Red Velvet & Cinnamon Layer Cake {and Red Velvet Link Love!}

Red Velvet & Cinnamon Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

It’s a Red Velvet Cake craze, my friends! I may be a little late to the Red Velvet party, but I’ve arrived, outfitted in a quintessential vintage red polka dot 50′s dress, of course, and with a cake in tow — a Red Velvet Layer Cake with Whipped Cinnamon filling and Rich & Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting, no less — just in time for Valentine’s Day. Are you gearing up for the big day? I certainly was, as I had so many fun Valentine’s ideas to share with you, and then, bam!, earlier this past week I became super ill and was out of commission. I didn’t even see it coming — it was kind of crazy. The good news is that I had just made and began to photograph this cake that day, so at least I can share my red velvet love with you now.

As you may likely know, Red Velvet Cake is an old-fashioned, chocolate buttermilk cake, of sorts, that is known for its deep red or red-brown colour, typically achieved by a generous dose of red food colouring, or in many cases, cooked beets, or both. Most traditional versions of this cake are paired with either white cooked flour frostings or classic cream cheese frosting, or slightly tweaked variations of them. I would almost say that this cake keeps us loving and respecting the past more than any other cake out there–it appears that most bakers keep tradition close inside their apron pockets when recreating this red gem (when making it in cake form, that is–there are all sorts of incredible & innovative red velvet desserts out there now!).

Red Velvet & Cinnamon Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

I haven’t made this ever-popular (again) cake in quite some time, and there’s a reason: I simply couldn’t find a recipe for the cake layers that I loved. To be totally honest, I made 3 different recipes, and it was hard choosing one that I even really liked. I love the idea of the cake, and I love the flavours it’s known for, but when I tried the most popular recipes floating around the web, they were all standard butter cakes that ended up on the dry side once ready to eat. Then I tried a few alternatives that opted for oil-based cakes, which, with chocolate cakes I usually love, but I just found the ones I tried were too oily for the limited amount of cocoa in the Red Velvet Cake. I finally decided that the best recipe out there is likely a butter cake version, so back on the search I went . . .

That’s when I tried this perfectly moist and classically made cake layer recipe from, and I loved it! Sarah worked hard to create a recipe that wasn’t dry at all, but rather really flavourful and moist, while staying really true to the traditional version.  I decided to switch it up just slightly, by filling the cake with a whipped cinnamon frosting and then frosting the outside with a fluffy cream cheese frosting — the yummiest.

Since any day is a great day to share pretty and love-y treats, I look forward to sharing my other posts with you next week (and stay tuned for a Love Day Roundup post!). In the meanwhile, let’s make one killer Red Velvet & Cinnamon Layer Cake! But first . . .

A few random-but-riveting Red Velvet Cake facts:

  • In Canada the cake was a well-known dessert in the restaurants and bakeries of the Eaton’s department store chain in the 1940s and 1950s. Promoted as an exclusive Eaton’s recipe, with employees who knew the recipe sworn to silence, many mistakenly believed the cake to be the invention of the department store matriarch, Lady Eaton (source). Incidentally, my mom worked at Eaton’s department store during my childhood; this fact is in no way related to Red Velvet Cake, just thought I’d share that exciting tidbit.
  • It is often said that Red Velvet Cake was first popularized at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York (where Grant and I spent our engagement weekend, but what? never had the cake!) during the 1920s, although, it seems that it had been popular for many years before then throughout the southern states. The famous Waldorf Red Velvet Cake recipe can be found, among other incredible recipes, in the fabulous The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook.
  • Red Velvet Cake makes a special appearance (likely one of the reasons the cake regained popularity!) inside the perfectly unusual armadillo groom’s cake in the 1989 movie, Steel Magnolias.

Red Velvet & Cinnamon Layer Cake          {click to print}





Yield: One 4-layer (or two thicker layers), 9″ round cake. Serves 12-16

*August 2013 Update: Since I’ve written this post, is structured differently–you must be a member to view the recipes. If you aren’t a member, you can try my more recent Red Velvet Cake recipe here.

