Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Red Velvet Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

BEST Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This is the holy grail of layer cakes. The most romantic, gorgeous, vibrant cake of all time. The “I can’t quite put my finger on the flavor” cake. Dense, yet soft ‘n light. The sweet marriage of buttermilk and vanilla with a little cocoa on the side. Tall, dramatic, and completely covered in tangy cream cheese frosting.

This, everyone, is the one and only red velvet.

BEST Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I’ve always been unsure about red velvet. Quite honestly, I don’t really trust a cake that has a mystery flavor! Is it vanilla? Is it chocolate? Is it just a butter cake colored red? Why is dessert so confusing! Whatever, I’m ordering cheese fries.

That was until I learned the beauty of this mighty flavor. From brownies and cookies to bars and brownies again, I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know red velvet. Mild chocolate intertwined with the unmistakable taste of buttermilk, a generous dose of vanilla, and plenty of butter flavor. These four flavors make up the mystery of red velvet and are essential to perfecting a red velvet layer cake. Not only are the flavors fabulous, red velvet cake’s texture is something to write home about. It’s dense but soft with a moist, tender crumb. My absolute favorite part about red velvet cake, though, is the cream cheese frosting. Slathered on thick, this frosting is delicately sweet and undeniably creamy.

BEST Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com

BEST Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com

BAKING SCIENCE // NERD ALERT

Enough red velvet rambling, let me tell you about my specific recipe. There are reasons I use specific ingredients, certain amounts, and unique mixing techniques, so pay attention if you’re looking to recreate this cake at home.

Important red velvet cake tip #1: Cake flour. I highly recommend cake flour for red velvet cake. Cake flour is lighter than all-purpose and the perfect base for a light, soft-crumbed cake texture. Like I mention above, red velvet’s texture is important to the authenticity of the flavor. See my recipe note about subbing all-purpose flour if you absolutely must.

Important red velvet cake tip #2: Unsweetened cocoa powder. 2 Tablespoons is just enough to give that very slight cocoa taste without overpowering the vanilla and butter flavors. Chocolate’s flavor, as you know, is quite strong.

Important red velvet cake tip #3: Butter and oil. What makes red velvet cake different from chocolate cake is its buttery flavor. When I began testing recipes for my red velvet cupcakes, I threw the butter flavor aside because all I could concentrate on was “make the cupcake moist.” And we all know oil brings so much moisture. But with oil we (1) don’t have that natural buttery flavor and (2) the cupcakes aren’t as light and soft, which is something creamed butter imparts into cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. Furthermore, I often find that too much oil weighs baked goods down. So, I use both oil and butter. Moist texture, soft and cakey texture, butter flavor. Boom.

Important red velvet cake tip #4: The eggs. I could write an entire post about my red velvet/egg methodology. I’ll try to avoid boring you by summarizing it. This is a very large layer cake, so you’ll be using 4 large eggs to provide richness, structure, binding, etc. You will separate the eggs before going into the red velvet cake batter. The yolks are beaten in with the creamed butter/sugar, then beat the egg whites to a frothy consistency and fold them in last. What is the point of this? I find that the fluffiest texture is achieved this way. Beating the egg whites incorporates air which, when folded into the cake batter, creates airy volume. (As opposed to just weighing it down.)

Important red velvet cake tip #5: Buttermilk is a must. A little tangy, a lot of moisture, and ultra creamy. You can’t make this red velvet cake without it! Besides what buttermilk does for the taste and texture of red velvet cake, it also helps to activate the baking soda to leaven the cake. The vinegar does too, as well as helping brighten the red color. Don’t get scared, a touch of vinegar is normal in red velvet desserts. You cannot taste it. Back to buttermilk, though. You can make a DIY version at home that works wonderfully in this red velvet cake recipe. In fact, in my cake testing I tried both ways. Using actual buttermilk and using the DIY version. Both fantastic and identical in appearance, texture, and flavor. See my recipe notes for how to make a DIY buttermilk if you do not keep it on hand.

Best red velvet layer cake recipe! Topped with cream cheese frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I hope you try it!!

