Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet cake is much more than vanilla cake tinted red. This recipe produces the best red velvet cake with superior buttery, vanilla, and cocoa flavors, as well as a delicious tang from buttermilk. My trick is to whip the egg whites, which guarantees a smooth velvet crumb.

sliced red velvet layer cake on a marble and wood cake stand

This is my forever favorite red velvet cake recipe. I published it on my blog a few years ago and decided it’s time for clearer recipe instructions and a video tutorial. Many of you love this recipe too, so let’s roll up our sleeves and rev up our mixers!

Red velvet cake is the queen of all layer cakes. The “I can’t quite put my finger on the flavor” cake. It’s the sweet marriage of buttermilk and vanilla with a little cocoa for good measure. She’s tall, dramatic, and completely covered in silky cream cheese frosting. This is my best red velvet cake.

slice of red velvet cake on a black plate

What Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?

I used to be unsure about red velvet. I don’t really trust a cake that has a mystery flavor. What is red velvet? Is it vanilla, chocolate, or just a butter cake tinted red? From red velvet brownies and red velvet cookies and red velvet cupcakes, I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know red velvet. Red velvet is:

  1. Mild cocoa flavor
  2. Tangy buttermilk
  3. Sweet vanilla
  4. Very buttery

These 4 flavors are essential to the perfect red velvet layer cake. Not only is the flavor outstanding, red velvet cake’s texture is worth writing home about. It’s dense and soft with a moist and velvety crumb. However, the absolute best part about red velvet cake is the cream cheese frosting. Slathered on thick, my cream cheese frosting recipe is delicately sweet and undeniably creamy.

Red velvet layer cake on a marble and wood cake stand

slice of red velvet cake on a white plate

How to Make Red Velvet Cake

I use specific ingredients, certain amounts, and unique mixing techniques to produce my best red velvet cake recipe. Begin by whisking the dry ingredients together, then beat together the wet ingredients. We’ll combine the two, add buttermilk and tint the batter red. More on food coloring below.

  1. Cake Flour: I highly recommend cake flour. Cake flour is much 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. You will thank me for the recommendation after you taste how incredibly soft this cake is. It’s the texture you find at professional bakeries.
  2. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: 2 Tablespoons is plenty for a little cocoa flavor without overpowering the vanilla and butter flavors.
  3. Butter & Oil: What sets red velvet cake apart from chocolate is its buttery flavor. With only butter, we risk a dry cake. With only oil, we lose the butter flavor and softness that comes with creaming butter & sugar together. So all that’s to say, use both butter and oil. Moist texture, soft and cakey texture, buttery flavor.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is tangy, creamy, and makes baked goods extremely moist. You can’t make delicious red velvet cake without it! Additionally, buttermilk helps activate the baking soda to leaven the cake.

What About the Food Coloring?

Red velvet cake wouldn’t be red without food coloring. I recommend gel food coloring because the color is concentrated, so you need less of it. For natural coloring, use beet powder. If you don’t want to use food coloring, leave it out! The cake will have the same flavor and be a lovely shade of cocoa.

Whipped egg whites in a glass bowl

My #1 Trick

I add one simple step to this red velvet cake recipe and it guarantees the BEST texture.

Whip the egg whites separately, then fold into the batter.

This cake recipe requires 4 large eggs. Separate the eggs before starting. Beat the egg yolks with the wet ingredients, then beat the egg whites into fluffy peaks and fold them in last. Beating the egg whites incorporates air and promises a velvet-rich texture.

You will never go back.

Red Velvet Cake Video Tutorial

Cream Cheese Frosting

In my opinion, cream cheese frosting pairs best with red velvet’s flavor and this frosting recipe is really simple. You need block-style cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, a splash of milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to offset the sweetness. It glides on seamlessly and is silky smooth. If you’re looking to pipe decoration with this cream cheese frosting, chill it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This guarantees the creamy frosting will hold its shape.

red velvet layer cake on a marble and wood cake stand

Slices of red velvet cake on white plates

This recipe converts red velvet skeptics. I should know because I used to be one!

Interested in turning this red velvet beauty into a tiered wedding cake? See my homemade wedding cake for details.

More Classic Cake Recipes

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slice of red velvet cake on a white plate