I paired the fabulously moist & yummy Red Velvet Cake layers from my friends over at with my own frosting and filling to create an old-fashioned favourite with a bit of a twist. My Whipped Cinnamon Filling/Frosting and Rich & Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting recipes are below, and you can find the fabulous Red Velvet Cake recipe, HERE (if you are a member of

Whipped Cinnamon Filling/Frosting

Yield: enough to fill a 9″ round, 4-layer cake


3 sticks + 2 tablespoon (370 g/13 oz) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3 cups sifted (480 g/1 lb + 1 oz) confectioners’ sugar (icing, powdered)

3 tablespoons (45 mL) whipping cream (heavy cream 35%)

2 teaspoon (10 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract)

2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cinnamon, or to taste

pinch of salt


1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.

3. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency) and stirred occasionally during the cake-frosting process.

Rich & Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: enough to frost (only frost, not fill) a 9″ round cake, with piped decorations (above)


1/3 cup  (75 g/2.5 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 lbs (5 1/2 cups/685 g) confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 packages (8 oz packages) cream cheese (12 oz/345 g), cut into cubes, cold

1/4 cup (60 ml) whipping cream (heavy cream 35%)

2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract)

pinch of salt


1. Using electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend butter and icing sugar on medium low speed, until just combined, about 2 minutes.

2. Add cold cream cheese, all at once, and beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes.

3. Add whipping cream and vanilla, and beat at medium high speed for about 1 minute. Frosting will be fluffy. Be sure to not overbeat, or the frosting will start to become too thin.

Assembly of the Red Velvet & Cinnamon Layer Cake

1. With a long, sharp serrated knife, slice both cooled cake layers in half horizontally, so you now have 4 cake layers (this is optional–you can certainly leave it as 2 thicker layers with one layer of filling).

2. Spread a small dollop of either frosting onto desired cake plate or cake board (this keeps cake from shifting).

3. Place 1 cake layer on it, cut-side up. Place ~1 cup of cinnamon frosting on top, and spread evenly with a Medium Sized Offset Spatula
leaving about a 1″ rim unfrosted (around the edges).

4. Repeat step 3 until you come to your final layer, which you will place cut side down.

5. Pile a generous amount of Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting on top of the cake and using a clean Medium Sized Offset Spatula
working outward from the top center, adding more frosting to the sides and smooth, using a Medium Sized Straight Spatula, until cake is covered and smooth.

6. Place remaining Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting in a large Pastry Bag fitted with your preferred large decorating tip. For this cake I used Ateco Decorating Tip 887, and swirl rosettes around the top of the cake. Top with candy heart or anything your little heart desires!

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • This cake is best enjoyed day 1 or 2. Because of the cream cheese frosting, you will need to refrigerate the cake, but it should always be served at room temperature.
  • For Red Velvet & Cinnamon Cupcakes, you could bake in cupcake liners (24-36) and top with a swirl of each frosting, or even just one or the other.
  • Ready to rock your cake baking? Check out my 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes post.
  • To learn more about my favourite baking tools, check out Baking Supplies I Love.

As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences and results making this cake, so come on back and let me know!

Does Red Velvet excite you? Here is a serious dose of Red Velvet love from friends around the web:

Happy Weekend!


P.S. No, I’m not really wearing a quintessential vintage red polka dot 50′s dress.

PPS. I don’t even own a quintessential vintage red polka dot 50′s dress, but ooh I wish I did!

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Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns

Cinnabons via Sweetapolita

I’m pretty certain that I spent a good portion of my late teens in line at Cinnabon with my friends. At the time, it was all new to us, and definitely “all the rage,” well, rightfully so — they are downright incredible cinnamon buns with the most addictive smothering of snow white frosting. At the risk of stating the obvious, I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth. For me, cake makes the world go round and pies, cookies, and such certainly do their part, that’s for certain, but cinnamon buns, well for me they are the ultimate. So much so that I often trade the idea of my own birthday cake in for a box of fresh Cinnabon cinnamon buns. Literally. Don’t even worry about singing Happy Birthday; just put a birthday candle in one, and we’re good.

