Valentine’s Day Sweets: The Bubble Room’s Red Velvet Cake!

If you’re planning on indulging in our Steak au Poivre a Deux this Valentine’s Day, why not continue the indulgence into dessert with this deliciously decadent recipe for Red Velvet Cake. Not only am I obsessed with the delicious flavor of the bright red cake slathered with cream cheese frosting and topped with crunchy chopped pecans, this recipe has sentimental meaning for me as well.


Growing up, my family used to spend time every Summer in Captiva Island, Florida. After long days spent on the beach, in the pool or out deep sea fishing, we’d pile our sunburned selves into the family car and head straight for a restaurant called The Bubble Room. At the time it was THE place to dine in the sleepy little town on Florida’s west coast and as a child it was nothing short of magical. The restaurant was a colorful, whimsical cottage painted in bright pastel pinks, reds and greens and covered from floor to ceiling in vintage memorabilia from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. Christmas lights and decorations were also in abundance and a toy train whistled it’s way through the various dining rooms every few minutes. In keeping with the theme, the menu featured dishes named after singers and actors from the same time period including the Henny Young One, Eddie Fisherman, Prime Rib Weissmuller, Moon Over Miami and many, many more. Guiding you through the experience was your very own Bubble Scout, the title given to the Bubble Room’s enthusiastic team of waiters and waitresses who donned Boy Scout-inspired uniforms displaying merit patches earned for accomplishments such as memorizing the restaurant’s extensive list of delicious cakes.


Which brings me to my favorite thing about the Bubble Room: their Red Velvet Cake, a bright red, triple layer cake finished with a deliciously decadent, cream cheese frosting. As much as I loved it, however, I was never able to eat the cake right after dinner. Between their completely addictive Bubble Bread and humongous portion sizes, I was always full by the time dessert rolled around so I would just take my piece of cake home, pop it in the fridge overnight and have it for breakfast in the morning. Not the most healthy thing, I know – but it was pure heaven and definitely one of my favorite food memories.

A few years ago, my husband and I visited Captiva and dined at The Bubble Room and it inspired me to track down the recipe for the beloved Red Velvet Cake. Luckily, it wasn’t too hard to find since the recipe was featured in the Junior League of Fort Myers cookbook before its Bubble Room fame. Thankfully, it was every bit as delicious as I remembered. I was a little concerned at first though, since many recipes treat Red Velvet Cake like a chocolate cake with red food coloring added which is definitely NOT the case! While it is a “cousin” of the Devil’s Food Cake due to the addition of buttermilk, vinegar and cocoa powder, it really is a different cake altogether. While no one’s sure where the cake originated, it’s rumored to have made its debut at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 1930’s. Other accounts place its beginnings in Toronto at the elite Eaton’s department store. The South also lays claim to the original Red Velvet Cake but what’s more certain is that John Adams, owner of Adams Extract company, had the cake at the Waldorf and decided to market it to the people of Texas to sell more of his company’s red food coloring and vanilla extract. His efforts paid off and today this cake has become über-popular and for good reason! While scoffed at by culinary legends including James Beard and Irma Rombauer, there’s just something delicious about this unusual red cake and it’s cream cheese frosting.


The recipe is pretty easy to make, just a little time consuming and I highly recommend wearing black because once you open that red food coloring, it can get pretty messy! Be sure to invest in three 9-inch cake pans so you can cook all three layers at the same time (major time saver!) and be careful when frosting the cake to not let any red crumbs get into the beautiful white frosting. I would also recommend chilling the cake for a few hours before serving it to allow the cake and frosting to set up. While I usually top the cake with chopped pecans, for Valentine’s Day I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter and some red sanding sugar to make the heart design on top of the icing.

I hope you enjoy this special Red Velvet Cake with your Valentine this year and hopefully create some special memories of your own!




"The Bubble Room's Red Velvet Cake"
Recipe type: Dessert
Original recipe from the Junior League of Fort Myers
  • 3¾ cup self-rising flour
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons cocoa
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ teaspoons vinegar
  • 2¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup red food coloring (NOT a typo, you will need 3 ounces)
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1½ cups butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. ) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. ) Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. ) Add eggs, vinegar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla and food coloring and mix well.
  4. ) Spoon into 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans (approximately 2⅔ cups per pan)
  5. ) Bake 45-60 minutes or until edges of cakes pull away from pan. (Check at 45 minutes because they will probably be done.)
  6. ) After cooling for 10 minutes (no more, I don't know why), remove the cakes to wire racks to cool completely.
  7. ) Meanwhile, beat butter and cream cheese in mixer until fluffy.
  8. ) Slowly add in powdered sugar and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.
  9. ) Layer the frosting between each layer of the cake, and liberally over the top and sides. Top with chopped pecans.

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