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. Thank you Sally

  2. Thank you. I just served this cake and it came out perfect. The cake flour and whipping the egg whites did the trick! I will favorite this and look at your other recipes.

  3. Lorin Alvarez says:

    Is vegetable oil able to be swapped for butter?

    1. Hi Lorin, no I don’t suggest it. I recommend following the recipe as written.

  4. Monica Mulenga Katati says:

    Hi Sally,
    I’ve been looking for a red velvet cake recipe, and googled my way to your page. After looking at the reviews I just had to try it, yes it was a huge hit coz I followed all the steps. But I think two cups of sugar was way too sweet, so the next cake I’m going to make for my customer I will reduce the sugar. I hope it won’t affect the whole recipe. But this I’m keeping.
    Ps this is my first time baking a red velvet cake

  5. Monica Mulenga Katati says:

    Hi Sally,
    I’ve been looking for a red velvet cake recipe, and googled my way to your page. After looking at the reviews I just had to try it, yes it was a huge hit coz I followed all the steps. But I think two cups of sugar was way too sweet, so the next cake I’m going to make for my customer I will reduce the sugar. I hope it won’t affect the whole recipe. But this I’m keeping.
    Ps this is my first time baking a red velvet cake

  6. Sirisha Koduri says:

    Hi Sally,

    Can we use the same recipe for baking a 2 tier cake? Also can you please suggest any other recipe from Your website for baking a two tier cake please.

    1. This recipe is written for two 9-inch layers so no changes necessary for this size. Are you talking about making this recipe in different pan sizes than 9 inch? If so this is a helpful chart to help you figure out how much batter you will need: https://www.wilton.com/cake-serving-guide/cms-baking-serving-guide.html

      1. Kerry Hubbard says:

        I’m eager to try this recipe for an upcoming birthday, however, I still have a couple of questions. First, the end of the actual recipes says it is for three 9″ layers, but in an answer this poster’s question, you state that it is for two 9″ layers. Could you please clarify for 9″ and 8″ pans? Also, I have trouble with cakes getting too dark. I’ve tried light pans, dark pans, glass, etc. What is your go-to round cake pan? Thanks!

      2. Hi Kerry, The recipe as written is for two 9-inch round cake pans. I do state in the recipe notes that if you wish to make it into a three layer cake you can divide the batter between 3 pans instead and the bake time will be shorter since the layers will be thinner. I really like my round cake pans from Fat Daddio’s. I link to them in this post with all of my favorite pans: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/stock-your-kitchen-with-these-8-baking-pans/

  7. Hi, can I use the recipe as is to make a Bundt cake? Will it still turn out moist?

    1. Yes! See recipe note #9.

  8. Yes– the bake time will be slightly quicker.

    1. Thank you Sally!

  9. Absolutely delicious! I made them for a family event and everyone loved them! It was super soft and fluffy with just a hint of cocoa. I paired it with ermine frosting since I didn’t have cream cheese at home. Definitely recommend anyone to try this recipe!

  10. so this is actually about the red velvet cupcakes but commenting was closed
    I made them last night per special request from the kids at our gym. I thought it was going to be a complete disaster (because of me, not the recipe) because instead of red food coloring I accidentally used PINK. Like a bright neon pink too. I had to add a bunch so the color would show up and I thought they’d taste like food coloring, but they didn’t and today they actually look more red than pink! (whew.) There was also an issue with the cream cheese frosting (that being that I didn’t have cream cheese, it was just not my day) where I tried to use yogurt, needless to say it failed. I then tried something I saw online that was supposed to go well with red velvet (called- no lie- “boiled frosting”). Sounds really great right? I ended up with soup and like 2 boxes of butter later I ended up just making a random frosting from scratch haha. It actually turned out… okay? Anyway, the cupcakes are delicious. I had one issue though- the tops ended up really crispy and almost hard. Should I reduce the bake time or could it be something with the batter?
    Thanks so much for all of the amazing recipes, I’m getting all three of your cookbooks for my birthday and I can’t wait!!

    1. Hi Emily! I’m not sure why those comments are closed, but they’re working again. If the tops are hard, I wonder if you’re not folding in the egg whites enough OR you could be over-baking them. Easy fixes for next time. I haven’t tried boiled icing before. I love the cream cheese frosting with those.

  11. I’ve always had negative feelings about red velvet cake because it seemed like such a gimmick. I always thought it was just a cake with a ton of red food coloring and a smidge of cocoa powder.

    I just made the cake recipe for my niece’s birthday cake and just from tasting the scraps, I can tell you that I was blown away. This recipe made a believer out of me!

    I may not use the frosting recipe since I need to pipe a bunch of details and I need a very firm cream cheese frosting, but WOW. The cake came out great. Thank you so so much for sharing!

  12. Thank you so much for an amazing recipe. I really appreciate all your hints on achieving an amazing red velvet cake. After looking for a recipe and worried as I didn’t want to waste my time and it won’t be any good. Everyone said how good the cake was and I was soooo worried about it. The cream cheese frosting sits perfectly with this cake too . 10/10 amazing.

    I’m soo happy and can’t wait to follow and make your other recipes too.

    Thanks for the hints – love your page and so happy I have found it.

  13. Hi Sally,

    Can you freeze the cream cheese icing? I only used it for the filling and ended up with a ton left over that I don’t want to throw away!

    1. Yes, it freezes well! Just defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using.

  14. I made this cake for my boyfriends birthday today and took it to the restaurant where we had dinner with friends and family. It was absolutely THE best ever red velvet cake that we have ever had!!(Not even any leftovers! Thats how good it was!!) I followed the recipe exactly as it is. I have tried other red velvet cake recipes but none of them impressed me much. This one is TO DIE FOR!! Super moist, full of flavor, but not overly sweet! The frosting puts it over the top, for sure! I made it as a 3 layer and it was beautiful when cut!
    Thank you for all the “tips” and advice included in the recipe! It’s all good to know!
    I think this will be my go-to fancy cake recipe for years to come!