I have to admit, though, that one of two things has occurred since those younger days when I used to eat them so often: 1. The crafty folks at Cinnabon have gradually, as with many food chains, made their product smaller (and smaller), or 2. The cinnamon buns have remained the same huge size, but my appetite and sweet tooth have increased so much that as gargantuan as Cinnabons are, eating one just simply doesn’t cut it anymore. I fear that #2 is the harsh reality, and I find that just a tad disturbing. As seasoned as I was at eating them when I was younger, it would still take me an average of 2 sittings to finish one, and oh the price I would pay in bellyaches, but wow, was it worth it. Always. Remember how amazing that last bite, right in the middle, was?

Cinnabons via Sweetapolita

When I thought about making cinnamon buns this past week, I knew in my heart that I wanted to find a recipe that was as close to the Cinnabon version as possible, but since I’ve never attempted any version before, it was tricky knowing how they would turn out, or how close I could get to the real thing. I spent a lot of time, over the past few weeks, searching for the perfect version, with high hopes of discovering some kind of clone recipe out there, and I’m excited to report that with a little bit of this one and a little bit of that one, these are really, really close!

They could even be exact, it’s hard to know, but I took them out of the oven last night around 11:00pm, and while my little family was sleeping peacefully, I engaged in what was the single-most heavenly dessert experience of my life: warm, buttery, gooey, fluffy cinnamony buns one-minute-old from of the oven. In all of my life I’ve never eaten a gourmet cinnamon bun fresh out of the oven like that. I had my frosting all ready to go (wait until I tell you about the frosting–incredible!),  just moments before I took the tray out of the oven. I placed the tray onto the cooling rack, reached over for my little offset palette knife, and smothered one of them in the creamiest, fluffiest, cream-cheesey, lemony & vanilla-y, frosting ever created.

I’m pretty sure I wound up in a semi-conscious state of bliss-and-being at that moment, but I do recall telling myself that it was the best thing I had ever eaten. As in ever. I also recall repeating steps 1-4 a few more times, then putting everything away, turning off the lights in the kitchen and going straight to sleep. I’m sure that did a world of good for my part in the upcoming bikini season, but honestly, it was a force beyond my control.

Cinnabons via Sweetapolita

Now, I know at first glance you might think that looks like too much frosting for one cinnamon bun, but trust me, this isn’t your average sugary-sweet white frosting. This is, I have to say, the highlight of these cinnamon buns — and that says a lot, considering the insane deliciousness of the buns themselves.

As I mentioned, it’s angelically light, lemony, vanilla-y, cream-cheesey, and overall like nothing that’s ever come out of my mixer in the past. I found a recipe online from the “Gordon Family,” through The Fresh Loaf, that was promised to be an actual clone of the Cinnabon dough, filling, and frosting. I actually ended up using the frosting recipe from them, and the actual dough and filling recipe from another source that vowed it was the ultimate recipe (I modified ever-so-slightly). So, as a result of combining some of the best recipes out there, these were as good as I’d hoped and, dare I say, really simple to make. I don’t know why I had it in my head that they would be complicated, or why I’ve never tried it before.


Call me old-fashioned, but baking homemade cinnamon buns for my little girls and watching them eat them up with glee together, makes me feel that same mommy bliss that folding and putting away little wee clothes gives, and assures me that it’s always worth the effort. That’s a lot of sweetness pouring out of a single photo.

