This Green Velvet Cake recipe gives classic red velvet a new hue! Covered in tangy cream cheese frosting, it’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.
My southern family loves red velvet cake. I think it’s in our DNA. I’ve given the scarlet-hued confection a lot of attention over the years, as evidenced in the pages of this blog (see here and here, for starters). But really, red velvet cake doesn’t have to be red at all. Since most food coloring is flavorless, it could be any color you’d like! Green velvet cake might break with tradition, but it tastes just the same as red velvet with a velvety sponge and rich cream cheese frosting. I’ve dressed it in sugar shamrocks to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style.
Making this cake put me in the spirit for celebrating the holiday. But honestly, I’m always ready to eat good food. This cake will be on our St. Patrick’s Day menu alongside corned beef and cabbage. Although, I may bake it into cupcakes instead of a layer cake. (Still undecided!) This recipe will give you about 2 dozen cupcakes, if you choose to do the same. Directions for making cupcakes are in the recipe notes.
Bake the cake batter in four 6-inch pans to create some height. Or, you can use two 8-inch pans for a shorter cake. I didn’t even have to level these cakes, so there’s no waste. Fill the cake with cream cheese frosting, and give it a crumb coat. Chill it well in the fridge before adding the next layer of frosting.
Make the shamrocks.
Make the four leaf clover and shamrock decors using green gum paste and flower fondant cutters. It seems like I’m always buying another $10 cake decorating item monthly, and I’m trying to break that habit. So, I used what I had on hand – a hydrangea plunger cutter, and a five-leaf flower cutter. I altered the cut-outs with an X-acto knife and a tiny heart-shaped fondant cutter. The pointed end of the heart cutter perfectly nips the tips of the leaves to create the clover leaf shape.
If you have these cutters on hand, you could do the same. But specialty shamrock cutters are available for purchase here, if you’re looking to add to your collection.
See the video just before the recipe card for the shamrock-shaping tutorial. It’s so easy to give them dimension, using the round bottom of a measuring spoon (really!). After the sugar shamrocks dry, attach them to the cake using dots of cream cheese frosting.
The decors are really simple, but altogether have a nice effect. The shamrocks were mottled with green and gold luster dust to give them some color variation.
The inside of the cake is practically glowing green! Cut the cake into pieces while it’s chilled for the neatest slices, but make sure to serve them at room temperature. That’s when the cake’s ‘velvet’ texture really stands out.
I really enjoyed making this cake. It has all the flavor of red velvet – that hint of cocoa powder with buttermilk tang – except this time it’s green. The cream cheese frosting is classic. This cake will shine on your dessert buffet, even if you opt out of making the shamrocks and instead, shake on some green shamrock sprinkles.
Green Velvet Cake
- 6 inch cake pans, 4
- Small fondant rolling pin
- Small hydrangea fondant cutter
- Small 5-leaf flower fondant cutter
- Mini cupcake liners (for shaping shamrocks)
- X-acto knife
Green velvet cake
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon leaf green gel food color
- 1-2 teaspoons warm water
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
Cream cheese frosting
- 16 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 7 cups confectioners’ sugar 2 boxes 1 lb. each
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Shamrock decors
- 3 oz. green gum paste
- Gold luster dust
- Olive green luster dust
Green velvet cake layers
- Preheat oven to 350F. Generously coat four 6-inch round cake pans with flour-based baking spray (or grease and flour pans).
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the sugar and butter. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and beat well after each addition. Mix cocoa, food coloring, and 1 teaspoon of water together to form a paste (add additional water if the mixture still seems dry). Add the food color/cocoa paste to the sugar mixture; beat on medium-high to disperse the color throughout the batter.
- Sift together flour and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and immediately add to the batter; beat on medium speed to combine.
- Divide the batter between the four pans and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean when inserted in the center. These cakes won’t crown much, if at all. But if they puff slightly in the centers, use a clean paper towel and your palm to press the cakes flat while they are still warm in the pans. Be careful! Try to avoid the edges of the hot pans.
- Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
- Cream together the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the powdered sugar in two additions. Beat until smooth. Add vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again until combined. Cover frosting with a damp towel to keep it from drying out while you work.
- Place a cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Top with a layer of frosting; stack another layer and frost. Repeat and end with the fourth layer on top. Apply a thin crumb coat of frosting to the outside of the cake. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. Cover the cake with the remaining frosting. Smooth top and sides using a cake smoother or bench scraper. Save the leftover frosting to adhere the shamrocks onto the cake. (Or alternatively, you can transfer the remaining frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe swirls on top of the cake.)
Make the shamrocks
- Knead the gum paste well and roll out onto a piece of parchment paper to 1/8 inch thickness (you could also roll it out on a work surface lightly dusted with powdered sugar, but the parchment works for me!). Use the hydrangea cutter and five leaf flower cutter to stamp pieces out of the paste. You'll need about 25 pieces to get the effect shown on the cake in the picture. Knead, re-roll, and cut as needed. Use the X-acto knife to trim notches out of the leaves to make them heart-shaped. Trim one leaf of each flower shape into a stem shape (see video or image in blog post).
- Fold a large paper towel sheet into quarters. Place a shamrock on the paper towel. Give the shamrock dimension by pressing and swirling the rounded end of a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon in the center of the shamrock. The leaves and stem will fold inward slightly. Place the shaped shamrock to one side of a mini cupcake liner to keep its shape until it dries. Repeat until all the shamrocks are shaped. Let dry until the gum paste hardens, about 2 hours.
- Using a dry brush, apply the luster dust onto the set shamrocks using the kitchen-dedicated art brush. To adhere them to the cake, pipe or spread a small amount of leftover frosting onto the backs of the shamrocks and press onto the edge of the cake. I did this asymmetrically, in a vaguely waterfall pattern over the top and one side of the cake. But
- Serve the cake at room temperature for best texture and flavor.