Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake

Velvet Brownie Swirl 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.

Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake #bundtcake

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.

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.

Moist Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake #bundtcake

Elements That Affect 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.

Velvet Brownie 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.

Fabulous Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake #bundtcake

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.

Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake

Yield: 12 slices

Prep Time:20 minutes

Cook Time:1 hour

Did you make this recipe?   Leave a review »


For the Velvet Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

For the Brownie Swirl:

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 ounce bar chocolate, chopped and melted

For the Vanilla Glaze:

  • 6-9 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. For the brownie batter: Separate out 1 2/3 cups batter. Whisk 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and the melted chocolate into the batter. Set aside. Pour 2/3 of the remaining velvet batter into the bundt pan.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. For the glaze: whisk 6 tablespoons 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.
  8. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake with a spoons or whisk. allow the glaze to dry before covering.
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54 comments on “Velvet Brownie Swirl Cake

  1. ColleenB.posted November 16, 2014 at 3:45 am Reply

    Cake looks absolutely Amazing.
    I’m not a big fan of thick frosting so I may just use a drizzle and add Almond flavoring in place of the vanilla.

  2. Jackieposted June 23, 2013 at 11:22 am Reply


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

    • Sommerposted June 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm Reply

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

  3. Alysonposted November 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm Reply

    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.

  4. Averie @ Averie Cooksposted August 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm Reply

    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!

    • Averie @ Averie Cooksposted August 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm Reply

      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!

  5. Pingback: Velvet Swirl Cake

  6. Annaposted May 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm Reply

    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!

    • Sommerposted May 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm Reply

      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.

  7. Doodlerposted May 7, 2012 at 11:08 am Reply

    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.

  8. marlaposted May 4, 2012 at 6:57 am Reply

    Ooooooo this swirl cake looks crazy good!

  9. Leslieposted May 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm Reply

    Great tips!!! Love the oozes perfection

  10. Lizposted April 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply

    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!

  11. Brian @ A Thought For Foodposted April 30, 2012 at 8:15 am Reply

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

  12. Robyn Stone | Add a Pinchposted April 30, 2012 at 8:09 am Reply

    I can practically taste this cake! Gorgeous, Sommer!

  13. Puppydogsposted April 30, 2012 at 4:41 am Reply

    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!

  14. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.posted April 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm Reply

    oooh lala looks good!

  15. Russell at Chasing Deliciousposted April 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm Reply

    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.

  16. Cherineposted April 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm Reply

    This is to dIe for!

  17. Colleen, The Smart Cookie Cookposted April 29, 2012 at 9:45 am Reply

    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.

  18. cookingrookieposted April 29, 2012 at 3:57 am Reply

    oh my goodness, this is an amazing cake!

  19. Sara @OneTribeGourmetposted April 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm Reply

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

  20. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchenposted April 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm Reply

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

  21. Erin @ Cooking With Erinposted April 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm Reply

    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…

  22. shelly (cookies and cups)posted April 28, 2012 at 7:49 am Reply

    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 :)

  23. Amyposted April 28, 2012 at 3:53 am Reply

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

  24. Aldy @ Al Dente Gourmetposted April 27, 2012 at 9:57 pm Reply

    WOW! That looks incredible :)

    Hugs <3

  25. Emily @ She Makes and Bakesposted April 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm Reply

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

  26. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love.posted April 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm Reply

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

  27. Lori @ RecipeGirlposted April 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm Reply

    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!

  28. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppersposted April 27, 2012 at 6:29 pm Reply

    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!!!

  29. Emily @ Life on Foodposted April 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm Reply

    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!

  30. MIss @ Miss in the Kitchenposted April 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm Reply

    Gorgeous Sommer! Love the baking tips too.

  31. Julia {The Roasted Root}posted April 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm Reply

    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!

  32. Louanneposted April 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm Reply

    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…

  33. Barbara | Creative Culinaryposted April 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm Reply

    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.

  34. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchenposted April 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm Reply

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

  35. Melissa Bposted April 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm Reply

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

  36. Jen at The Three Little Pigletsposted April 27, 2012 at 12:14 pm Reply

    So gorgeous! Vanilla beans are my undoing!

  37. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugarposted April 27, 2012 at 10:56 am Reply

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

  38. Heather (Heather's Dish)posted April 27, 2012 at 9:49 am Reply

    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 :)

  39. Stephanie @ Macaroni and Cheesecakeposted April 27, 2012 at 9:38 am Reply

    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!

  40. Bradposted April 27, 2012 at 9:03 am Reply

    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

  41. Tricia @ Saving room for dessertposted April 27, 2012 at 8:51 am Reply

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

  42. Paula- bell'alimentoposted April 27, 2012 at 8:19 am Reply

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

  43. Amyposted April 27, 2012 at 8:14 am Reply

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

  44. MIss @ Miss in the Kitchenposted April 27, 2012 at 7:58 am Reply

    That looks wonderful for the weekend!

  45. Cookin' Cowgirlposted April 27, 2012 at 7:40 am Reply

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

  46. bake your dayposted April 27, 2012 at 7:39 am Reply

    Great info, Sommer! This cake looks marvelously moist!

  47. Belinda @zomppaposted April 27, 2012 at 7:17 am Reply

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

  48. Sarahposted April 27, 2012 at 6:24 am Reply

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

    • Sommerposted April 27, 2012 at 6:38 am Reply

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

  49. Sarahposted April 27, 2012 at 6:21 am Reply

    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? )

    • Sommerposted April 27, 2012 at 6:36 am Reply

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