Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake

Chocolate Velvet Cake

A “velvet” cake recipe with brownie swirled throughout. This chocolate velvet cake is to die for with a rich creamy vanilla bean glaze on top. Plus learn the answers to common baking dilemmas.

Let’s talk about baking today.

I’m fortunate to get a lot of feedback here on A Spicy Perspective. I love to hear your thoughts on recipes and alterations you’ve made to suit your tastes.

One thing I noticed is that I get more positive, and negative, feedback on baking recipes than anything else.

I’m not opposed to negative feedback. Everyone’s taste buds and preferences are a little different. Yet I find that most of these comments are due to conditions that are out of my control.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

I used to tell my cooking class students that cooking is art and baking is chemistry, generally speaking.

In cooking, you can throw in a handful of herbs or a little more butter, like you were adding a bit more orange to an oil-painting. You can make changes as you go with no major catastrophe in the end.

In baking, everything matters. One small adjustment could be your undoing, but you won’t know it until you pull your cake out of the oven.

This is not meant to discourage you from baking. It’s meant to encourage you to learn a little more about the science of baking so that you can get the result you want more often, and understand a problem, if one occurs.

Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake

Elements That Effect Baking:

When making something for the first time, read the recipe thoroughly before you start. Follow every step to a tee. Remember, the recipe developer thought each element was important enough to document, so there must be a reason for it.

Temperature Matters. If a recipe calls for cold butter, melted butter, or room-temperature eggs, remember that any adjustment will effect the outcome. The difference between putting a dough with cold butter and one with warm melted butter, in the oven, is HUGE. It results in a completely different chemical reaction. Take the time to set your dairy and eggs out ahead, if they need to be room temperature.

Measuring Matters. We Americans like to kick it old-school in the measuring department, relying on cups and spoons to give the proper proportions. Yet pastry chefs world-wide measure their ingredients by weight. The reason for this is that a cup of flour can vary greatly in weight depending on the type of flour, and how packed it is.

In a perfect world all home-cooks would use scales and metric measurement to insure exact amounts of wet and dry ingredients. As that’s never going to happen, make sure to always pour ingredients into your measuring cups, never scoop. Scooping packs the ingredient down, meaning you end up with more than you want. Always level the measuring spoons and cups with a knife or spatula.

Ingredients Matter. Different brands of butter, yogurt, buttermilk and flour have varying levels of moisture, fat, and protein. These little variations can greatly effect the outcome of the final product. Use the brands the recipe developer recommends, or find brands that suit your baking needs.

Freshness Matters. Butter loses moisture the longer it sits in the fridge. Baking powder, baking soda and yeast lose their lifting power over time. Make sure to shop often and store well.

Mood Matters. This may sound silly, but it has to do with measuring and delicacy. A pastry chef once told me that when she’s upset, her recipes don’t turn out. She’s heavy-handed while measuring and rough on the dough and batter. She is physically not in the proper state of mind to turn out a perfect baked good. Try to bake when you are relaxed and have plenty of time.

Weather Matters. Standard “room temperature” is right around 70 degrees. If you bake when it’s really hot outside or bitter cold, and the outside temperature is affecting the inside temperature, your results will be different. If the humidity is higher or lower than normal, your results will be different. That’s why grandmas use to say never to bake on a rainy day. The heavy moisture in the air effects the ability of the dough/batter to rise and dry.

Swirl Cake

I wish I could tell you to only bake when all the stars aline. Then your baked goods would come out the same every single time.

But that’s not life.

We bake on rainy days because we’re stuck in the house. We bake on days we are feeling blue, because it lifts our spirits. We bake in a hurry to finish dessert before our guests arrive.

Just try to remember, EVERY element effects the outcome. Your muffins may be dome-topped one day and and flat the next. Your cake may be ultra moist one day and light and dry the next. It all depends on the conditions.

