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! ♥ ♥
Red Velvet Cake Roll
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 17 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
- Yield: 10-12 slices
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
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 (spoon & 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) block 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
Reader Comments & Reviews
I made your Red Velvet Cake roll, a very easy recipe, turned out great- flipping out the cake onto the towel created a large confection sugar cloud–
I am now obsessed with cake rolls after successfully making your Champagne Cake Roll for New Year. I would like to make this for Valentines Day. I usually use beet powder when making red velvet cake. How can I make this cake with beet powder instead of food coloring? Also, I want to make a lighter, less sweet filling. Any suggestions?
Hi Robbone, we’re so glad you enjoyed the Champagne Cake Roll! We haven’t tested this particular cake with beet powder, but we have with other red velvet recipes so we can’t see why that wouldn’t work here. We’d start with a bit of beet powder mixed with a teaspoon of water. It may take a bit of tweaking to get the desired color. This cake would be fantastic with the whipped cream filling from our chocolate cake roll. Let us know what you try!
Yesterday, I made your Yule Log and it came out perfectly. Today, I made your Yule Log and it came out fairly flat – nothing like a sponge cake. Why did you use cake flour and seperate the eggs????????????
My cake split in half and did not roll at all. I blame the following – not calling a half sheet pan a half sheet pan. I used a quarter sheet as I don’t own a 10×15. I measured all of my pans, so I used the closest pan in size. It took reviewing other cake recipes to determine the error.
I made one suggested substitution, I used 2 tablespoon whole milk instead of buttermilk as I did not have buttermilk on hand.
This said, tastes great as always and I will definitely try again with the correct size.
I lessen the sugar as we don’t like our cakes too sweet and it turned out perfectly well. But I was comparing your recipe and realised that the roll requires baking powder but the cupcakes and cakes require baking soda. Is this a typo error ?
Made this for a birthday celebration, but instead of creamcheese filling I filled it with the cheesecake flavored icecream from Coldstone. It was a huge success! The cake came out excellent! The only downside was I should have doubled the recipe so we’d have had more leftover! 🙂
HI I’ve been using your step by step recipes to teach my 11 year old grandson . He said grandma you make baking make sense . So thank you . Today we’re going to give this one a roll !!
So sweet! Hope you both enjoy this cake roll recipe, Robin 🙂
Do you think I could make this but with your carrot cake recipe?
Hi Lindsey! It would require some testing to adjust that recipe. We do not have a carrot cake roll recipe, though we’d love to try one sometime!
Sally, could the cake be made, rolled up and frozen, then thawed another day and frosted? With my regular layer cakes, I find that if I wrap up a warm cake layer and freeze it, it is very moist and tasty after it thaws.
One more question. Some cake recipes use all purpose flour and some cake flour. Why?
Hi Terry, We haven’t tested freezing it that way and we fear after thawing, it may crack easier. But let us know if you decide to give it a try. Some recipes simply can’t withstand fine cake flour. Chocolate cake, for example, already has cocoa powder— which is a VERY fine dry ingredient. The combination of cake flour and cocoa powder usually results in a flimsy cake. Additionally, cakes like carrot cake and banana cake contain additional wet ingredients (the fruits or veggies), so cake flour isn’t really ideal. You need a stronger flour like all-purpose flour.
Hi dear Sally
Want to try your amazing recipe
Can l replace 1/4 cup brown sugar with regular sugar?I mean only use regular sugar?if yes should l reduce the amount of sugar?
Hi Sara, It shouldn’t be a problem to use all granulated sugar (so you will use a total of 3/4 cup).
Hi Sally! I am snowed in today and really want to bake this! I really enjoyed the Buche de Noel at Christmas! For someone who may have gotten to the store after all the cream cheese was gone, do you have any recommendations for a different icing? Your favorite vanilla buttercream maybe? Might have to find a way to jazz it up as I’ve never had red velvet without cream cheese icing!
Hi Alexandra! Yes, our vanilla frosting would also be delicious here!
I just finished baking the cake, but maybe I overcooked it because I couldn’t roll it. Anyway it was my first try so I am sure I will do another try.
Just one question: you say large eggs, but…please, let me have an approx.weight, as this could have been my mistake (they were too large and had to add some more flour).
Hi Carmen! A large egg is usually 63 – 73g. Let us know if you give it another try 🙂
Has anyone made this with gluten free flour???
Question: I want to make this, but only own a 9×13 pan. On your Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions page you say that you usually only fill pans up halfway with batter, and the jelly roll pan is 1 inch tall (so the batter would fill 1/2 inch).
I measured and it took 4 cups of water to fill my 9×13 pan up 1/2 inch.
I’m planning on making the full recipe as directed, then only pouring 4 cups of the batter into the 9×13 pan – does that seem like I’m on the right track?
Hi Sarah, yes it does! Let us know how it goes for you 🙂
I made it as the recipe indicated and it was dry and dense. Taking it out a little earlier this time to see if that makes a difference. Otherwise I loved it!
I have never added cocoa powder to my red velvet cake recipe. Is it possible to leave it out of this recipe. I want to try to make a rolled cake as I have never tried it. Please advise.
Hi Frances, we’d recommend using our strawberries and cream cake roll recipe instead (the cake roll is plain, and then you can use your desired filling). Cocoa powder is a very fine, finicky ingredient and doesn’t always mean a 1:1 swap with flour. Hope this helps!
I tried this recipe with the same size of the pan but turned out quite thin and the frosting was runny and crumbly ;( I got the color and taste just right as expected but perhaps I’ll try this recipe again to check on improvements.
Hi Cheska! Did you happen to make any ingredient substitutions? This is definitely a thinner cake, but double check to make sure your baking powder isn’t expired (we find it loses power after about 3 months). If the frosting is thin, feel free to add more confectioners’ sugar a little bit at a time until it comes to a smooth, spreadable consistency. Let us know if you give this cake another go!
Hi, I am planning to try out this delicious looking recipe but don’t have any granulated sugar, would it be possible to substitute it for light brown packed sugar? Thanks.
Hi Sam, using brown sugar shouldn’t be a problem.
I think I followed the recipe exactly as it’s been written but disaster happened. The it just broke in pieces when I unrolled it to put frosting on it. Help!!
Hi Yasmin, did you alter the recipe at all? Or perhaps over-bake? IF you try the recipe again, adding a little more buttermilk should help. (1-2 Tablespoons extra.)
I made the cake part but used a whipped cream/cream cheese recipe as I had lots of whipped cream. I baked the cake on a parchment-lined jelly roll pan for maybe 12 minutes and any longer would have dried it. I rolled up the cake using a clean tea towel and did not sprinkle with sugar. I iced the outside with remaining whipped cream/cream cheese. I also sprinkled some crumbs that I had scraped from the parchment paper to decorate the log. The cake was really delicious (better next day!) and spot on. I will definitely make again!