If you’ve never made a cake roll before and are nervous to try OR have attempted to make a cake roll before and have failed, don’t worry. Together, we’re going to make the most irresistible red velvet cake roll Christmas has ever seen.
And it all starts with a deep breath. Take one! Because making a red velvet cake roll is not as tricky as it looks. It just takes a little patience.
Let’s jump right in because there are a million step pictures to get through. Like most jelly roll type cakes, this is a sponge cake. There’s cocoa and vanilla, a little brown sugar, with a slight tang from buttermilk. It’s a light and airy cake, leavened mostly by the air whipped into the eggs. We’re talking lots of air—5 full minutes of beating 4 eggs together. This is the bulk of the cake batter.
Here are the eggs after 5 minutes. They’re super fluffy and practically quadrupled in volume:
This cake recipe is particular. Meaning there’s 1 cup MINUS 1 Tablespoon of flour*, only 2 Tablespoons of this, and 3 Tablespoons of that. It’s best to follow the ingredients precisely as any little change could sabotage your efforts. I had trouble getting the proper sponge texture and taste. At first, I put all my effort into making the red velvet cake roll with creamed butter (for butter flavor) but the cake constantly ended up too dry and cracked. Once I switched to oil, I had zero issue. And I am confident in the final recipe below! You’ll love it.
*About the flour: all you’ll do is measure 1 cup of flour and take out 1 Tablespoon. It’s easy.
Unlike the other ingredients, you can play around with the amount of red food coloring. If you’re not comfortable using food coloring in your cake roll, simply leave it out. If you want the ruby red color of this cake roll, use about 1 Tablespoon of liquid food coloring or about 1 teaspoon of gel coloring.
Another must: the correct size baking pan. This isn’t a lot of cake batter, nor is it a thick cake. We want a thin sheet cake, as that’s the real trick to successfully rolling it up. The best size pan for this is a 10×15 inch pan.
The cake bakes for only about 16-17 minutes or until it springs back when you poke it with your finger. Like I teach in my yule log recipe, once it comes out of the oven—don’t waste any time. Flip that thing right out of the lined pan and onto a thin kitchen towel to begin rolling. Why immediately? If you roll it up while it’s still warm, it will help prevent any cracks in the cake roll.
3 tips for this step:
- Prepare the kitchen towel as the cake bakes. Lay it out on your counter and sprinkle it with 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar. Be generous with the sugar. It will prevent the sticky cake from adhering to the towel. The towel will help you roll it up. Remember, make sure it’s a thin towel.
- Make sure you had that cake pan lined with parchment paper so it absolutely does not stick to the pan!
- Immediately flip the warm cake onto the prepared towel once it comes out of the oven.
Peel the parchment paper off of the warm cake. What you see here is the bottom of the cake and the surface that will be frosted with cream cheese frosting once it cools.
Gently and slowly roll it up with the towel. The towel prevents any sticking.
Then let the cake completely cool, while rolled up in the towel. It’s so odd, but it really does work this way! Place the whole roll on a large plate because some confectioners’ sugar can spill out the sides. I place the roll into the refrigerator for a couple hours to speed up the cooling process.
Once cool, let’s remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit out for a few minutes as we make the frosting. If we tried to unroll the cake while it’s super cold, it could begin to crack. So let it warm up for a few minutes on the counter.
And for the frosting? Cream cheese frosting, of course! Red velvet’s tangy creamy luscious bestie. I slightly reduced down my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe to yield the perfect amount. Make sure the frosting is a nice even layer so there aren’t any uneven sections inside the cake roll.
Once again, roll the cake up. Only this time without the towel. The cake will automatically want to curl up again because it cooled in the rolled up position. Does this make sense?
Once the cake is all rolled up, refrigerate it for about 20 minutes before slicing and serving so the cake sets its shape and is easier to cut.
It’s beautiful! Doesn’t it remind you of a swirly peppermint candy? So much love for this festive cake.
Here’s what you’ll taste: a light and spongey cake texture with lots of cocoa and vanilla flavor. There’s a little brown sugar for moisture and flavor, too. The cream cheese frosting might just be the star here though. You know how good that stuff is with red velvet!
This homemade red velvet cake roll filled with tangy cream cheese frosting is perfectly moist, soft, and delicious!
- 1 cup minus 1 Tablespoon (118g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled), see note*
- 3 Tablespoons (15g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar (helps the red color stand out)
- 1 Tablespoon liquid red food coloring*
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- for rolling: 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 6 ounces (170g) full-fat brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick; 60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Read the instructions through before beginning. Make sure you are prepared for step 7 immediately when that cake comes out!
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 10×15 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or grease with butter, so the parchment paper sticks. Then line it with parchment paper so the cake seamlessly releases in step 5. Spray or grease the parchment paper too. We want an extremely nonstick surface for this cake roll.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together. (Make sure they’re sifted well!) Set aside.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the eggs for 5 minutes on high speed. They will be light and very fluffy. On medium speed, beat in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, vinegar, food coloring, and vanilla until combined. Stop the mixer, pour in the sifted dry ingredients, then beat on low until the batter is completely combined. It will be a ruby red color.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Give the pan a shake to make sure the batter is level and reaches the corners. Bake for 17 minutes or until the cake springs back when you poke it with a finger.
- Meanwhile, lay a thin kitchen towel flat on the counter. Sprinkle with 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar. Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately invert it onto the towel. Peel off the parchment paper then, starting with the narrow end, begin rolling the cake up with the towel. Do this slowly and gently. The cake will be warm as it just came out of the oven.
- Allow the cake to cool completely rolled up in the towel. I stick mine in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to speed it up.
- Remove the cake roll from the refrigerator and allow to sit on the counter for a few minutes to warm up as you prepare the frosting.
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy.
- Gently and slowly unroll the cake. Flatten it out and spread frosting evenly on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the cake. Gently and slowly roll the cake back up, without the towel this time. Make sure you’re rolling it tightly. Some frosting may spill out the sides, that’s ok!
- Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (and up to 1 day, covered) before slicing and serving. Dust with more confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
- Make Ahead Instructions: You can prepare the cake through step 7 and chill the rolled up cake/towel in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before continuing with step 8. Prepared cake roll, with frosting, freezes well for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before slicing and serving.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Jelly Roll Pan | Sifter
- Flour: All you have to do is measure 1 cup of flour, then remove 1 Tablespoon. This is 15 Tablespoons (118g) of flour aka 1 cup minus 1 Tablespoon.
- Buttermilk: I strongly recommend buttermilk for flavor, but you can use whole milk in a pinch. For best taste and texture, I don’t recommend lower fat or nondairy milk.
- Food Coloring: You can certainly leave the food coloring out if you do not wish to use it. You can use less for a less red cake. Or you can use 1 teaspoon of gel red food coloring instead.
Keywords: red velvet cake roll, cake roll