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.

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.

Red velvet cake

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 cake

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 that you use 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. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY cake flour substitute.
  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. Boom.
  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

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.

The BEST red velvet cake I've ever had!! Moist, rich, buttery, and topped with cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Red velvet cake

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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Red velvet cake

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 (345g) 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
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (540g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) heavy cream or milk
  • 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, cream/milk, 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, more milk if frosting is too thick, 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 about 2-3 Tablespoons of liquid food coloring or 2 teaspoons gel food coloring. Dye the batter until you are pleased with the color. Use beet powder for a natural alternative 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!

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

966 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Hi a sally! I’m making a 4 layer 8 inch cake. Can I double this recipe?

    1. Hi Erika, I don’t recommend doubling it. Working with that much batter usually leads to under or over-mixing the batter which results in a dense cake. Instead make it twice!

  2. The best darn red velvet cake recipe EVER! I have tried many of red velvet recipes and this by far, hands down is the best I have ever baked. You’re right. The whipped egg whites is the secret to a light and fluffy texture. When I read that in the recipe, my eyes got soo big! I was like, this is the one, I just know it!
    Moist, yummy goodness. I used a cream cheese frosting recipe that requires heavy cream and granulated sugar instead of confectioners. The entire cake was like eating a cloud.
    This one is a keeper and the only recipe I will ever use from now on. I love all of the additional notes as well. Your recipes never fail. Thank you!

  3. Hi, do you have an recipe for an Italian cream cake

    1. I don’t, Essie. But let me know if you try a good one!!

  4. Hi Sally,

    I am unable to find distilled white vinegar in our grocery stores. The closest they have is distilled malt vinegar – will this be okay ? or can I leave out the vinegar entirely ?

    1. That should be fine. Apple cider vinegar would be the better choice.

  5. Dear Sally,

    it says 2 Tablespoons/ 10 g cacoa. I saw that 1 Tablespoon is 10 g, when I put it into the batter, the bowl was on a scale then. So is it meant to be 20g/ 2 Tablespoons or 10g/ 1 Tablespoon (what I did)? I used measuring spoons.

    It worked out fine, though. I had no beet root powder, so I gratet 100g of beet root and put it into the batter. I thought: If you can do this with carrots, why not take beet roots? 😉 But it did not keep the colour. I later learned, that beet root cannot when heatened, whether fresh nor as powder…. But it was tasty, I did not taste it at all. The cake was a little bit sticky, even if the stick came out clean, when baked.

    I used wholemeal spelt flour, this was wonderful, too. I never change the amount of liquids, but some people do. It worked with this recipe again, too.

    For the frosting it might have been too sweet for my taste. So I reduced the amount of sugar to the half. I substitued it with 250 ml milk, cooked with 18g of corn starch, a pinch of salt, the amount of vanilla. I put in the sugar while hot. And later added the butter and the cream cheese. This is tricky, it only works when all has exactly the same temperature.

    It was a bit runny, but very, very yummy. I will definetly make this creamy frosting again. But with the double amount of corn starch, to make things easier when it come to decoration.

    Thank you! Kind regards.

  6. Dear Sally,
    I’m a long time baker. Yesterday my granddaughter requested red velvet cake for her birthday this coming weekend. This is my first time working with a red velvet cake. Your recipe seems the best I’ve found. Your instructions are well done and I enjoyed reading your comments to readers/users. Thank you for posting your recipes and I’ll let you know if this is a success.

  7. Corinne Arnold says:

    I wrote to you last night about making the red velvet cake recipe. It boiled over and made a mess. I tried and made the cake again only not beatying eggwhites to stiff peaks. I t was soft peaks. It baked to what it was supposed to look like. Thanks
    I really enjoy making your recipes .
    My father in law enjoys deserts and i like to bake,so I bake , take a couple of slices for us , then give the rest away to him or someone else.

  8. How many cups of batter does this recipe make? I am trying to figure out how many ingredients I need to bake an 11×14 sheet cake. Thank you !

    1. Hi Jaime! I wish I could help, but I’ve never measured the exact number of cups this batter yields. My guess is around 8-9 cups because the amount is similar to another 8 cup cake batter recipe in my repertoire.

  9. Carrie Thomson says:

    Hi Sally,
    Do you have the baking times for 10-12-14 inch rounds? I want to make it for a wedding cake.

    1. I haven’t tested larger pan sizes, but please let me know if you do!

  10. Hello,

    I need to make a larger double layer red velvet cake. Like 10 or 12 inch. Would this recipe work?

    Thank you!

    1. It will work however I’m unsure of the bake times needed for larger pans.

  11. Brenda Milcetic says:

    Hi Sally,
    Going to make your Red Velvet cake but can’t seem to find cake flour (we live in British Columbia, Canada and in a small town. Can I use cake and pastry flour instead?

    Thank You and God bless,
    Brenda

    1. Hi Brenda, If you can’t find cake flour you can make your own – it’s so easy! You aren’t the only one who can’t find it so I wrote an entire post on the subject: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cake-flour-substitute/
      🙂

  12. Hi Sally,
    I really love your this recipe. I have been using these for friends & family & everyone have been raving for them. A ton for these recipes. Now I ensure I only check your blog for a recipe & only if I don’t find what I want, do I check other blogs ☺️.
    If am to soak these cakes, what are the options other than regular sugar syrup with extract. Do you suggest any alternate flavour syrup?

    Regards
    Meera

    1. Hi Meera, I’m so glad you have been enjoying my recipes so much! I have never used a soaking syrup with this cake as it’s already very moist. However Amanda from I Am Baker suggests chocolate syrup for red velvet cake: https://iambaker.net/how-to-make-simple-syrup/

      1. Hi Sally. I’ve made this a couple of times, it was delish. Thanks for the recipe. I want to make a double barrel red velvet cake, please do you think it will be stable enough?

