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

554 Comments

  1. Hi sally, could I make this cake sugar free? Substituting the sugar with some sweetener?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Oriana! We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes or other sweeteners. Thank you!

    2. Hi Sally,
      How would I adjust the recipe to make cupcakes instead?
      Thanks

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Christine! See recipe notes for cupcake baking instructions. Enjoy!

  2. It doesn’t say but can the cake be frozen to be thawed and iced later?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leslie! This is how we freeze cakes. Hope you love it!

  3. First time making this and it was EXCELLENT! Read the recipe and follow the instructions completely. Delicious! I don’t have any cake making experience, and this was amazing.
    Check out Wilton Cake Bands to make the layers flat, no dome in the middle and even more moist! (You tube video. The preppy kitchen how to get flat cake layers)

  4. Hi Sally! Instead of normal cream cheese frosting, what flavor could i make the frosting without overpowering the red velvet taste?

  5. Hi Sally, I tried this and it was amazing 🙂 thank you for the perfect recipe..
    My daughter (4yo) wants a frozen themed cake, so was wondering if you could pls help me with blue velvet cake recipe

  6. I am planning to make this cake as a two tier cake (covered in fondant), will it be stable enough or is it too so soft.
    Plus, I have no way of getting block cream cheese, do you have any advice how to keep the frosting from turning runny?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shelley, yes it should be with proper support! See our Simple Homemade Wedding Cake for how to stack and support tiers. It holds up under fondant, too. Are you located outside of the US? We have been told by readers outside the U.S. that cream cheese in a tub is different from ours and can work for frostings, but we have not tested it. Please let us know if you try!

  7. Since I’m making this for probably the 10th time, it’s time for a thank you. Before moving to south and suddenly had people asking me to make red velvet cakes, I only had tried it a few times and knew it as a dry red cake with bland crisco frosting… I am so glad I didn’t live the rest of my life thinking that was red velvet! Thank you very much for sharing the recipe.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so happy to read that you love this red velvet cake recipe, Alex! Thank you so much for making it.

  8. Hiya how do I adjust this recipe for a 12 inch round cake (just a single layer)

  9. Hi Sally- this is my absolute favorite (and most requested) red velvet cake recipe. I’m making a 3 layer cake for my daughter’s birthday- should I make the recipe 1/1/2 times the normal (9in cake pans)? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, for a 3 layer cake, you can simply divide the batter between 3, 9 inch pans. So glad to hear this red velvet cake is a favorite for you!

      1. Thanks! What if I want the cake taller (size of the 2 layer cake!?)

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        If you’d like a taller cake, you can 1.5x the recipe for thicker layers.

  10. hey sally!
    i am making a number cake with this recipe, is there anyway to adjust this recipe to fit a 15×21 sheet pan? love this recipe, thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristina! Our cake pan sizes and conversions guide will be helpful to scale this recipe for your needs.

  11. Made this last year and about to make it again today – my son asked it for his birthday 🙂 I usually fail cakes and this was as good as a bakery!! Thanks for the recipe!!

  12. Jessie's Kitchen says:

    I made this spectacular cake for a birthday today, and my Mom is visiting. Before I went out tonight, she panicked and begged me not to leave, telling me “I can’t be left alone here with that cake!” It’s just that good.

  13. Hi Sally,

    Can I first say your recipes are best.. the cakes just turn out awesome..
    I have made this cake atleast thrice in the past year and they have turned out the best. It’s encouraged me to enjoy baking more
    Quick question.. how can I adjust this recipe for a 10 inch cake? I have tried dividing the quantity between 2 10 inch tins but the layers are too thin. Will it be too much for one layer? I want to have atleast 2 -3 layers for the cake. Any suggestions? Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Molly, so glad this cake is a favorite for you! I will be too much batter for one, ten inch pan, but our cake pan sizes and conversions guide will be helpful for scaling this recipe for your needs.

  14. Hey Sally! I absolutely LOVE this recipe and it has certainly become favourite. Everytime I make this, turns out perfectly.
    I wanted to ask that will it be okay if I assemble and frost this cake the night before and refrigerate it overnight?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anusha, After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, it’s best to refrigerate it. But you can absolutely refrigerate it the night you make it too! Enjoy.

  15. Hi sally How much of beet powder do I use to mix with water to get the red velvet colour

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lubaina, It’s best to mix the beet powder with a little water first. This combination makes 1 teaspoon of food coloring, but you may want more since this is a lot of cake batter. 1/4 teaspoon red beet powder per 1 teaspoon cold water. You can make as much as you need to get the desired color you’re looking for!

  16. Hi, I was wondering, since you note that splitting this between 3 9 inch pans would be possible, do you think 4 6 inch ones would also work? Or can I split the red velvet cupcake recipe into 4 6 inch cakes? I would like to make a checkerboard red velvet cake (red or black food dye in half of the dough) for my cheese and chess loving boyfriend’s birthday.
    I don’t know if using this recipe in 4 6 inch pans would make the cake too high or if using the cupcake recipe would lead to really thin cake layers that would fall apart when cutting and stacking the checkerboard cake.
    Any advice would be very much appreciated!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Silke! Our red velvet cupcakes batter makes the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake, but the layers would be too thin in 4 cake pans. We haven’t tested this cake batter in four 6 inch cake pans, but you can reference our cake pan sizes and conversions guide to find out how much batter you would need. This cake recipe yields roughly 8-9 cups of batter.