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Red velvet cake is much more than vanilla cake tinted red. This recipe produces the best red velvet cake with superior buttery, vanilla, and cocoa flavors, as well as a delicious tang from buttermilk. My trick is to whip the egg whites, which guarantees a smooth velvet crumb.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups (354g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons (10g) unsweetened natural 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 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • liquid or gel red food coloring
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (450g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 and 1/2 cups (660g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  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 medium-high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and vinegar and beat on high for 2 minutes. (Set the egg whites aside.) Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 2-3 additions alternating with the buttermilk. Beat in your desired amount of food coloring just until combined. I use 1-2 teaspoons gel food coloring. Vigorously whisk or beat the 4 egg whites on high speed until fluffy peaks form as pictured above, about 3 minutes. Gently fold into cake batter. The batter will be silky and slightly thick.
  5. Divide batter between cake pans. 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. If the cakes need a little longer as determined by wet crumbs on the toothpick, bake for longer. However, careful not to overbake as the cakes may dry out. Remove cakes from the oven and cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  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-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until completely combined and creamy. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. Frosting should be soft, but not runny.
  7. Assemble and frost: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard or crumble over finished cake. 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 always use an icing spatula and bench scraper for the frosting. I used Wilton piping tip #12 for decoration around the top.
  8. Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  9. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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 the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting.
  2. Cake Flour: For best texture and taste, I strongly recommend cake flour. You can find it in the baking aisle and I have many more recipes using it. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY cake flour substitute.
  3. Vinegar: The vinegar helps brighten the red color. Don’t get scared, a touch of vinegar is normal in red velvet desserts! You can’t taste it.
  4. Why is everything at room temperature? When everything is near the same temperature, they mix together easily, evenly, and produce a uniform texture. It’s important!
  5. Food Coloring: 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 2 teaspoons of gel food coloring. You could use liquid food coloring too, but gel food coloring is more potent. You’ll need at least 1 Tablespoon of liquid. Dye the batter until you are pleased with the color. Use beet powder for a natural alternative (mix it with 2 teaspoons of water before adding) or leave the food coloring out completely.
  6. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a key ingredient and flavor in this recipe. You can use low fat or full fat. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own sour milk. To do so, add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough regular milk (whole milk is best) to make 1 cup. Stir the two together, then let it sit for 5 minutes before using.
  7. Sheet Cake: This batter fits nicely into a 9×13 inch cake pan or 12×17 inch sheet pan. Same oven temperature. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or 20-25 minutes, respectively. Keep your eye on the cake and use a toothpick to test for doneness.
  8. 3 Layer Cake: Divide the batter between 3 9-inch cake pans. Bake for about 22-25 minutes.
  9. Bundt Cake: This cake batter fits into a 10-cup or larger bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time (likely around an hour), but use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temperature.
  10. Cupcakes: You can use this cake batter for 2-3 dozen cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-21 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Use my red velvet cupcakes recipe if you need fewer.

Recipe originally published on Sally’s Baking Addiction in 2015

Need something smaller? Here are my red velvet cupcakes!

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

993 Comments

  1. Alessia Nencioni says:

    This is by far the best red velvet recipe! Thank you for sharing! It was for my daughter’s 13th birthday and a specific request on her part!

    1. Hi Sally. I’ve baked the cake in 3 nine inch pans and they feel dry on top. I saw later in your notes that for the 3 layers you should reduce the baking time. I also know that some people recommend baking only 2 layers at a time. What do you advise. Is it ok to leave one layer out of the oven and cook after the first 2 or with the whipped egg whites should it be baked right away?

  2. David Bolich JR says:

    360 grams does not equal 3 cups? Do most people that make this use weights or cups ?

    1. I cup of cake flour weighs 114g, so three cups will weight 342g. Often when a recipe is tested and fine tuned, small additions may be made, hence the 360g. You may be confused because you are thinking 1 cup of something should weigh 250g, but remember that convention applies only to the universal substance aka water. 1 cup of water will weigh 250g, this conversion does not stand for all substances.

  3. The cake mix seemed to curdle when I added the egg whites, it wasn’t silky. It appears to have baked ok but I won’t know the texture until I cut it. Any advice please?

  4. Made exactly as directed and the cake texture was really really off. I make a red velvet cake every year for my husband’s birthday (over 20 years now), trying a new recipe each time. This one was so bad we tossed it and I made a second using a different recipe. So disappointed! Frosting was great, the cake looked fine, but the texture was awful.

  5. Hands down the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had and I made it using this recipe! I couldn’t be more proud and delighted that it went over so well for my dad’s birthday. I followed the recipe to the T, including the tips and tricks for refrigerating the cake before serving for the best cut cake, it worked. Thank you for this recipe!

  6. I made this cake for my daughter’s 10th month bday..it was a hit..its the new family favorite

  7. If making a sheet cake do you just grease and flour pan no parchment paper?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gary! For a sheet cake you can simply generously grease the pan, no need for parchment paper.

  8. Lindeka Ngcobo says:

    This recipe is the best, my family loves it

  9. Jordan’s Mom says:

    Wow! I tried this recipe today, it was GREAT!! The mixing method made a significant difference in the final product. The cake was moist, the texture was excellent and the cake tasted great. My next step is finding the right food coloring product. Thank you.

  10. Amazing! I followed this recipe to the letter and it was perfect! It honestly was like a professional cake! I made it for my husband’s birthday and he thought I bought it from a cake maker. Thanks so much Sally!

  11. Can I use white wine vinegar instead of distilled white vinegar? Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Niamh, we recommend apple cider vinegar if you can’t find white vinegar.

