Just when you thought red velvet cake couldn't get any better, this one's got a luscious layer of cheesecake in the middle. We'll learn how to bake a cheesecake in a bain marie (hot water bath), as well as, how to frost and decorate the cake with piped rosettes. This recipe is a great baking project for when you're snowed in or just want to avoid the world. You can make the cheesecake layer one day then assemble the rest of the cake the next day.
For the cheesecake: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Place a large roasting pan on the lower rack. Butter a 9-inch springform pan then line the bottom with parchment. Wrap the outside of the pan (around the bottom and up the sides) with aluminum foil to create a water-tight seal.
Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer) until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and mix for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix on medium-high speed after each addition until incorporated. Finally, add the whipping cream and vanilla. Mix on medium-high speed until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place it in the roasting pan in the oven. Carefully pour an inch of hot water into the roasting pan to create a water bath.
Bake until the cheesecake is set to the touch, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, then refrigerate until completely cold, up to 1 day in advance.
For the red velvet cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a large jug or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring and vanilla. Whisk into the dry ingredients by hand just until incorporated, taking care not to overmix the batter. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans and jiggle the pans to help level the batter.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans then flip them out onto wire racks, peel off the parchment, and let cool completely.
For the frosting: Beat the cream cheese with the confectioners' sugar, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy (do not overbeat). Refrigerate until needed.
Assemble the cake: Place one red velvet cake layer smooth-side up on a cake stand or platter. Release and remove the springform from the cheesecake then invert it onto the red velvet cake. Remove the pan bottom and peel off the parchment. If the cheesecake layer is slightly larger than your cake, gently shave off the excess with an offset spatula. Place the second red velvet cake on top of the cheesecake, smooth-side up.
Frost the cake: Spread a thin layer of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake with an offset spatula. (This is the crumb coat.) Wipe off your spatula before dipping it back into the bowl of frosting to avoid transferring any red crumbs. (At this point, don't worry if there are crumbs visible in the crumb coat.) Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Dollop a large scoop of frosting onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the top and sides. (You shouldn't have any red crumbs in this layer but some might sneak in.) If desired, transfer the remaining frosting to a pastry bag with a medium round tip and pipe rosettes around the rim of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve, for up to 3 days.