked red velvet cake all the time. I associate eggnog and chocolate covered cherries with Christmas. My grandfather always had them. I seldom get eggnog but I always make sure that I have the cherries at Christmas.

    1. Sandi, my mom used to always buy me chocolate covered cherries for Valentine’s Day! Good memories. 🙂

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