Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lincoln’s Red Velvet (Cheesecake) Cake

Psssst…. there’s a surprise inside this pale exterior!

Oh yeah!  Red Velvet Cake, with Cream Cheese Frosting… AND A LAYER OF CHEESECAKE IN THE MIDDLE!  This cake has been in the planning process since February.  When my friend began her plans for her husband’s surprise birthday, I immediately asked if I could make the birthday cake for Lincoln.  I love any opportunity to bake, and wanted to know his favorite flavor.  She began to describe his favorite cake by saying “He loves red velvet.”  Ok, cool, I’ve never done a red velvet cake.  Then said she said “Well, actually, his FAVORITE cake is this red velvet cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory.”  Immediately I thought of this red velvet cheesecake.  But as she described it more, I realized it wasn’t that at all.  After a little more back and forth (she’s British/French and I’m from Kentucky, so we don’t always speak the same language… j/k), and a little googling I realized THIS is what she was describing!  HO-LY COW.  Can I do that?  I’ve never made a red velvet cake OR a cheesecake, but I do like a good challenge!

I spent a LOT of time thinking about “Lincoln’s Cake” (which is what I always referred to it as when discussing it).  A little more googling revealed at least two other bloggers (here and here) had successfully made this cake.  While I didn’t follow either of their recipes, it definitely boosted my confidence to know it CAN be done!  Around the same time I was pondering this cake, The Kitchn posted some very helpful tips on how to achieve a great cheesecake.  This just added more “fuel to my fire”, and my confidence in baking a cheesecake grew more.  I didn’t own a cheesecake pan, and luckily my friend Liesl let me borrow hers.  The more cheesecake recipes I scoured, the more I read that cheesecakes freeze really well.  This led to me solving my biggest dilemma in the preparation of this cake, HOW IN THE HELL DO I GET CHEESECAKE IN THE MIDDLE?  I realized if I FROZE the cheesecake layer, it would be super easy to transport when layering the cake.  And whaddya know, I was right.

When it came down to choosing the actual recipes I would follow, I wanted sources I trusted.  Martha Stewart has never let me down before, so I went with her Classic Cheesecake recipe.  I adapted it by skipping the crust, and halving the recipe, to come out with a thinner layer.  And for the red velvet cake, that was practically a no-brainer.  I went straight to Bridget’s Red Velvet Cake Comparison.  I didn’t blindly choose her favorite.  Instead I poured over her every word, and weighed her every description, to figure out which one I wanted to use.  She won me over with what she described as her favorite, and so I chose to follow Kelsey of Apple a Day’s adaption of a Saveur recipe.

Now for some notes on the structure and assembly of this gorgeous cake.  Since I knew when I baked the cheesecake I wouldn’t be making a crust, I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Once baked, I let the cheesecake cool completely, then stored it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning I removed the outer ring of the cheesecake pan, but left the bottom circle of the pan, and wrapped it in two layers of plastic wrap and two layers of aluminum foil and placed it in the freezer.  When baking the red velvet layers, I used these Bake Even strips to help achieve a level even cake.  I also used a cake leveler to level it perfectly once it had cooled.  I chose to apply frosting to only the outside layers, as adding it to the cheesecake layer seems a bit excessive.  So, when it came time to put the cheesecake in the middle, I took it out of the freezer, unwapped it from the foil and plastic.  The metal bottom of the pan was easy to remove.  Then I simply peeled off the parchment paper layer.  It literally could not have been easier.  The cheesecake never seemed like it would break, and was quite sturdy.  I used the plastic wrap I had removed as a buffer between my hand and the cheesecake when transferring it, to keep the cheesecake from sticking to my warm hands.  After I put it on the red velvet cake, I realized it seemed to be about half an inch too wide.  So, I just let it sit, and soften for about 5-10 minutes, then I cut the edges off with a knife.  I then applied the crumb coat, which is VERY necessary when you have such a bright cake under white frosting!  After some time in the fridge, I applied the second, thicker layer of frosting.  Topped with shaved chocolate and white chocolate curls, this is one of the prettiest cakes I think I’ve ever made!