If you would like to make these at home, here is the recipe (oh please, friends, make them!):

Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns

Yield: 12 large rolls


    For the Dough:
  • 1 (7 g) package dry yeast
  • 1 cup (237 ml) whole milk, warm
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) margarine (or 80% margarine 20% butter spread)
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3-1/4 cups (410 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (105 g) bread flour
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 cup (220 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (36 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) margarine (or 80% margarine 20% butter spread)
  • For the Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (114 g) cream cheese, softened 30 mins
  • 1/2 cup (114 g) margarine, softened 30 mins
  • 1-3/4 cups (220 g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla flavour (alcohol-free, if possible)
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon flavour (alcohol-free, if possible)


    For the Dough:
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Add sugar, margarine, eggs salt then flour and mix well.
  2. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx 21 inches long by 16 inches wide. It should be approx 1/4 thick.
  4. For the Filling:
  5. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Assemble the Rolls:
  7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Spread the softened margarine over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the surface, leaving about 1-inch untouched around edges. Gently roll into a fairly tight roll, trying to keep the filling inside.
  9. With a sharp knife, slice into 12 pieces. Place on prepared cookie sheet about 2" apart. Cover with lint-free cloth, and let rise for another hour.
  10. Bake in 400°F on rack just above centrer, for about 10 minutes, or until light golden brown.
  11. Cool on cooling rack and gently place into airtight container when cool.
  12. For the Frosting:
  13. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and margarine for 6 minutes on low speed (#2 on KitchenAid Mixer).
  14. Switch from the paddle to the whisk attachment and whip for 10 more minutes at medium-high (#6)
  15. Add 1 cup (125 g) of the icing sugar and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the remaining 3/4 (95 g) cup of icing sugar and mix for an additional minute. Add the flavors and mix for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
  16. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Top warm, fresh-baked rolls generously with frosting.


*Microwave for 15-20 seconds to reheat.

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[dough & filling recipe slightly adapted from Group Recipes]

[cloned cinnabon frosting source: Gordon Family]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I came across an 80% margarine 20% butter spread at my local grocer, which is what I used for the dough, filling and frosting. If you can’t find such a thing, go with the recommended margarine or butter.
  • Since this recipe was designed as a scientific mission to clone the Cinnabon frosting, you might enjoy reading it precisely as it was shared by the Gordon Family (here). In their words on the frosting: There are several steps involved in the preparation of the frosting. But it is not difficult, and you’ll be surprised at the wonderful results you achieve. For the fluffiest frosting, use Vanilla and Lemon flavors that do not contain alcohol. A total of 50 minutes is required to prepare the frosting, from start to finish. We normally prepare the frosting while the rolls are rising.

Photo Props: For those of you who have an interest in some of the quirky vintage food props I use on occasion, I wanted to share that the props in this post are my two favourite vintage baking items in my collection. The “Scanlon Bakery” wooden tray was something I found near me, in an antique shop in Orono, Ontario. I did some research on the bakery’s history (my history fascination is always in the back of my mind when antique shopping!), but all I could find at first attempt, was that it was a family-run bakery on Yonge Street in Aurora, Ontario (north of Toronto).

I read that a couple bought it and operated it in the 1960′s, which suggests that it’s been around a lot longer than that. I only discovered this last year (even though I’ve had it for several years) when I read an obituary for that woman. The tray used to sit on my kitchen counter with cookbooks in it, but I’ve since minimized the counter, and was happy to tie it into a photo shoot.  Now who were the Scanlons and when did they open this bakery (which is no longer known as Scanlon Bakery)?  This inspires me to go do more research and learn  more about the original owners and when the bakery was opened initially. If I had more time, I could exercise my genealogy skills, and get to the bottom of it!

*Update: For those of you on the edge of your seats about my Scanlon Baking tray ;), I discovered that in 1950, there were 8 Scanlon Bakery locations across the Toronto area. I wonder which one it was from!

The “Sucre” tin is a gem I found, also in Orono (at a different shop), and is something they picked up from Montreal. Sadly, I don’t know anything else about it, aside from the fact that it rocks my world. It sits on my kitchen counter filled with sugar, next to my huge glass jar of flour. Just in case you were curious!

Good luck & enjoy!

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