  15. Autumn Chandler says:

    Hey! I just have a quick question, I should the powdered sugar to be sifted? And if so, should it be done AFTER measuring? Thank you!

    1. I don’t find it necessary to sift the powdered sugar for frosting. I usually use Domino brand or my local store brand which contains a bit of cornstarch to help prevent it from clumping. If you are experiencing your frostings being more gritty or not smooth then go ahead and sift it after measuring.

  16. Delicious recipe! I didnt have to make any adjustments for high altitude, I live in Denver and a lot of cake recipes dip on me. I also made this a second time with Colorado style infused butter and it came out perfect!

    1. I was going to ask about high altitude- I’m in Denver as well!
      Thank you for the reassurance on high altitude 🙂

  17. Hi… im all the way from maldives… wanted to ask u something… if i am using a substitute for butter milk, doni have to put vinegar in the batter too??? Bcox ur buttermilk substitute recipe says to add white vinegar and ur using vinegar in the batter too… really need ur advice on this as this is my first time trying red velvet!!!

    1. Yes, you will use it twice if making the DIY buttermilk. Let me know if you try it!

      1. Tried it… i tastes so good❤️ Loved it ❤️ Im gonna try ur other recipes now ❤️

  18. Have you tried this recipe in a bundt pan? I find they make for very pretty cakes for the novice decorator, but don’t know if this cake would be too moist and crumbly to come out right in a bundt pan?

    1. Hi Dana, 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.

  19. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe for my son’s birthday. Is it possible to make the cake ahead and freeze it before thawing and frosting it on the day we’re eating it? We’ll be traveling and I’d rather make the cake at home before leaving town.

    1. Yes you can freeze the cake layers! This is exactly how I do it: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/how-to-freeze-cakes/

      1. Kayley LeFaiver says:

        Thanks for the link! I never thought of using press and seal wrap! Looking forward to trying your recipe

      2. You are very welcome! Enjoy 🙂

  20. I have made these and is a hit !l as all of your recipes of course . Can I make cup cakes with these recipe ?? And if so how many and how long should I bake for ?
    Thanks

    1. I’m thrilled it was a hit! You can bake this as 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.
      Or if you need a smaller amount you can use my recipe for red velvet cupcakes.

  21. My family really enjoyed the cake I made yesterday for my daughter’s 18th birthday. I don’t think I’ll ever make a cake again without whipping up and the folding in the egg whites. One thing I will change is next time adding in 1-2 tablespoons more of cocoa powder. There was hardly a
    Chocolate taste—it just needed a tiny bit more. It’s subtle and may just be a family preference. I did see that most other recipes called for 5 tablespoons, which I think could be too much. The icing was perfect! We’re not big “sweet” people and it was just the leerfegtet balance.

  22. I’m making this cake in honor of a soul that’s no longer with us and her husband is celebrating his 93 birthday. As his caregiver this is my gift and bless his heart he ask me to make this kind of cake. So wish me luck and I’ll let you know how it goes!

    1. So, so sweet. Thank you for sharing. I hope it’s everything he hopes it is!

      1. This recipe was right on the money. With a table full of country cooks, it was a great success. Thank you for sharing. My clients loved it. Said it reminded him of his wife’s cake. It was so creamy moist and delicious. I am now making one for my husband for thanksgiving. He said it was out of this world. I wouldn’t change a thing. Can’t wait to try another cake recipe from your cakes. Thank you!

  23. You can use either for this recipe– low fat is all I can find sometimes, so I usually use that.

  24. Hi Suzie, I’d love to help since I adore this recipe! Did you make any ingredient substitutions or alter the recipe or bake time in any way?

  25. Hi Sally your recipe states using cups as measurements please can you tell me what that is in grams?

  26. This is a winner. I made this for my boy’s eighth month birthday. everyone loved it. Now I am searching what to make for his next month birthday. Sally, any suggestions.

  27. Hi Sally,

    Love your recipes. I don’t have those pans you talked about. Can I make it in a regular springform pan? How should I adjust the baking time? I can cut the cake in half horizontally and put the icing between

  28. The cake part turned out perfect. However, I chilled my crumbed cake is there are lumps in my frosting. The lumps are translucent. I was going to frost with remained of frosting anyhow and there are lumps (not as many) in there. Help!!

    1. Are they lumps of cream cheese not incorporated? I don’t know why the lumps wouldn’t be red from the crumbs on the cake. I’m glad you enjoy this recipe!

      1. Cream cheese needs to be softened so it will blend and not have lumps.

  29. This is my first time trying your recipe, and boy did I not regret it! It was the best red velvet cake I’ve ever tasted-MOIST and yummy! I’ve tried making red velvet cake using a recipe from a well known baking site before, however it didn’t turn out good. Thank you so much, Sally! I am planning to open a cafe soon, and this is definitely going to be on the menu! The only modifications I did was adding half a tablespoon extra cocoa powder, and using your other cream cheese frosting recipe, as I made this into a sheet cake. It turned out beautiful, and all my friends and family loved it. I love the idea of using both Butter and oil, and also beating the egg whites separately. You definitely earn yourself another fan! Thank you again <3 love from Malaysia!

  30. This is truly the most beautiful red velvet cake!!! I do a lot of baking and have tried and tested soo many red velvet cakes and honestly none have ever come close to this one! It has the most delicate vanilla and chocolate flavour without over powering each other. It is soft, fluffy and a beautiful crumb! I love it !!!!

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