  17. I am doing a gender reveal. Can I replace the red with a blue food coloring to make the cake blue?
    Thank you.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rosanne, 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!

  18. Sally, I bake this cake all the time for friends and family and it’s ALWAYS a hit! I reduce the quantity of sugar to 300g and it still holds up well.

    Thanks a million for this recipe!!!

  19. Hi dear Sally
    I am always one your fans and have tried many of your recipes and they are always the best ❤️
    I want to try your red velvet recipe
    But I don’t want it to be very sweet,can I reduce the sugar to 300 grams?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sara, Sugar is used for moisture and texture in baked goods as well as taste. You can certainly try reducing the sugar, but the resulting texture will be different than intended.

  20. Hi again dear Sally ❤️
    I tried your recipe and as you recommended I didn’t reduce the sugar and OMG
    Certainly this is the best ever red velvet cakeI have tried thank you so much for your wonderful recipe and of course your kindness ❤️
    It has allllllll the factors that a red velvet cake should have.So delicious with unbelievable velvet texture.Always love you and your recipes

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so glad you loved this recipe, Sara!

  21. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG????

    I’ve made this recipe twice and had the same results each time, and I can’t figure out what I am doing wrong??? Now, I will say that I’ve been able to salvage it each time, and the first time it was so good that my daughter asked for it for her birthday cake instead of a bakery bought cake. My challenge is that the cake does not bake thoroughly in the 30-32 minutes stated in the recipe. At that point the center is still wobbly and far from set. So I put it back in for 2 minute intervals, and it winds up taking over 40 minutes to bake thoroughly. However, but that time, the edges are chewy (and that’s being generous), so I have to carve the edges off all the way around. The first time, the bottoms also got tough so I had to carve a thin layer off of them as well. After that first episode, I assumed it was due to using cheap old cake pans, so I purchase two new Fat Daddio’s pans for this second try, but I still had the same challenge with the sides overcooking by the time the middle set.
    I weigh all of my ingredients by the gram using a quality scale. I calibrated and tested my oven is actually at 350, and I preheat it well ahead of time. I follow each step exactly, including the eggs, yet my bake time of 30-32 minutes is far from complete with an uncooked center.
    Any thoughts on where I’m going wrong? Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jay, We are so happy that your daughter enjoys this recipe so much and we are happy to help troubleshoot. Are you dividing the batter between two 9-inch pans? Any chance you are using convection/fan heat settings in your oven? The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly (i.e. dry edges and under-baked centers) and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

      1. Stephanie –
        Thank you for the troubleshooting tips. 1. I am diving the batter exactly evenly between two 9 inch Fat Daddio pans. 2. I am NOT using a convection fan oven. I have a traditional oven and I’ve calibrated the heat and even put in an extra thermometer to ensure it was heating properly.
        I’m really at a loss as I weigh all the ingredients using an Escali scale using gram measurements. I’ve had two runs at this and both had the same issues. Do you have any other ideas as to what is wrong here?
        Thanks.

  22. Perfect. First time making Red Velvet and it was an excellent recipe!

  23. Anisha Raghavan says:

    Hi. I idol you Sally. You are truly inspirational. I bake all of my recipes from you and they all turned out heavenly. I bake a lot for party’s and my friends. I suggest you add a Coconut Orange cake to your online cookbook.

  24. The first time I made this cake it was wonderful. Today I made it and it was inedible. The cake was dense and heavy and oily. I’m wondering what caused this- was it the oil, the oven temperature? I baked it in 3 6-inch pans. The centers were very moist so I baked them a extra 10 minutes.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Eñid, the cake pan sizes are likely the culprit here. This recipe yields too much batter for only 3, 6 inch rounds, so your cake pans were likely overfilled which is leading to the uneven baking. For a 3 layer, 6 inch red velvet cake, we recommend using our red velvet cupcake cake recipe instead.

  25. I tried this recipe and it came spongy and really good but the one thing I ‘m not happy with is that the oil even seeps on my plate after it cooled down. I think 1 cup oil is a bit too much, can you help me please. Thanks for your recipe want to try it again .

    1. Hi Antoinette, what kind of oil are you using? I recommend vegetable oil for best results. If you’d like to reduce it, feel free to replace a few Tablespoons of it with unsweetened applesauce.

  26. Hi Sally, instead of red food color can I use navy blue or royal blue gel food color?

    1. Absolutely.

      1. Hi, will the color of the cake turn blue?

  27. Hi, So I have previously messaged you (I am making my brothers birthday cake – 2 tall tiers.
    I was going to make both tiers with your Triple Chocolate Cake, however you were worried it wouldn’t be stable enough. So I am looking at your red velvet cake for the bottom tier now and have just baked this recipe for a test of taste – talk about YUM, super soft and fluffy!!
    Being so soft and fluffy, would this Red Velvet cake really be okay to support the Triple Chocolate Cake on top? Thanks in advance!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chanice, excellent choice to pair with a chocolate top tier! This red velvet cake will definitely work as a bottom tier. For extra support, you may want to use cake rounds and dowels like we do in our homemade wedding cake post. Hope the cake is a hit!

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