Now, you probably want to know what this tastes like, right?  Well I can assure you this cake received RAVE reviews.  The birthday boy was very happy, and while the blown out candles were still smoking, he jumped up and gave me a big hug.  (Wonder what made him instantly think I was the baker? hehe)  Everyone said it was amazing.  The red velvet is sweet, with that slight tang from the buttermilk.  It’s so hard to describe that flavor.  But it was rich, and moist!  The crumb was absolutely perfect; spongy and tight.  It was really fluffy too.  And the cheesecake…  For my very first cheesecake, I was amazed that I could do it, and it was quite easy.  Cheesecakes always seemed daunting and scary.  This one didn’t even crack or bubble!  It set perfectly.  The flavor was rich, and decadent, just as cheesecake should be.  Oh, it was so good!  And the frosting, was perfect as well.  It wasn’t overly sweet, but it was smooth, and delicious.  This truly was a match made in heaven!

I know I don’t usually write this much, but this cake was just so delicious, and surprisingly easier than I expected.  It is time consuming, but it’s not hard.  It’s especially easier when you break up the steps into different days.  The cheesecake needs enough time to freeze anyway.  And frosting sits well in the fridge OR freezer, just let it return to room temp before using.  So, essentially, you could do those steps ahead of time, and then on the day of, just bake the layers, let the cool, and assemble and frost!  The cake cuts easiest when chilled, but even when not straight from the fridge it’s still easy to get a clean slice.  The hardest part actually is transferring a slice to the plate!

This cake was so delicious and stunningly beautiful, I did something I’ve NEVER done before.  I baked it again, with the sole purpose of photographing it for the blog.  Lincoln’s surprise birthday party was at night, at a restaurant, and there were lots of people, so there was no way I could get a good photograph.  So, before I returned the cheesecake pan, I did it all again!  But, this way I was able to share it with lots of people who hadn’t tried the first cake; and also with some of the people that had, and wanted more!

(Love the idea of this cake, but are you more of a chocolate & peanut butter person? Check out my new adaption of this cake! Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cake)


Lincoln's Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake

cake and frosting adapted from Apple A Day, originally adapted from Saveur
cheesecake adapted from Martha Stewart


For the cheesecake:
1 1/4 pounds bar cream cheese (20 oz), room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

For the cake:
2 1/2 c. cake flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
2 TBSP (1 oz.) red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. white distilled vinegar

For the frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
12 oz. butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. confectioners' sugar

1 bar white or dark chocolate (Optional for decoration), I used Ghiradelli


For cheesecake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set a kettle of water to boil. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and juice, and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.

Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between 2 greased and floured 9" round cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely, then level.

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5–7 minutes.

Place bottom layer on cake stand. Remove cheesecake from freezer, unwrap, and remove from metal bottom, then peel off parchment paper. Place cheesecake layer on top of the bottom layer of the red velvet cake. If the cheesecake is wider than the cake, and it is necessary to to trim it, wait approximately 10 minutes for the cheesecake to soften, then trim it with a knife. Place top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting to act as the crumb coat. Be careful not to get any red velvet crumbs in the bowl of frosting! Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, then frost with as much of the remaining frosting as necessary. Top with shaved white chocolate and/or shaved dark chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (This cake doesn't have to stay in the fridge until IMMEDIATELY before serving, so don't worry if you have a 30 minute lapse between the refrigerator and serving.)

**Update** I’ve gotten so much great response on this cake, and I greatly appreciate when readers comment saying they’ve made the cake.  And I love to see when you send in your own photos!  Here’s a couple:

Commenter #48 Amber’s cake:

Commenter #49 Patrick’s cake:


photo (1)Cake Red Velvet 3

Reader Joyce’s cake, Christmas version!

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233 Responses to “Lincoln’s Red Velvet (Cheesecake) Cake”

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  1. 1
    Cristine — April 7, 2010 @ 6:39 am

    What a GORGEOUS cake! Well done! I can’t wait to try this. I love making cheesecake but never thought to sandwich it between two layers of cake. I will definately be doing this. 🙂

  2. 2
    Jen — April 7, 2010 @ 6:48 am

    This is gorgeous! It’s going to the top of my “to make” list!

