This sweet American classic gets its name from the distinctive deep red colour of the chocolate cake. Originally this was due to the chemical reaction between the unprocessed cocoa and the acid in the buttermilk. These days it's more common to use red food colouring or even beetroot juice. It's a perfect dessert cake for entertaining - not only does it have great wow factor, it can also be assembled 3 hours before the guests arrive, then topped with berries just before serving.






Skill level

Average: 2.9 (79 votes)


For the cake

  • 125 g soft unsalted butter, plus extra, for greasing
  • 380 g sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring
  • ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped 
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 250 g plain flour, sieved, plus extra, for dusting
  • 25 g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • fresh berries, to garnish

For the filling

  • 800 g cream cheese, softened
  • 300 g soft unsatled butter
  • 300 g sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped 


Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time 3 hours

Heat the oven to 180°C.

Beat the butter and the sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add the eggs, little by little, stirring well after each addition. Add the red food colouring, the vanilla seeds and the cocoa and mix well. Mix the buttermilk with the salt. Stir into the cake mixture, alternating with the flour as you go. Stir the baking soda into the apple vinegar until smooth, then add to the cake mixture.

Grease the springform cake tins well and sprinkle with flour. Divide the cake mixture between the two cake tins. Bake each in the oven for about 35 minutes. Use a wooden cocktail stick to test if the cake is ready. Place on a wire rack to cool. Remove from the cake tin and cut in half horizontally.

For the filling, place the cream cheese in a bowl together with the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds. Cream using an electric whisk.

Place one of the cake bases onto a cake plate with cake ring. Spread about a quarter of the cream cheese mixture over the top, followed by another cake base. Carry on layering the cake, finishing with a layer of cream cheese. Place in the fridge for 3-4 hours to chill completely.

Garnish with fresh berries and serve.