Hidden beneath the swooping white frosting of this tiered dessert are stunning scarlet layers infused with buttermilk and cocoa. Red velvet cake, whose namesake hue comes from food coloring, is a favorite dessert in the South, but its exact origins are unknown. In honor of its adopted home, gum-paste magnolias adorn it here. For added flavor, we've substituted a tangy cream-cheese frosting for the standard flour-based icing, spreading it between each layer and outside.
3 each 6-, 9-, 12-, and 15-inch round layers, plus two 4-inch round layers Red Velvet Cake
25 wooden dowels, 1/4 inch diameter, 4 1/8 inches long
3 gum-paste magnolias
Prepare tiers: Trim layers. On corresponding- size boards, fill 6-, 9-, 12-, and 15-inch layers with frosting to make 4-inch-high tiers. Repeat with 4-inch layers to make a 3-inch-high tier. Frost tiers; press a large offset spatula vertically against sides at 1-inch intervals to make swooping ridges.
Assemble tiers: Place 15-inch tier on board. Insert 10 dowels, arranging 1 in center and 9 in a circle 2 1/2 inches from edge. Center and place 12-inch tier on top; insert 8 dowels in a circle 2 1/2 inches from edge. Center and place 9-inch tier on top; insert 4 dowels in a square 2 1/2 inches from edge. Center and place 6-inch tier on top; insert last 3 dowels in a triangle 2 inches from edge. Refrigerate until ready to display. Decorate with gum-paste magnolias.