  3. 3
    CB — April 7, 2010 @ 7:48 am

    Holy YUM batman! My Hubs happen to walk by as I was reading your blog and he stopped dead in his tracks and said “Make me this. NOW!” I also had to clean up the drool that landed on my keyboard too. HA HA!

  4. 4
    ashley — April 7, 2010 @ 7:55 am

    hehe. now i see why you were so excited about this post! looks great!! i’d gladly go for a slice right now for breakfast 🙂

  5. 5
    Beth — April 7, 2010 @ 8:46 am

    I am blown away!! It’s beautiful and I’m sure it tasted damn good too. My birthday is in May and I pretty much like anything that’s creamy, chocolatey and peanut buttery…hint hint 😉

  6. 6
    Mariel — April 7, 2010 @ 8:59 am

    The cake looks amazing! I have had the red velvet cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory and I have been wanting to recreate it. I saw it done on the two other blogs you mentioned, but I have to say that yours looks like a professional did it. Thank you for the detailed description of what you did; I am definately going to try this now!

  7. 7
    Liesl — April 7, 2010 @ 10:14 am

    Cake was DELICIOUS!! I am so glad I got to try a piece! Job WELL DONE!!!!

  8. 8
    Bridget — April 7, 2010 @ 10:19 am

    Wow. That looks and sounds pretty much perfect.

  9. 9
    federica — April 7, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    wow che delizia!! complimenti!

  10. 10
    Heidi — April 7, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

    I read every single word that you typed! I have also thought about making this combination but didn’t know how I’d pull it off. You explained it beautifully and make it sound so easy. Although, even though it sounds overkill, I think I would put cream cheese icing between the layers. Beautiful cake. You make me want to attempt it!

  11. 11
    Crepes of Wrath — April 7, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

    You are a complete and utter genius!

  12. 12
    Kaitlin — April 7, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    This is GENIUS! The photos are so pretty!

  13. 13
    Kathy — April 7, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

    I am speechless when I read your blog and saw your recipe for Lincoln’s Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake. I really love cheesecake, I even looked for a recipe to have it made even without baking. But I found your’s and would definitely make this. This is heavenly! Thank you for sharing it here.

  14. 14
    Lesley — April 7, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

    You and I need to be better friends. HA! This looks so amazingly good.

    And great pictures, too!

  15. 15
    themilkmanswife — April 7, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

    Gorgeous! Looks just sinfully delicious!

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    Lori @ RecipeGirl — April 7, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

    This is absolutely GENIUS!! Cheesecake & red velvet are my two favorite desserts in the whole wide world. This is going on my list to make. It would make an absolutely lovely holiday dessert next Christmas with some mint leaves as garnish, wouldn’t it?

  17. 17
    Marilyn Tuley — April 7, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

    Oh my gosh, this looks devine!! I would love to attempt this!! You did an amazing job!! Kuddos!!!

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    Memoria — April 8, 2010 @ 12:31 am

    Wow. I agree with the others. This cake looks absolutely perfect. What a lovely color.

  19. 19
    genny — April 8, 2010 @ 1:26 am

    wow! there are no other words

  20. 20
    Jen — April 8, 2010 @ 9:02 am

    This looks awesome! Nice work. I love that you made it a second time to get good pics. I would def do something like that.

  21. 21
    jess — April 8, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

    um wow. you totally outdid me. that cake looks like perfection.! (savory-bites, one of the bloggers who successfully attempted this cake)

  22. 22
    kathy — April 8, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    It looks heavenly. It’s definitely something you’ll want to share with loveones.

  23. 23
    Alissa — April 8, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

    This looks AMAZING. Every year DH wants a Red Velvet something… I think this is what I will be doing next year… just in time for his big 3-0! =)

  24. 24
    Valen — April 8, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

    Oh wow, talk about amazing! I would love to try this!