  12. Hi Sally

    I just want to say that I have made the Red Velvet Cake a number of times. The first
    time was a big hit. The second and third time I couldn’t seem to find the red food
    coloring that gave it that beautiful color. To make a long story short I just made another
    Red Velvet for my Husbands 69th Birthday and the color is amazing.
    I love your receipts. My sister found the perfect food coloring it’s call RED (No- Taste)
    by Wilton and its from Walmart!

    Thanks for all your amazing receipts

    lm

  13. Really good recipe, but I would recommend to use 3 or 4 cake pans instead.

  14. Olá Sally !

    Can I bake this as one cake in a 10″ pan ? Also, can I use ACV in place of white vinegar and can I use red velvet powder if I don’t have the gel or liquid ?

    Thanks !

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lanaa! This will be too much batter for a one layer 10 inch cake. Instead, you can use this recipe for a thinner 2 layer 10-inch cake. Or use our Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions post to help you calculate exactly how much batter you would need for one layer. Apple cider vinegar will be fine in the place of white. A powdered food coloring should work fine – see recipe notes for details on coloring options. Hope you love this cake!

  15. Hey sally, I wanted to know if you measured the cake after baking and how much did it weigh?

    1. Hi Gin, we didn’t weigh the cake after baking or after assembling.

      1. Would I get 4 layers if I bake it in a 6″ Cake pan?

    2. If I were to make this recipe as a Bundt cake, do you think it would be possible to stuff it with filling similar to your pumpkin cream cheese Bundt cake?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Definitely! You can use the cream cheese filling from our cheesecake swirl carrot bundt cake.

  16. Myrna Ramirez says:

    How do you keep the cheese frosting safe to be eaten after a 3-hour wedding celebration? Do you recommend other type of frosting?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Myrna, that should be fine. Just keep it in the fridge as long as possible before it’s put out to serve. An alternative frosting, if you’re interested, would be vanilla buttercream. Enjoy!

  17. If I use beet powder for coloring, how much would I recommend I use?
    Another question on heavy whipping cream and heavy cream? Can they be used interchangeably when recipe calls for heavy cream? Thanks.

  18. The recipe says 2 tablespoons of cocoa (10g). 10g equal 2 teaspoons not tablespoons right ?

    1. Hi El, cocoa powder is very light. The weight measurement is accurate for 2 Tablespoons. (About 10-11 grams.)

  19. Melissa Quibilan says:

    This is a very delicious cake. My family love it.
    Though I made my easy version of mixing the batter but Im glad it came out very good.
    Thank you for sharing your recipe.❤❤❤.

  20. Eileen Stinson says:

    I made this red velvet cake for my husband’s birthday. I had the same issue others mentioned in these comments, with the cake not baking evenly. The edges were definitely overdone, and even got hard. The cake passed the toothpick test in the middle, but it fell a LOT in the middle while cooling. The flavor was kind of meh, but I’m blaming the cheap baking chocolate I used. All in all, I will try a different recipe next time.

  21. Hello
    I just wanted to ask that instead of red color can I use any other color or will the cocoa powder effect the color of the cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Urooj, you sure can. Many readers have had success making green, blue, and purple versions of this cake. See recipe notes for details on the best kinds / amounts of food coloring to use. Have fun!

      1. Thank you so much!!!

  22. Olivia Diskin says:

    Hi
    Is it 177 degrees with a fan oven for a 10 in cake?

  23. Hi Sally! Could I make this into a 3 or 4 layer cake? Will it stack up okay for a bit of a taller birthday cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shannen, yes, many readers have stacked this cake into 3 or 4 layers. Be sure to make the batches separately (rather than doubling) for best results. For extra support, you might even consider using cake dowels to support the added layers. Hope this helps!

  24. Brittany Bailey says:

    I made this cake exactly as the recipe says and followed all of the tips, it came out so perfect. It’s beautiful after piping a border of frosting around the top and bottom of the cake. My husband said “it looks like a cake maker made it”

  25. I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday. It was absolutely outstanding! I filled it with chocolate ganache ( because my grandchildren don’t like cream cheese frosting) and covered it in Italian meringue buttercream . I followed Sally’s directions to a T. The first time I made this cake the flavour was delicious, but the texture was a little dense. In retrospect, I think that’s because I hadn’t creamed the butter quite enough or it was a little cooler than room temperature. The second time I was a little more careful and the results were amazing. I find I’m coming to this website more and more for all my baking needs because the quality of the recipes are so superior. Thank you,Sally!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so happy to hear that you love this red velvet cake, Joan!

  26. The cake came out perfect. I however didn’t mix the egg white separately because I was lazy but it still came out really good. I measured the flour instead of using the cup measurement. Love the recipe.

  27. I love your recipes. I wanted this cake to make in two 7 inch tin how much should I take .thank you

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Agnes! You can adjust the recipe using this cake pan sizes and conversions guide.

  28. Hi! How would I adjust the quantities if I wanted to make a 3 layer 8 inch cake?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Simone, See the recipe note for a 3 layer cake. Yours may take an extra minute in 8 inch pans as they will be slightly thicker, but use a toothpick to test for doneness.

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