Red Velvet Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (345g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons (10g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons (22ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • liquid or gel red food coloring
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, room temperature

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (450g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature (not cream cheese spread)
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons (30-45ml) cream or milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray or lightly butter two 9x2 (deep dish) cake pans. Set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the oil and beat on high for 2 minutes. The butter may not completely combine with the oil. This is ok.
  4. Add four egg yolks and the vanilla. (Set the egg whites aside.) Beat on medium high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vinegar and the food coloring until you reach your desired color. I used 3 and 1/2 Tablespoons. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk. Do not overmix. Vigorously whisk or beat the 4 egg whites until thick and foamy, about 3 minutes. Fold into cake batter with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The batter will be silky and slightly thick. (If there are still small pieces of butter, don't worry. They will melt inside as the cakes bake.)
  5. Pour batter into cake pans filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cream. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more Tablespoon cream if needed to thin out. Beat on high for 2 full minutes. Taste the frosting and add a pinch of salt if it is too sweet.
  7. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Set these thin pieces of cake aside. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. I used Wilton 12 small round piping tip to pipe dollops of frosting around the top edges. You can also crumble the thin pieces of cake you sliced off the tops into a large bowl. Decorate the sides and top edges of the cake with these crumbs.
  8. Refrigerate cake for at least 45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake keep its shape when cutting-- it could slightly fall apart without time in the fridge.
  9. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let it sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes:

I encourage cake flour in this cake recipe. Store bought cake flour is best, but you can make a DIY version at home: sift together 2 and 2/3 cups (333g) all-purpose flour + 1/3 cup (40g) cornstarch. Sifting them is imperative!

The amount of red food coloring is up to you. I tested with varying amounts. To get the dark red color you see here, use 3 and 1/2 Tablespoons of liquid food coloring. Dye the batter until you are pleased with the color. Of course, you don't have to dye the batter at all if you don't want to. I haven't tested this recipe with a natural alternative.

I used low-fat because that's what I typically have, but full fat buttermilk is great too. You can make your own "DIY" buttermilk and use it instead. To do so, add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough regular milk (skim, 1%, 2%, or whole) to make 1 cup. Stir the two together and let sit for 5 minutes. This soured milk can be used instead of buttermilk.

If you'd like to make a 3 layer cake, pour the batter evenly into 3 pans and bake for around 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.

Did you make a recipe?

Tag @sallysbakeblog on Instagram and hashtag it #sallysbakingaddiction.

© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

BEST Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I love this Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com
I love this Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com
BEST Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com

376 comments

  1. I bake a lot. I’ve tried many red velvet recipes. None of them have turned out as well as this recipe. It was the most moist, tender, melt-in-your-mouth red velvet I’ve ever had. I used up all my red color and it wasn’t quite the red I wanted. Stores were closed, so I had to think of something fast. I added some burgundy color in and it gave it such a depth of red. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  2. I just baked your red velvet cake recipe (I have baked many red velvet cakes)  and it came out perfectly. I baked it in three 9 inch pans, and honestly don’t see how you can contain this cake in just 2 pans. I did not have to trim off anything. The single change I made was to reduce the vanilla flavoring from 1 1/2 tablespoons to a couple teas spoons, since I don’t care for heavy vanilla flavoring. 

    To me, red velvet cake isn’t red velvet cake without the traditional Ermine frosting, which is what I went with, a double recipe. 

    Thanks  for an excellent recipe! 

  3. Hi Sally, I am in love with your work. If ever you need to hire a ” second-opinion taster” count me in 😉
    I want to make this cake for an office party, but for easier eating I was thinking to make it as a sheet cake instead, that way I could cut it into squares also. Do you think this recipe will work just as well in that format ?
    Keep up the delicious work!

  4. Hi im making your red velvet cake recipe using a thermomix when so you cream together butter and sugar normally i thouggt creaming meant till its a pale yellow and fluffy but the mix isnt turning into that its still yellow and a little thick ive been going for over 2 min i have a feeling the friction in thermo from blades spinning is causing heat which is making the butter melt a little 
    The butter was def room temp when put in to cream 
    The thermo temp gage just went on yo 37 degrees so def getting some heat in there ive put in fridge to cool before i add oil will the cake still work as ive red the creaming process is important and its causes the cake to be fluffy 
    Ahhhh 
    Thanks so much  

  5. Made this for my 15 year old’s birthday party. The kids said the cream cheese frosting was way too sweet and I agree! Next time I’l only use half the powdered sugar and see how that goes. Also the quantity of frosting was too much, half would probably have been enough. Apart from that the actual cake was delicious and a hit.

Comments are closed.