  25. 25
    mouni — April 8, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

    i can’t resist!! so yummy!

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    NF — April 8, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

    That looks great! I make something similar from an episode I watched of Throwdown on Food Network, but it’s Devil’s Food cake, cheesecake in the middle and chocolate frosting. You should try it next! I am going to make the red velvet version, it looks like something my husband would love!

    Devil’s Food cheesecake recipe:


  27. 27
    Emma @ Poires au Chocolat — April 9, 2010 @ 1:31 am

    Wow! That’s such an amazing idea! I must try that sometime – I’ve never made red velvet cake either. Great job – it looks so beautiful.

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    Jenn — April 9, 2010 @ 4:55 am

    Absolutely gorgeous cake! I saw it right on the front page of tastespotting, congrats!! I love your toppings too…..this is a very elegant looking cake/cheesecake!

  29. 29
    ingrid — April 9, 2010 @ 8:54 am

    Oh, man Erin! You truly out did yourself with this one. It’s one of the most glorious looking cakes.

    You should check out Junior’s cookbook they are famous for their cheesecake and cheesecake cake creations. I think they may be the creators of it.

    Happy Friday!

  30. 30
    Natalie (The Sweets Life) — April 9, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

    i’m in awe. seriously this is incredible!!!!

  31. 31
    Jane — April 13, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    Fabulous cake and post! I definitely want to give this a try! Just one question–your ingredients have 1 1/4 bar cream cheese (20 oz) listed, though most cream cheese bars I’m used to are 8oz. Were you using a 16oz bar?

    • Erin replied: — April 13th, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

      Thank you!

      The ingredients call for 1 1/4 POUNDS of bar cream cheese, which equals 20oz. I was using 8oz packages of cream cheese, and that ended up being two and a half packages. 🙂 I hope that helps clear anything up!

  32. 32
    Kerstin — April 14, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    Wow, what an amazing cake – I love it!!!

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    Kelly — April 15, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

    Holy cow that looks sinful! (in a good way!) It’s so beautifully decorated too!

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    Courtney — April 20, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

    Erin, What a great cake! I printed out all your directions and the recipe. I need to go get a cheesecake pan though. I have a question: how long can I freeze the cheesecake part? Just wondering as I don’t have a special occasion to make it yet, but would love to get the hard part overwith and then all I’d have to do is bake the layers etc. I have frozen pound cakes and layer cakes before and they’ve been fine, but it’s only been for a few weeks. Thanks!

  35. 35
    Colleen — April 26, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    OMG this looks AMAZING! The cheesecake layer is making me drool!

  36. 36
    Kelly Virgulto — April 26, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

    I made this yesterday for a friend’s birthday and it came out FANTASTIC – totally worth the time and effort – EVERYone freaked out at how amazing it was! thanks for sharing!

    • Erin replied: — April 27th, 2010 @ 9:20 am

      Yay!!! I am SO happy to hear that! You’re the first to tell me they’ve made it after seeing my post. Glad to hear you enjoyed it, and thanks for reporting back!

  37. 37

    This is like a dream come true. I am obsessed with the Red Velvet Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory, and this one looks even better. xxSAS

  38. 38
    kristina — May 2, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    Wow – that cake looks stunning!!

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    Mandi — May 3, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    Oh Jesus. Ooooooh Jesus. 🙂

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    Arizona Solar — May 3, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

    I love how surprising this cake is! The outside is mildly boring but the inside is BAM! I love it! Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the idea!

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    Becky — May 6, 2010 @ 9:11 am

    I have been drooling over this cake for a few weeks now.. Since its my bithday today, I’m treating myself to a cake.. and what cake do you ask? Oh yes.. this one! cheesecake is baked and in the freezer.. red velvet cake is in the oven. frosting is in the fridge.. oh i can NOT wait to eat it!!!!! 🙂 Thank you sooo much for the recipe.. this will be the best birthday cake ever!

    • Erin replied: — May 6th, 2010 @ 10:46 am

      Happy Birthday! I hope you enjoy the cake!!