Simply do your best to make the conditions as “optimal” as possible.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Now on to my “Velvet” Brownie Swirl Cake…

This recipe is essentially a red velvet cake without the food-coloring. That means it’s a rich, moist, buttermilk cake with a touch of cocoa powder. Then I added a chocolate brownie swirl just for kicks!

The frosting on top is a thick creamy vanilla bean glaze that sits up high and adds the perfect pop of sweetness.

As with all cakes, I recommend leaving this out at room temperature.

Cakes tastes better, and stay moist, when they are left at room-temperature. Refrigeration only dries them out. I make a cake no more more than 4 days before I know it is going to be completely devoured. Cover it well and it will be just fine. I’ve never had one spoil yet.

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Yield: 12 slices

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake

Ingredients:

For the Velvet Cake:
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups buttermilk, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

For the Brownie Swirl:
3 Tb. unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz. bar chocolate, chopped and melted

For the Vanilla Glaze:
6-9 Tb. heavy cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tb. vanila bean paste (or extract)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-15 cup bundt pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat the oil, buttermilk, eggs, vinegar and vanilla on low until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa together. Slowly add them to the wet mixture until just combined. Scrape the bowl and mix again.

For the brownie batter: Separate out 1 2/3 cups batter. Whisk 3 Tb. cocoa powder and the melted chocoalte into the batter. Set aside.

Pour 2/3 of the remaining velvet batter into the bundt pan.

Add the brownie batter to the bundt pan and gently smooth over the top covering all areas. Do not swirl.

Pour the remaining 1/3 velvet batter over the brownie batter.

Bake for 55-65 minutes until set in the middle. After 55 minutes check the center with a wooden skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Allow the cake to cool for at least 20 minutes in the pan. Then carefully flip it out onto a cake plate.

Allow it to cool completely before adding the glaze.

For the glaze: whisk 6 Tb. of heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla paste. If the mixture is too thick to pour add a little more cream, until it is thick and slow pouring.

Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake with a spoons or whisk. allow the glaze to dry before covering.

Links to More Baking Tips:

My Baking Addiction

Chasing Delicious

Bake @ 350

I Am Baker

Related Posts

53 Responses to “Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake”

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    Sarah — April 27, 2012 @ 6:21 am

    This looks so good. I can’t wait to try it. I love the beautiful thick vanilla bean drizzle (Yum-my!)
    Do you think this would work well in a Bavarian Bundt pan or is it too moist for all the details that kind of pan has?
    (Am I the only one reminded of the “Bunk Pan” scene in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” every time I make a Bundt cake? )

    Reply

    • Sommer — April 27th, 2012 @ 6:36 am

      Hi Sarah, once it cools in the pan it comes out really well. It’s moist, but dense.

      Reply

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    Sarah — April 27, 2012 @ 6:24 am

    Also, what brand of vanilla bean paste do you use?

    Reply

    • Sommer — April 27th, 2012 @ 6:38 am

      There’s a brand I really like called Singing Dog. :)

      Reply

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    Belinda @zomppa — April 27, 2012 @ 7:17 am

    You won’t hear any negativity here – looks perfect! Baking IS a science….

    Reply

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    bake your day — April 27, 2012 @ 7:39 am

    Great info, Sommer! This cake looks marvelously moist!

    Reply

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    Cookin' Cowgirl — April 27, 2012 @ 7:40 am

    Sommer, this sound AND looks amazing. And you give some great tips!!
    Pretty photos, buzz buzz!

    Reply

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    MIss @ Miss in the Kitchen — April 27, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    That looks wonderful for the weekend!

    Reply

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    Amy — April 27, 2012 @ 8:14 am

    Excellent post! Such good information. I’m an okay baker, and totally find myself rushing through things like scooping instead of pouring. Great reminders.

    Reply

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    Paula- bell'alimento — April 27, 2012 @ 8:19 am

    Oh my GOODness… I’m on my way to Asheville ; )

    Reply

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    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert — April 27, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    Amen Sommer, amen! You said it all so well. Have a lovely weekend and enjoy that beautiful cake!

