This recipe came from Mrs. Gail Sealy. She taught first grade at my school, alongside my mom, who taught third grade for twenty-three years. Before we knew her, my sister and I called “Miss” Sealy the movie star lady because she was, and still is, stunningly beautiful and had this exotic look about her. She also drank Tab all the time. I thought she was the coolest! I don’t think she drinks Tab anymore, but I still think she’s cool.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Mix the sugar and eggs. Add the oil, slowly beating well as the oil is added. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and food coloring. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake for 40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto racks to finish cooling while you prepare the frosting.
Cream the cream cheese and butter. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla and nuts, reserving 2 tablespoons of nuts for garnish. Spread the frosting between the layers, on the sides, and on the top of the cake.
Leave the sides unfrosted if you like, to let the vibrant red show.