  42. 42
    Aaron — May 9, 2010 @ 3:15 am

    I’ve had this bookmarked for a while, but I finally decided to make it for a Luau I went to today. Your explanations made everything much easier and the process flowed very smoothly because of it. I did put a little bit of icing between the red velvet and cheesecake layers just so that they adhered better. Also decided to just go with white chocolate shaving on the top so that it would be a bit more dramatic when you cut into the cake. Speaking of which, I forgot to pre-slice it, so I ended up cutting it right when the buffet line started–I basically ended up serving it as it was cut since a line was forming for the cake! It didn’t even last 5 minutes 🙂 My only regret was not making two or three since some of my friends weren’t able to get some, but I’ll definitely be making this one again in the near future.

  43. 43
    laura — May 11, 2010 @ 2:25 am

    GORGEOUS. i’ve been eyeballing this recipe since last month and i can’t WAIT till my finals are over and i can go home and bake this!!

    When baking the two cakes, are they baked at the same time (same oven) or separately? i may be over-analyzing your explanation just a bit. what finals have done to my brain haha. and i browse foodgawker to procrastinate more =)


    • Erin replied: — May 11th, 2010 @ 8:20 am

      Yes, you can bake the two layers at the same time. Actually, I should probably add in the instructions to rotate the cakes halfway through. I usually move the one on the left over to the right, and vice versa, but it’s probably just as easy to simply rotate/turn the cake so that what’s been on the outer edge, is now on the inside. If that makes sense? That is another thing you can do to make sure the cake bakes as evenly as possible.

      And I COMPLETELY understand what finals do to your brain! I graduated in 2006, so the memories are still pretty fresh!

  44. 44
    Samantha — May 11, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

    I have been searching for the perfect cake to make for my boyfriend’s birthday, and I think this is it! He loves cheesecake, but told me he thought a proper cake would be best (and more fun for me to make!). This cake has both!

    I can’t wait to make it, though I may end up experimenting and substituting the red velvet layers for a different flavour. I was thinking mocha, since he loves coffee. I may be getting a little ambitious, but I hope it works out! Thank you for the inspiration.

    Your cake looks beautiful! I will be copying your chocolate shavings for sure 😉

  45. Pingback: Craving: Cream Cheese Red Velvet Cake | FOODBEAST - Because we're hungry.

  46. 45
    Amber — June 11, 2010 @ 7:25 am

    I just wanted to say, THANK YOU! I have really taken to baking lately and wanted to challenge myself, and tried this, and it was suprisingly EASY! And tastes AMAZING! Really bad for my husband and my diets..but thats OK, it was GREAT!

    • Erin replied: — June 15th, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

      Thank you so much for the feedback! Glad y’all liked it as much as my friends & I did!

  47. 46
    JillyBean — June 11, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

    Thank you for the recipe, the details, and the pics – all of which helped to make this one of the easiest cakes to make as long as one follows the instructions! My Texan husband sent me the link so this was his birthday cake and it turned out beautifully. I’d never had red velvet cake before, but now I can see why it’s his favourite. And I’m sure the cheesecake layer would go perfectly with a dark chocolate cake…or a lemon cake…or a blueberry cake…

    • Erin replied: — June 15th, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

      I agree, the combinations are endless! Thank you so much for the feedback, I’m glad you hear it was enjoyed!

  48. 47
    Amber — June 28, 2010 @ 8:47 am

    One another note, I am going to make it again this weekend for fourth of july…split the red velvet cake recipe in half and make one of them blue! It will be very patriotic! 🙂

  49. 48
    Patrick — July 6, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

    I just made this cake and it turned out to be perfect! My cakes ended up quite domed, so I used the excess cake to make red velvet balls. Just crumble the cake, mix in icing, freeze them (or let them cool) and then dip in white or dark chocolate. They were the perfect accompaniment to a perfect cake. Wonderful recipe, I’ll definitely make it again!

    My cake:

  50. 49
    Gerri Hendricks — August 6, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

    I am going to make this for my 40th birthday on August 25…can’t wait!!! Gerri

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