  13. I’m an experienced baker and have made this two times, giving it a second chance again yesterday. I’m disappointed. The cake lacks any flavor and the volume in two pans is too much to bake evenly without drying out the edges. The ratings seemed to be inaccurate or are culled to reflect better reviews than reality.

    1. Hi Sara! The reviews on this recipe are from bakers who have tried this cake. So sorry it didn’t turn out for you! If you decide to try it again, you may divide between 3 cake pans. Thanks for the review!

  14. Leslie Wittenberg says:

    I made 28 cupcakes from this recipe, filling them almost full and cooked for 25 min. Delicious! I used a whole tube of red gel but I think it needed more to get that rich red color. Mine are more pink. The taste is wonderful at any rate.

  15. Loved this recipe. I had just made some low sugar seedless raspberry jam and use about a half cup to spread between the layers with the frosting. Just enough to soak in the top and not be a mess that would slide around.
    I tested it first as I was building the cake and it was definitely a winner modification, the raspberry flavor goes perfect with this cake.

  16. hey sally girl you did it again i can always rely on you when im in a crunch i made this cake for a school project and my peers and classmates were blown away i cherish you sally you are my god my food god

    1. I’m so glad this cake was a hit!

  17. Hey Sally! I love this recipe arguably top 1 cakes I’ve made as stated by my cake eaters 🙂 I would like to make these into cupcakes tomorrow. Because I tried this recipe and love it, I prefer this over your red velvet cupcakes recipe! What is the difference anyway?

    1. Hi Sally, the difference is simply the ratio of ingredients for a different amount of batter. You can certainly use this recipe that you love for cupcakes also. Enjoy!

  18. Hi Sally! I want to make a 3 Layer Cake, however, I only have one 9-inch cake pan. Will the batter be okay to sit at room temperature whilst the I bake three batches one after the other? Or should I refrigerate the batter whilst waiting?

    1. Hi Sierra! You can lightly cover and keep the remaining batter at room temperature until the cake pan is ready.

  19. Hi Sally,
    Can you use melted butter instead of softened? because I have no mixer whatsoever. Will it affect the cake?

    1. Softened butter is a must for creaming with the sugar, an imperative part of the mixing process. How about an oil based cake such as this chocolate cake instead?

  20. Best red Velvet cake recipe I have ever tried. The cake came out perfectly and moist. I however can’t stand cream cheese frosting so I opted for whipped cream with lemon zest and it was still awesome.

  21. This is seriously not only the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had but also just the best cake I’ve had, period. The texture is so light and moist that I thought I had made a mistake somewhere haha. I recommend this recipe to everyone!

  22. Hi Sally!
    Can I substitute cake flour with unbleached flour? If so, what is the ratio? Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Jay, If you don’t have cake flour you can use your all purpose flour to make your own. See this post for directions how: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cake-flour-substitute/

      1. meghana shetty says:

        Hi Sally,
        What if I want to make half of this, can I reduce the ingredients to half of it?

  23. I hope you respond, my cake didn’t turn out very well but I want to do it again. When making this cake, do you sift the flour before you measure or after?

    1. Hi Jaclyn, If you are making your own cake flour you should sift the all purpose and corn starch together (see the link in the recipe notes for complete instructions) and then measure. If you are using actual cake flour for this recipe and want to sift it, do so after measuring.

    2. SaphireCat322 says:

      This cake is Awsome! I’ve been baking for a while now, but I had never baked red velvet before so I didn’t really know what it was supposed to look or taste like, but all i know is it tasted and looked good!

  24. Melita Idiaquez says:

    Hey Sally,
    I’m so glad I searched for a red velvet cake and your blog came up! Your recipe for the red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting is absolutely delicious! I’m glad you shared your recipe and so many helpful tips…like quickly getting your butter to room temperature! I made this cake for my daughter-in-laws baby shower as red velvet is her favorite. I’m so glad it turned out so good. Everyone loved it! This recipe is a “keeper” if you don’t mind! Thank you for sharing!

  25. My husband had his birthday this last friday… So I decided to bake a red velvet cake(his favorite)and I came across your recipe… It was a big hit, he said it’s the best cake he ever had.
    Thank you so much
    I can’t wait to try all the other recipes you have here.
    Thank you for sharing

  26. Hi Sally…
    I just commented on your cake flour substitute by mistake
    So I was saying I love this recipe, best red velvet cake I have had! Thank you!
    I am making a 10″ for a birthday and was think I should do 1 plus 1/2 the recipe. Will this be ok? Or will it be enough as is?

  27. Can you use this for mini bundts? Or do you think the cupcake receipe would work better? I’m going to try this because it’s your receipe. I constantly use your receipes and they are fabulous!

    1. Hi Deanna! Either this cake batter or the cupcake batter would be fine for mini bundt cakes, depends how many cakes you want! The cake batter will yield more since there’s more batter.

      1. Thank you! Using a 20 count mini Bundt pan i just bought. Will use the cake recipe. Your recipes are amazing!

  28. Thank you so much for a Great Red Velvet Recipe!

  29. Doreen Hockley says:

    Hi. This is my daughter’s favorite cake. I will be making it for her birthday this week. What adjustments, if any, do you recommend for an elevation of 5,500 feet?

    1. I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  30. Hello Sally,

    Will the same quantity work for 3 6″ pans ?

    1. This is too much batter for a 6 inch cake – but my red velvet cupcakes will work perfectly: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/red-velvet-cupcakes/
      6 inch cake layers take about 18-21 minutes at 350°F (177°C).

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