    Reply

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    Brad — April 27, 2012 @ 9:03 am

    I was lucky enough to get to eat a piece of this after the pictures. Hard to believe, but it taste better than it looks!! Thanks Sommer!! :) Brad

    Reply

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    Stephanie @ Macaroni and Cheesecake — April 27, 2012 @ 9:38 am

    This cake sounds fantastic! Red Velvet & Brownies in one cake, count me in!:) And I love all of your baking tips! I recently started spooning in my flour and have noticed a big difference!

    Reply

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    Heather (Heather's Dish) — April 27, 2012 @ 9:49 am

    i love that saying “cooking is art, baking is chemistry” – and you’re right, all of that stuff matters! part of what makes both cooking and baking fun :)

    Reply

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    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — April 27, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    Mmm this cake rocks my world!! So full of goodness – I love it!

    Reply

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    Jen at The Three Little Piglets — April 27, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    So gorgeous! Vanilla beans are my undoing!

    Reply

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    Melissa B — April 27, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    This looks so good, and moist! I need to make this right away! =)

    Reply

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    Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen — April 27, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    Gorgeous cake – you obviously followed your own guidelines, producing a work of art from a collection of scientific principles. Yum!

    Reply

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    Barbara | Creative Culinary — April 27, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    You forgot the element that affects my baking most of all. Height matters. No, silly not MY height but where I live. For all those years that I got to ignore high altitude directions; now that I’m living in Denver I need to know them intimately!

    This cake of yours though looks like you did it all right. Sounds delicious and looks gorgeous. Perfect in my eyes.

    Reply

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    Louanne — April 27, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    I just printed the recipe – I cannot wait to make this cake! The crumb is perfect, and the vanilla bean glaze is gorgeous.
    Comments are the best – negative comments, not so much…

    Reply

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    Julia {The Roasted Root} — April 27, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    I enjoyed reading your cooking-versus-baking thoughts….I definitely agree…every single measurement matters in baking which makes it super fun and also at times super frustrating. I seem to get more feedback on my baked recipes too, which makes me giggle…kinda shows what people are interested in ;) Your velvet brownie swirl cake looks delicious and the glaze on top with the little specs of vanilla paste…good golly it looks awesome!

    Reply

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    MIss @ Miss in the Kitchen — April 27, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    Gorgeous Sommer! Love the baking tips too.

    Reply

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    Emily @ Life on Food — April 27, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    Thanks for sharing your tips…or wisdom. You are 100% right. I wish everything turned out perfectly but they don’t and most of the time I can find reason why not. Lovely cake!

    Reply

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    Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers — April 27, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

    Great tips. I’m a scooper, good to know to spoon it in. Now I know where the extra weight has come from. lol The cake looks unbelievable!!!

    Reply

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    Lori @ RecipeGirl — April 27, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    yum yum! Always good to get some reminders like these. My biggest complaint is when people try to sub margarine in a buttercream frosting. Ick, and it doesn’t work out so well either!

    Reply

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    Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. — April 27, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

    This looks heavenly! So moist! And I love the vanilla bean glaze!

    Reply

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    Emily @ She Makes and Bakes — April 27, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

    This recipe looks great. Love the idea of leaving out the food color and then adding the brownie swirl. Genius!

    Reply

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    Aldy @ Al Dente Gourmet — April 27, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

    WOW! That looks incredible :)

    Hugs <3

    Reply

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    Amy — April 28, 2012 @ 3:53 am

    This looks absolutely delicious! I would love to try it with red velvet cake and see what the pretty result would be :)

    Reply

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    shelly (cookies and cups) — April 28, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    This is a great post! It’s hard when you hear that your recipe was followed “exactly” and it totally didn’t work…
    I need to refer those comments back to this post :)

    Reply

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    Erin @ Cooking With Erin — April 28, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    Great tips! I’m such a better cook than a baker! Can’t wait to make this gorgeous vanilla glaze. I’ll have to look into the Singing Dog vanilla bean paste. If only for the cool name…

    Reply

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    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — April 28, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

    That is sensational, it looks so incredibly moist. I want a piece!

    Reply

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    Sara @OneTribeGourmet — April 28, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

    wow, love this velvet brownie cake..and the vanilla glaze looks so good..I can imagine how moist & tasty this cake must taste!

    Reply

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    cookingrookie — April 29, 2012 @ 3:57 am

    oh my goodness, this is an amazing cake!

    Reply

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    Colleen, The Smart Cookie Cook — April 29, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    Oh my god, this can’t be real! That cake looks so moist and incredible, but with that brownie swirl too I can hardly handle all the goodness! Plus, the glaze looks gorgeous. I’m sure it’s the perfect finishing touch.

    Reply

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    Cherine — April 29, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

    This is to dIe for!

    Reply

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    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — April 29, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

    oooh lala looks good!

    Reply

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    Russell at Chasing Delicious — April 29, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

    Why yes, I sure will eat one of these cakes in one sitting! Loving the tips and pointers. I love the mood matters tip – you’ve hit the nail on the head with that one.

    Reply

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    Puppydogs — April 30, 2012 @ 4:41 am

    Hi,
    I love your site. I agree with you that Americans love their measuring cups-me being one of them :). I am trying to use a scale more often. Perhaps you can list the cups and the weights for your dry ingredients?

    Also, I have found, if it is a rainy day, I don’t make shortbread. When I have a need to bake, I bake according to the weather to give my baked goods their optimal environment to help with their success.

    thanks for a great post!

    Reply

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    Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch — April 30, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    I can practically taste this cake! Gorgeous, Sommer!

    Reply

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    Brian @ A Thought For Food — April 30, 2012 @ 8:15 am

    Yowza! What a cake! That swirl is just delightful!

    Reply

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    Liz — April 30, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

    Gorgeous cake, Sommer! I love all your baking advice. I’ve had friends comment that everything I make turns out perfectly, but I’ve put that rumor to rest. They just don’t see my flops, but they DO happen!

    Reply

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    Leslie — May 2, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

    Great tips!!! Love the cake..it oozes perfection

    Reply

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    marla — May 4, 2012 @ 6:57 am

    Ooooooo this swirl cake looks crazy good!

    Reply

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    Doodler — May 7, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    One amazing cake. Got to try it. I agree with baking it is so important to have the right amount of everything, to follow the exact amounts in recipes – it is science. I adore baking and try to do it at least once a week.

    Reply

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    Anna — May 11, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    Hi,
    This cake looks fantastic and am looking forward to trying it.
    I was surprised to see you use oil instead of butter in this recipe. Any particular reason? Thank you!
    Anna

    Reply

    • Sommer — May 11th, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

      Hey Anna, thanks for the question. Red velvet cakes are traditionally oil cakes. The oil, although lacking flavor, offers that ultra moist texture. I use butter in cakes when I need it for flavor and want a super fine crumb. I use oil when I want a cake with “southern” moistness. My favorite chocolate cake is also an oil cake.

      Reply

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    Averie @ Averie Cooks — August 19, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

    this cake looks stunning AND I love love love the baking Q & A and tips/insights – so helpful to read perspectives like this, including one’s mood! Weather, all the rest, I’m familiar with but now that I think about mood, you are so right!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — August 19th, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

      p.s. noticed you mentioned to Anna above me that your fave choc cake is an oil cake for moisture vs. a butter cake. Would love to see the post/recipe if you have it on your blog!

      Reply

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    Alyson — November 3, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    What sort of bar chocolate did you use? Unsweetened? Bittersweet? Milk? I was hoping to make this for my daughter tonight, but I’m not sure which way to go.

    Reply

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    Jackie — June 23, 2013 @ 11:22 am

    Hi

    What type of chocolate bar did you use in this recipe, unsweetened, semi-sweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate?

    Reply

    • Sommer — June 23rd, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

      It’s up to you… I usually go with dark chocolate or semi-sweet. :)

      Reply

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